Rovers back in the IHL; Old Alex poised to join them

Words from Southern Fried’s Alan Good
Three Rock Rovers became the first side to progress from the IHL wildcards, booking their place in next year’s tournament thanks to a 1-1 draw with Instonians.

Rovers will be glad to be back in the big time having missed out on qualification last term, while Inst know they will be there too provided they can avoid defeat against Bandon on Sunday.

They had the best chances of the first half, both of them falling Peter Blakeney’s way, lashing one wide off his open side early on before blazing a reverse over the bar before half-time.

Paul Gleghorne had Inst’s best efforts, dragging straight at goalkeeper Stephen West, but it was Rovers who broke the deadlock.

An initial drag-flick attempt was blocked down, but Rovers nonetheless managed to quickly work the ball to the back post, where Ross Canning was waiting to deflect past Nigel Skillen.

It took Inst less than 60 seconds to reply however, coming at the Dubliners from the tip-off with veteran former Irish international Mark Irwin rounding West in a one-on-one before finishing from a tight angle.

A couple of more corners for each side was as good as it got thereafter, Blakeney seeing one reverse-stick effort thwarted by Skillen in unorthodox fashion via his goalkeeper’s mask, but the stalemate saw Rovers leave Cork with a seat at the top table secured for next season.

On the women’s side, Old Alex are virtually assured in the IHL for a second time as they smashed Greenfields 7-0 at Garryduff.

Ivan Ovington and Miles Warren’s charges now have the competition’s only 100pc record and a goal difference of +11, meaning a draw against Ards will be enough to see them progress.

Shirley McCay was again to the fore having ran the show against UCC on Friday night, netting two goals here while the rest were spread around the team via Sarah Canning, Aoife Budd, Emily Beatty, Kate Collins Smyth and Sarah Gleeson.

Only a win will do for Greenfields – for whom goalkeeper Sinead Collins had another stormer – tomorrow against UCC if they are to keep their faint hopes alive. Victory for the students will see them progress provided Ards do not overturn Alex.

That is a result of the Marydke side’s roaring win over the Ulster side in the day’s opening game, surviving a nervy finale to stun Ards 2-1.

The first half provided little in terms of goalmouth incident while Fiona O’Connell – one of the game’s top performers – missed a penalty stroke in the 49th minute.

But Miriam Crowley scored a fine effort soon after when she brilliantly trapped Roycroft’s crash-ball at knee height near the top of the circle, before turning to rifle home an unstoppable upright reverse-stick shot to the roof of the net.

Youth Olympian Chloe Brown, though, created an equaliser when she cut infield before crashing the ball into the circle for Becky Weir to deflty redirect past Emma White in the UCC goal.

Brown and Olivia Roycroft both then saw yellow within seconds of each other for the same offence – failing to retreat – and with space now opening up, Ali O’Regan did well to retrieve a lost cause by keeping a long ball in play and winning a corner.

Roycroft’s absence removed UCC’s drag-flick threat, but instead it was Kilkenny native and former South East U18 representative Aine Curran who stepped up to find the bottom corner with a pinpoint straight hit.

College were forced to hang on thereafter – notably when White was forced to play a harmless long ball which came back off an upright, only to be fortunate to find Weir’s foot instead of her stick – but they did just enough.

Men’s Irish Hockey League Wildcard playoffs: Three Rock Rovers 1 (Ross Canning) Instonians 1 (Mark Irwin)
Standings: 1. Three Rock Rovers 4pts (+1) 2. Instonians 1pt (0) 3. Bandon 0pts (-1)
Sunday schedule: Bandon vs Instonians, 2pm

ESB Electric Ireland Irish Hockey League Playoffs: UCC 2 (Miriam Crowley, Aine Curran) Ards 1 (Becky Weir); Old Alexandra 7 (Shirley McCay 2, Sarah Canning, Aoife Budd, Emily Beatty, Kate Collins Smyth, Sarah Gleeson) Greenfields 0
Standings: 1. Old Alexandra 6pts (+11) 2. Ards 3pts (+2) 3. UCC 3pts (-2) 4. Greenfields 0pts (-11)
Sunday: Old Alex v Ards, 10am; UCC v Greenfields, 12pm

Partners of The Hook