What initially promised to be a fraught afternoon of nervous texts and phone calls was made simple as Pembroke, Glenanne and Three Rock Rovers produced the results they needed to advance to the semi-finals of all-Ireland competition for the second year running with comprehensive wins over Annadale, Cookstown and Cork C of I.
Pembroke had the hardest pre-match task, needing to win by three clear goals against the table-toppers. But a first half blitz saw Stu Loughrey, Alan Sothern and Mick O’Connor well on course by the break at 4-0.
Chris Jackson pulled one back in the third quarter from a corner but Sothern completed the move of the game to wrap up the 5-1 scoreline.
Running concurrently at Glenanne Park, the home side’s task was slightly simpler as they needed a draw to advance against already eliminated Cookstown. Settling for the two points, though, is not the Tallaght’s style and they too built a strong position inside the first half.
Eddie O’Malley deflected in Graham Shaw’s cross in the 13th minute before the latter got on the end of Stephen Butler’s overhead to double the difference in the second quarter.
Colin Donaldson pulled one back after the big break but O’Malley restored the advantage soon after and Butler sealed the win in the 62nd minute from a second phase short corner.
Johnny Goulding added a late fifth before Andy Barbour pulled one back with two minutes left on the clock but it was academic as Glenanne topped the group.
In the group’s other match, Instonians traveled with just 11 players to Cork Harlequins – leaving the likes of Paddy Brown and Mark Gleghorne at home – but still pulled off a late salvo to claim a 4-4 draw with two late William Robinson goals.
Pembroke and Glenanne’s semi-final opponents were made know half an hour later as Three Rock got the win they needed to go through at the expense of Cork C of I.
The game, as a contest, was pretty much done and dusted inside 11 minutes with three quickfire goals for the Grange Road hosts.
The first was hotly disputed by the CI players as Peter McConnell’s drag-flick appeared to have been saved by Mark Ruddle onto the foot of his defender on the line, rather than hitting the foot directly. Ruddle’s intervention may have sent the ball just around the post but a stroke was given after an umpire’s consultation and Garry Ringwood duly dispatched.
Mitch Darling then fired a straight shot through Ruddle for 2-0 before Peter Blakeney pouched the third. The game stayed scoreless for the next 50 minutes as Ringwood missed a second stroke while the Munster men let six corners go a begging.
Andy McConnell received a bizarre yellow card in that time. Initially shown a green, he made his way to the TD’s box to serve his penalty only to take a u-turn, convinced he was told he could go back on by the technical bench. Thirty seconds later, the umpires spotted McConnell had returned to the fray and saw his suspension upgraded.
Cork C of I enjoyed more of the play during the middle period, John Jermyn becoming a threat when switched to left midfield after being effectively stifled by Mick Maguire on the right. Neil Lyons and Ali Haughton, though, were dominant factors in limiting CI’s chances.
And in a whirlwind final ten minutes, Peter Blakeney and Kyle Good shared goals with Jermyn to close out the game 5-2.
Up in Banbridge, the hosts found their passage through to the semi-finals also as the day’s joint top scorers. They battered Monkstown 6-1 with goals from Bruce McCandless, Geoff McCabe, Simon Magowan,
Eugene Magee and Stephen Dowds; Fran Lee getting the sole response.
Lisnagarvey produced a similar result to confine Fingal to the group’s wooden spoon.
It leaves Three Rock with the bonus of home advantage for the remainder of the competition as the finals weekend on May 4 and 5 will be played at Grange Road. They face Pembroke with whom they have drawn twice this season while Glenanne face Banbridge.
Glenanne 5 (Eddie O’Malley 2, Stephen Butler, John Goulding, Graham Shaw) Cookstown 2 (Colin Donaldson, Andy Barbour); Cork Harlequins 4 (Lee Dalton, Phil O’Driscoll, Paul Lombard 2) Instonians 4 (Steven Redpath, Chris Kirk, William Robinson 2); Pembroke Wanderers 5 (Stuart Loughrey, Alan Sothern 3, Michael O’Connor) Annadale 1 (Chris Jackson)
Banbridge 6 (Geoff McCabe, Bruce McCandless 2, Simon Magowan, Eugene Magee, Stephen Dowds) Monkstown 1 (Fran Lee); Three Rock Rovers: 5 (Peter Blakeney 2, Kyle Good, Mitch Darling, Gary Ringwood) Cork C of I 2 (John Jermyn 2); Lisnagarvey 6 Fingal 1
* To see the final group standings, click here
. For pictures from the Three Rock Rovers vs Cork C of I game taken by Adrian Boehm, click here and by Emer Keogh, click here.