Leinster quartet move into IHL playoff places

Men’s Irish Hockey League, Pool A round-up:
In stark contrast to the Irish Senior Cup, Leinster sides currently occupy all of the men’s IHL playoff places after a weekend which saw only Pembroke falter.

This situation comes in large part due to Cookstown and Lisnagarvey’s inactivity due to snow in Co Tyrone. The Town were all but eliminated by the weekend’s results as Corinthian’s bonus point win over Cork C of I and Glenanne’s Sunday success in Annadale has also played them into contention.

Once again, Corinthian saved their best for the IHL as they ended C of I’s interest in the competition and means Munster is still waiting for a first semi-finalist since the new format was introduced.

Played in cold conditions in Whitechurch Park, Billy Lynch endured a torrid opening in which Gareth Davis, Rowland Rixon-Fuller and Karl Smith’s corner deflection were all denied.

The breakthrough did come in the second quarter when Smith found Davis for a rare senior goal. In response, CI drew the best from Ross Murray, Jermyn forcing him into a diving save.

Lynch pulled off another double-save but from an ensuing a series of corners, Chris Pelow dragged low for 2-0 on the half-time hooter.

A spate of green card suspensions greeted the second half but the reds were least affected, making it 3-0 when they worked the ball from the back up to Glenn Holmes in space on the edge of the circle.

He shot goalwards but Dan Treacy nipped in to redirect and unstoppable deflection past Lynch. C of I threatened in the closing quarter to deny a bonus point but Francisco Corradini’s defence stood up to the task and they nailed on the four points when Pelow added his second drag.

Glenanne moved into the top two with the reds on Sunday as they ensured Annadale’s woes in this competition continued, leaving them to focus on their Irish Senior Cup semi-final.

They secured a bonus point despite trailing in the second half before Eddie O’Malley’s quickfire double changed the course of the game.

Shane O’Donoghue’s penalty corner strike handed the Glens the lead at Lough Moss but it was level in the second quarter when Andy Williamson deflected a cross from William Edgar off Steven Doran’s helmet into the goal. From the restart, ’Dale took the lead for the first time through a good solo effort from John Edgar.

But two goals in as many minutes Eddie O’Malley gave the visitors back their advantage. 2-3. And it could have been even better for the Glens at three-quarter time as Stuart Chisholm made a fantastic, full-stretch save from Graham Shaw to keep his team in the tie.

Glenanne, though, stepped up a gear in the final quarter and moved into bonus point range when David Smyth’s foot stopped a ball on the line and O’Donoghue dispatched the penalty stroke.

And Eddie O’Malley completed his hat-trick with a good individual effort for 5-2. Their fate remains in their own hands as victory next week over Cookstown will see them advance.

For Corinthian, they are in the same boat with a win over Lisnagarvey in Hillsborough allowing their passage to the final four.

Pool A results: Corinthian 4 (Chris Pelow 2, Dan Tracey, Gareth Davis) Cork C of I 0; Cookstown P Lisnagarvey P; Annadale 2 (John Egner, Andrew Williamson) Glenanne 5 (Eddie O’Malley 3, Shane O’Donoghue 2)

Men’s IHL Pool A standings (played – points): 1. Corinthian 4-13pts (+8) 2. Glenanne 4-12pts (+7) 3.Lisnagarvey 3-9pts (+5) 4. Cookstown 3-4pts (-2) 5. Cork C of I 4-3pts (-9) 6. Annadale 4-2pts (-9)

Pool B round-up:
YMCA and Monkstown leap-frogged Pembroke into the playoff places and now have their destiny in their own hands next week as they face away trips in their bid for first ever IHL semi-final places.

YM, though, might be kicking themselves slightly as they had a bonus point to go top of the group in their grasp, one which might have eased some pressure ahead of their battle with Banbridge.

Nonetheless, a third win of the campaign was well merited against Instonians, getting off to a flying start with goals from Jamie Tobin and David Robinson in the first quarter.

Instonians stormed back but could find no way past Iain Walker and they were deflated by Stephen Barry’s effort against the run of play for a 3-0 half-time lead.

Phil Marshall put them further clear from a corner when Inst were reduced to ten men for a yellow-card offence but it was one of the Australian’s last interventions as he took a blow to the jaw.

In his absence, Instonians finished the stronger and pulled back two goals, preventing YM from taking all four points with an own goal and a James Corry effort which could prove critical.

Always the entertainers, Monkstown mathematically eliminated Cork Harlequins as they struck twice in the closing quarter to turn a potential 4-3 loss into a 5-4 win.

Some spectacularly inept defending and adroit attacking from both sides made this quite the thriller, with just one short corner accrued for each side – both converted – and six goals from play.

David Eakins almost broke the crossbar with an early rocket for Quins, but ‘Town broke down the other end with Gareth Watkins finding Kyle Good on the baseline, and the ex-Three Rock youngsters squeezed the ball under Chris Daunt.

Quins were level soon after though, the livewire Eakins giving a ‘Town defender twisted blood on the left before lashing in a reverse-stick cross which was roofed via Eddie Dore’s excellent deflection.

Mark Black was then given too much time to turn and shoot across David Fitzgerald for the go-ahead goal, but Richard Sykes’ low drag-flick was missed by the Quins post man for an equaliser before the break.

The lead was swapped once again via the goal of the game from Brian Groves. Good engineered the space down the left and crossed for Groves, who deftly redirected the ball behind his back and found the bottom corner.

Most of Quins’ good things continued to come through Mark Black and Paul Lombard, the former getting along the endline to square for David Egner to push home another equaliser.

And when a trademark Black corner deflection put Quins back in front, it setup a thrilling final quarter, with ‘Town failing to score while Rob Hobbs – yellow carded for preventing a quick free – was in the sin-bin.

Monkstown got the reprive they needed inside two minutes though, when Daunt went through the back of Good in the circle and Watkins planted home the stroke, and Good had the decisive final say from close range, tapping in after Groves had done the gruntwork to eliminate the Quins keeper.

At Havelock Park, Banbridge inflicted Pembroke’s first defeat in the competition in its three year history in Saturday’s late game.

The earlier results meant a loss for the Co Down side would see them eliminated along with Instonians and Harlequins. But they turned on the style with a 6-2 bonus point win, a result that, if matched next week against YM, will see them through to their second semi-final in three seasons.

They led 1-0 in the first quarter when Simon Magowan earned a penalty stroke which Irish international Bruce McCandless converted confidently.

Colin Dowds and Banbridge Academy starlet Josh Moffett emerged from the bench to immediate effect in the second quarter, the latter upended by Alan Giles with a yellow card and penalty stroke the outcome.

McCandless again netted, building a 2-0 advantage which lasted until half-time despite Ronan Flannery’s surge and an improved Pembroke period.

Stephen Dowds capitalised on a defensive slip-up to finish superbly in the second half but the lead was cut to 3-1 when Gordon Elliott responded from the third penalty stroke of the game.

Colin Dowds picked off another with a well-taken goal and their position was strengthened further when Moffett made it 5-1 and then completed his side’s tally for a commanding position.

In the dying minutes Flannery converted a short corner to reduce the arrears but it was not enough for Pembroke who now must win against Monkstown – an opponent that have outdone them twice in the past month.

Pool B results: Banbridge 6 (Bruce McCandless 2, Stephen Dowds 2, Josh Moffett, Colin Dowds) Pembroke Wanderers 2 (Ronan Flannery, Gordon Elliott); Cork Harlequins 4 (Mark Black 2, Eddie Dore, David Egner) Monkstown 5 (Kyle Good 2, Brian Groves, Gareth Watkins, Richard Sykes); YMCA 4 (Jamie Tobin, David Robinson, Stephen Barry, Phil Marshall) Instonians 2 (James Corry, OG)

Pool B standings (all played four games): 1. Monkstown 11pts (+5) 2. YMCA 11pts (+5) 3. Pembroke 10pts (+2) 4. Banbridge 9pts (+3) 5. Instonians 2pts (-7) 6. Cork Harlequins 2pts (-8)

** Big thanks to Southern Fried’s Alan Good for his words from the Cork Harlequins vs Monkstown game

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