Pembroke through, three way scrap for second

Irish Hockey League Pool A
Saturday: Pembroke 3 (Alan Sothern, Gordon Elliott, Andy McConnell) Corinthian 0
Reigning champions Pembroke confirmed their place in the finals weekend of the Irish Hockey League as they sweep past Corinthian at a sun-baked Serpentine Avenue and will top Pool A with a game to spare.

Maurice Elliott earned a sixth minute corner from which Alan Sothern converted, firing in a just left of centre drag-flick, from the only major chance of the first quarter as Pembroke held possession while the reds were content to counter-attack.

Mick O’Connor fizzed one low cross past the face of goal early in the second quarter while a Corinthian corner shot and Darren Kimfley’s shot went close. Conor Harte pushed wide from Pembroke’s second corner, meanwhile, to end the half at 1-0.

But Harte atoned in style seven minutes into the second period when he pushed forward down the right channel and delivered the pass to Gordy Elliott from which he dispatched a reverse-stick shot to double the lead.

Former Pembroke man Davy Carson went close twice in the aftermath, hitting the post in the 50th minute, before Brian Doherty dragged a good save from David Harte in the final period.

Chris Pelow skimmed one over the bar as their attempts to nick a precious losing point stepped up but Pembroke were the side to finally earn a bonus of their own. Patrick Good provided the nuisance factor in the circle after Craig Fulton’s initial move to lay up Andy McConnell to score the third goal.

Monkstown 4 (Gareth Watkins 2, Andy Ewington, Andrew Ward) Banbridge 3 (Scott Forbes, Ross McCandless, Hugh McShane)
Monkstown temporarily forced their way into the IHL semi-final reckoning as they produced a monumental fightback, showing a typical attitude toward entertaining their support. Their hopes though took a big blow a day later as Inst’s win leaves them needing huge favours to advance.

Andrew Ward grabbed the winner with just ten seconds to go to hand his side the lead for the first time of a see-saw tie.

They trailed 2-0 inside the opening quarter at Rathdown after Scott Forbes reacted fastest to rebound a corner following Dave Fitzgerald’s original save and Ross McCandless doubled up with an exceptional top right-hand drag-flick and while the Town fought their back into affairs, the deficit remained until the half-time interval.

Andy Ewington netted his 25th first eleven goal of the season in the third quarter to bring the sky-blues right back into the tie only for Hugh McShane to restore the two goal wedge which held until the fourth quarter.

But in an incredible reversal of affairs, Gareth Watkins scored a beautiful solo effort and subsequently scored an equaliser for 3-3 with scarcely two minutes remaining from a switched drag-flick.

And then Ward stole in to give Monkstown a major lifeline in the competition. The win moves the Rathdown outfit into fourth place overnight but within a point of Corinthian and Banbridge. The win even opens the door for Cork Harlequins if they can win against Instonians this afternoon.

Instonians 3 (Stuart McWilliams, William Robinson, Steven Redpath) Cork Harlequins 1 (Dan Hobbs)
Instonians took advantage of Saturday’s favourable results to jump into second place in Pool A as they held off the challenge of Cork Harlequins at Shaw’s Bridge, leading from start to finish.

Inst have been quick starters on a couple of occasions this term and repeated the trick when Stuart McWilliams pounced on a third minute corner rebound for 1-0. It proved the only strike before the big break though the hosts did have to hold out four corners with goalkeeper Nigel Skillen in top form to keep his line in tact.

Into the second half, Matthew Martin spurned a great, one-on-one opportunity before William Robinson doubled the lead in the 46th minute with a well-executed reverse-stick shot. Steven Redpath had a similar reverse chalked off soon after for back-stick before Dan Hobbs finally found his corner range to tighten the fixture up.

But any momentum was cut shoot when Rob Hobbs was yellow-carded and in that time, Inst took the initiative with Chris Kirk shooting over, Mark Irwin firing wide and two corners going a begging.

They finally got the insurance goal in the final minute when Redpath roofed a spectacular shot, denying Quins a losing bonus point and ending their interest in the competition. Inst move up to second and face a vital battle with Corinthian in the final round of fixtures at Whitechurch Park. Banbridge will aim to pick up on any draw or a non-bonus point win at Farmer’s Cross.

Monkstown need a huge amount of factors to go their way and then trounce Pembroke to pick off a semi-final place.

Standings: 1. Pembroke 15pts (+9) 2. Instonians 8pts (+1) 3. Corinthian 7pts (0) 4. Banbridge 7pts (-1) 5. Monkstown 6pts (-3) 6. Cork Harlequins 3pts (-4)

* For more of Adrian Boehm’s photos from Pembroke vs Corinthian, click here

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