Monkstown the big winners as IHL opening weekend ties go to the wire

Irish Hockey League, round one
Pool A: Cookstown 4 (Ian Sloan 3, Mark Crooks) Banbridge 2 (Dane Ward, Bruce McCandless)

Ian Sloan’s hat-trick under-pinned a fine Cookstown victory over Banbridge in Coolnafranky in the battle of the EHL sides, winning in the competition for the first time since the 09/10 season. They were decent value for the win, taking the corner count 6-1 and bossing much of the second half to take a three-point win.

They took the lead in the seventh minute from Sloan’s corner effort but Bann were back on terms when Dane Ward got the touch to a well-worked switch having earlier shaved the post. Bruce McCandless netted from the penalty spot to put the Co Down side ahead in the second quarter but it was level once more at half-time when Timmy Smyth played in Mark Crooks to slot past Gareth Lennox.

The second half belonged to Cookstown, winning five corners in the third period and Sloan made it 3-2 from one of those, a neatly worked switched effort while Gareth Lennox made a series of good saves. Sloan completed his trio of corners and they managed to keep Bann at bay despite late pressure to deny the reigning champions a losing bonus point and start their campaign on the back foot.

Cork Harlequins 2 (Dan Hobbs, John Hobbs) Glenanne 2 (Gary Shaw, Jonathan Kane)
Glenanne came back from a two-goal deficit at Farmer’s Cross to salvage a draw as a resolute defensive effort organised by man of the match John Hobbs marked a titanic struggle.

The Glens provided most of the early attacking but Quins struck against the run of play when they broke to win a corner in the ninth minute which Dan Hobbs converted. Paul Lombard – who passed a late fitness test – then went close just before the quarter-time break. John Hobbs, though, did extend the lead just before the break from another corner after a good phase in which Colin Ross and Lee d’Alton stood out.

But Glenanne bossed the second half, forcing their first corner early in the second half which Gary Shaw converted for his eighth goal of the season and seven minutes later Jonathan Kane crashed past Chris Daunt for 2-2. Quins pushed hard for a winner late on with Gareth Carragher pulling off a couple of fine saves while the hosts were awarded a penalty corner on the final whistle but could not convert to leave it two points a piece.

Monkstown 4 (Frank Ryan 2, Jack Kirwan, Richard Sykes) Instonians 0
Monkstown produced one of their best IHL performances to claim the only winning bonus point of the men’s competition as they comprehensively beat Instonians. They were 2-0 up at the end of the first quarter as Andrew Ward fired a warning shot before turning provider with a great left wing cross which Jack Kirwan touched home.

Gareth Watkins then set up Frank Ryan for the first of his double for 2-0 – a lead they held until half-time. Inst went closest in the 44th minute when Dave Fitzgerald was forced into a good los save before Town got into bonus point country when Richard Sykes played a neat one-two with David Cole and pushed home their third corner.

Two minutes later the match was over when the Town scored their fourth and best goal of the day after a thrust from David Cole into the circle where he found Kirwan in space and he unselfishly passed to Ryan for an easy tap in.

Pool A standings: 1. Monkstown 4pts (+4) 2. Cookstown 3pts (+2) 3= Cork Harlequins 2pts (0) 3= Glenanne 2pts (0) 5. Banbridge 0pts (-2) 6. Instonians 0pts (-4)

Pool B: Pembroke Wanderers 2 (Gordon Elliott, Alan Sothern) Cork C of I 2 (John Jermyn, Gary Wilkinson)
Like Glenanne, Pembroke recovered from a 2-0 deficit to Cork opposition to grasp a draw to start the campaign. It saw C of I visit Pembroke for the first time in the IHL and the visitors enjoyed the early phase as John Jermyn whizzed in a tenth minute corner. A flurry of attacks ensued with Alan Sothern clattering the post with a fine deflection which beat Billy Lynch.

The lead held until half-time with Lynch, Nigel Buttimer and Philly Smith catching the eye. CI managed to hold out while former UCD man Shane O’Donnell was shown a yellow card and they extended the lead when David Hobbs was fouled on halfway.

He took a quick auto-pass which wrong-footed the defence and the Irish international slipped the ball through to Gary Wilkinson who beat the on-rushing David Williamson with a deft lift from just inside the circle. But the two-goal lead was short-lived as Gordon Elliott brought Pembroke back to 1-2 from one of their first clear-cut chances, breaking free from a tightly marshalled defence.

They were level when a loose defensive clearance was quickly returned by Elliott who swiftly played the ball to the penalty spot for Alan Sothern to crash a reverse past Lynch. Pembroke endeavoured to use the momentum but were unable to break through again and so shared the points.

Lisnagarvey 1 (Andy Forrest) YMCA 0
Andy Forrest’s seventh minute goal proved the only divider as under-strength Lisnagarvey’s bid for a third successive final began with a tight victory, leaving YMCA to travel back to Dublin in disappointment for a second week running.

They started decently, Geoff Walker just missing from a switch move but Garvey were ahead when Daniel Buser attacked down the left wing and found Forrest who scored from close range at the right-hand post.

YM responded well, forcing another corner while Brian Waring needed to pick off a superb diving tackle to see out the first quarter. Jonny Bruton shot wide in the 19th minute while Garvey’s first corner – without injured Timmy Cockram – was wasted to leave the game on a knife-edge at half-time.

John Tormey made a full length save to keep out YM’s second corner before they began to pile on the pressure with three more set-pieces but their travails in front of goal continued. In the final quarter, the pendulum swung Garvey’s way as they won a string of corners which would have made the game safe but Iain Walker kept out Steven Arbuthnot to mean that they at least grabbed a losing bonus point.

Annadale 2 (Peter Purcell, Tizian Peukert) Three Rock Rovers 1 (Ross Canning)
Annadale continued their decent recent run against Dublin opposition as they produced a decently organised performance to keep Three Rock at bay on their return to the competition. They got off to a flyer, Peter Purcell simply tapping in Fraser Mills’ cross and German import Tizian Peukert finished off a quickly worked free which Peter Caruth slipped his way.

From there, Three Rock controlled a large portion of possession with Annadale sitting back and attempting to use the pace of Caruth and Andy Williamson to counter. Rovers hit back in fortuitous fashion when Peter McConnell’s corner push came off Davy Smith and Ross Canning before wrong-footing Johnny Moore.

The second half saw Smith and Neil Hamilton pick off the bulk of Three Rock’s attacks while they could not convert any more of their six corners. Caruth was denied at close range by Stephen West with the best chance of the half but it was not needed as they took three points while Rovers have one, a losing bonus.

Pool B standings: 1. Annadale 3pts (+1) 2. Lisnagarvey 3pts (+1) 3= Cork C of I 2pts (0) 3= Pembroke 2pts (0) 5. Three Rock Rovers 1pt (-1) 6. YMCA 1pt (-1)

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