Whelan helps Rovers take men’s EYHL title down to last day
Ben Whelan’s brick wall performance saw Three Rock Rovers withstand a Glenanne onslaught to edge a 2-1 win on Thursday night and make sure the men’s EY Hockey League title goes down to the final day.
The result lifts Rovers to within two points of Lisnagarvey who go to Banbridge on Saturday while the Dubliners have a match-up at Rathdown against Monkstown.
In the Thursday win, Glenanne made most of the early running but could not find a way through with Harry MacMahon somehow blocking a full power Shane O’Donoghue shot from mid-circle on the right post.
Against the run of play, a deflected crash ball was blocked by goalkeeper Alex Henry but only as far as Ben Johnson (pictured) who slapped in the only goal of a first half, marked by a number of cards.
In their second half, the Glens got level when a baseline foul led to a stroke which O’Donoghue flicked high into the goal. Three Rock replied quickly, Jody Hosking left with plenty of time to smash in a corner which had been blocked by the number one runner with nine minutes gone in the second half.
After that, it was one-way traffic with Glenanne pushing on, needing a win to keep up their chances of making the top two. But they could not find a way beyond Whelan who made a plethora of good stops as the Glens ran up seven corners, the pick of them from a Richie Shaw sweep from the injection area and, with two minutes left, plucking an O’Donoghue drag out of the top corner.
It means the destination will not be determined until Saturday but Garvey hold the aces at this stage, a draw likely enough when they go to Bann. It is a meeting of two sides in strong form with the Hillsborough club on a five game winning streak while Banbridge have not lost since early October.
The Havelock hosts are guaranteed a home quarter-final in the playoffs and a win would give them a potentially easier draw on paper.
At Rathdown, meanwhile, Monkstown are hoping to become the first side other than Lisnagarvey to beat Three Rock this season; indeed, Rovers have not lost to anyone else since November 2019.
Outside of the top table, there are lots of other issues to be decided. Relegation is a straight contest between Corinthian and Pembroke. With a 12-goal advantage on goal difference over Pembroke, it looks like a draw might be enough for the reds when they host YMCA at Whitechurch Park.
Pembroke’s game against UCD starts 45 minutes before Corinthian get under way and so will potentially set a target midway through the final fixture. Both of the relegation-threatened sides have only won once since the turn of the year.
Annadale and YMCA are intertwined in pursuit of sixth place and the final playoff place. YM are in the box seat with a one-point advantage and that game against Corinthian. Dale go to Glenanne, needing a result to have a chance of a quarter-final spot.
The promotion playoff series also kicks off in earnest. Clontarf face a hasty rematch against Cork Harlequins, aiming to reprise their 6-1 win from three weeks ago. Quins were understrength that day due to Covid issues while the Bulls had a slightly tricky midweek 2-1 win over Dublin North.
Instonians host Bandon at Shaw’s Bridge with a number of the west Cork side hoping to add to a memorable week, the likes of Ian Perrott, Angus Seigne, Callum McCourt and Harry Forsey part of the All-Ireland schoolboys winning side.
Thursday 31st March 2022
EYHL: Three Rock Rovers 2 (B Johnson, J Hosking) Glenanne 1 (S O’Donoghue)
Saturday 2nd April 2022
EYHL Division 1: Banbridge v Lisnagarvey, Havelock Park, 2.45pm; Corinthian v YMCA, Whitechurch Park, 3.15pm; Glenanne v Annadale, St Andrew’s, 2.30pm; Monkstown v Three Rock Rovers, Rathdown, 2.30pm; Pembroke Wanderers v UCD, Serpentine Avenue, 2.30pm
EYHL2 Play-offs – Quarter-Finals: Clontarf v Cork Harlequins, Mount Temple, 3pm; Instonians v Bandon, Shaw’s Bridge, 3pm