Leinster mens IHL dreams all take knocks

Men’s Irish Hockey League
Pool A: Cork Harlequins 3 (Paul Lombard 2, Mark Black) Instonians 2 (John Watson, William Robinson)

Paul Lombard capped a brilliant Cork Harlequins’ comeback as they came from 2-0 down to best Instonians and get back in contention for a first ever IHL semi-final place. For Inst, in combination with a two-point penalty, it leaves them virtually out of the competition despite their heroics against Glenanne last week.

That day came from two down to win late on but they were sucker-punched at Farmer’s Cross in similar manner. John Watson got his third goal in a week in the 25th minute when he was later unmarked to finish from around the penalty spot before William Robinson rebounded off Chris Daunt in the third quarter for a two-goal lead.

The lifeline came when Mark Black deflected home a corner 18 minutes from time and they used that momentum in the final quarter a great run by Phil O’Driscoll set up Lombard to slot home and tie things up. And with ten minutes to go, Lombard made a wonderful run along the end-line and placed home for a big win.

Banbridge 2 (Scott Caruth, Ross McCandless) Monkstown 1 (Kyle Good)
Banbridge hopped above Monkstown in the Pool B standings but only on goal difference as Kyle Good’s goal salvaged a losing bonus point for the Town. The result earned a modicum of revenge for last spring’s Irish Senior Cup semi-final loss for the Havelock Park side under the Saturday night lights, coping well without Scott Forbes, Josh Moffett and Dermy Reay through injury.

Mark Tumilty’s side soon found the opening goal when Hugh McShane won a penalty corner and Ross McCandless duly dispatched the ball into the top left corner. Scott Caruth made it 2-0 with the easiest of tap-ins after a great weaving run from Dane Ward down the left resulted in a reverse stick cross.

This seemed to breathe life into the visiting team as they began to develop a meaner attacking streak. Monkstown penetrated the circle on numerous occasions and a fine piece of team play resulted in Good pulling a goal back, his first since returning from injury. This coupled with a yellow card a piece for each team created a spectacular finish in the final quarter.

Gareth Lennox was called upon to make two wonderous saves as Gareth Watkins and his fellow forwards battered the Bann goal. Monkstown’s first penalty corner was easily dealt with by the Bann defence and in the last seven minutes it was end to end top class hockey, a credit to both sets of players. Scott Caruth and Dane Ward both had chances to secure the win and likewise for Watkins and Stephen Cole at the other end.

Glenanne 2 (Graham Shaw, Gary Shaw) Cookstown 5 (Greg Allen 2, Paul Thompson, Ian Sloan, Timmy Smyth)
Cookstown became the first visiting side in IHL history to take a bonus point win from Glenanne Park as they leapt to the top of the pool. A cagey opening was wrapped up as soon as Paul Thompson opened the scoring in the 13th minute as he finished wonderfully from a tight angle on the right hand side of the circle. The lead was doubled just after the start of the second quarter when Greg Allen took advantage of sloppy defending to slot home at the back post.

Graham Shaw pulled one back in the 22nd minute when he deflected home from a Brendan Parsons short corner attempt. However, the reply was instant from Cookstown as Allen was on hand to take advantage of poor marking again, deflecting home Ian Sloan’s cross a minute later. The Glens forced the issue in the third quarter and pinned their opponents back but a swift counter attack down the left-hand side saw them fall further behind as Ian Sloan slotted home from Mark Crooks pass in the 43rd minute.

The pattern was remarkably similar two minutes later as Timmy Smyth latched on to another swift move to slot home on his reverse side. ‘Town had several more breakaways towards the end of the game that Filip Jaros and David Shaw did well to stop. Gary Shaw gave his side a chance of a bonus point when he squeezed the ball through Iain Hughes pads in the 60th minute but further attacks were nullified by the big netminder.

Standings: 1. Cookstown 9pts (+5) 2. Banbridge 7pts (+3) 3. Monkstown 7pts (+3) 4. Cork Harlequins 5pts (-3) 5. Glenanne 3pts (-4) 6. Instonians 2pts (-4)

Pool B: Cork C of I 2 (Gary Wilkinson, Philip Smith) YMCA 1 (David Robinson)
Cork C of I earned their first win of the campaign to move into a three-way tie for second place in Pool B but YM’s losing bonus point – their third extra point of the campaign – gives them the edge on goal difference in the semi-final race.
The visitors started well at Garryduff but were stung in the 8th minute when CI’s right back David Harvey and Alec Moffett created the opening for Gary Wilkinson to, under pressure, crack a shot on his reverse past Iain Walker.

A couple of penalty corners went unconverted for YM in the second quarter but Billy Lynch was helpless to deny the impressive David Robinson at the third time of asking as he beat two runners to roll home. YM continued to threaten but a resolute defensive effort from David Harvey, Phil Smith, Clinton Sweetnam and the veteran Nigel Buttimer held them at bay.

And they threw the decisive blow in the 45th minute. Alec Moffett made a darting run down the YM right and as he came along the end line was pushed. The umpire had no hesitation in awarding a penalty stroke which Smith fired low to Walker’s left. YM pushed for a leveller and were awarded penalty corners in the 57th and 64th minutes but these were well defended as CI clung on for the three points.

Pembroke 2 (Maurice Elliott, Alan Sothern) Annadale 4 (Peter Caruth 2, Andy Williamson, Neil Hamilton)
Peter Caruth’s stunning late salvo saw Annadale raid Pembroke for a famous win which pushes them up the table while leaving the Dubliners in fifth place in the group and under pressure going into the final two rounds.

Quick interpassing saw Pembroke get off to a perfect start as Alan Sothern played in Maurice Elliott in the fourth minute but the sides were level when Andrew Williamson took in a deflected ball and he forced over the line for 1-1 at half-time.
Neil Hamilton put his side in from the penalty spot after his corner strike – one of a half dozen efforts his side had – found a body on the line. He and David Smyth were central to Annadale’s defence but they looked to have seen the win taken from them four minutes from time when Alan Sothern reversed home.

But Pembroke twice left ‘keeper David Williamson completely exposed. Whilst he was equal to the challenge of at least two counter attacks, Irish international Caruth took him on and netted twice to ensure an Annadale win, and denying a losing bonus point for Pembroke at the last for the second time in a week.

Three Rock Rovers 0 Lisnagarvey 2 (Andy Forrest, John Gray)
Second half goals from Andy Forrest and John Gray saw Lisnagarvey scramble over the line in a tight battle they just about shaded against Three Rock Rovers at Grange Road. With nearest rivals YMCA and Pembroke both losing, it give the Hillsborough side a three-point cushion at the top of the section as they bid to reach a third successive IHL final.

A cagey opening quarter saw few chances; Greg Thompson’s speculative but superbly athletic reverse skipped just beyond Daniel Buser while Peter Blakeney’ steal and pass to Ross Canning ended up hitting the sideboard. The Ulster champions ratcheted up the pressure in the second period, Forrest drawing the best from Stephen West while Buser and Peter McConnell sat out brief suspensions but no goals ensure before half-time.

But the deadlock was eventually broken when Peter MacDonnell pick-pocketed John Blakeney in midfield and he worked his way round the right of the circle before squaring to Forrest and he bundled in through an exposed West despite a brave smothering efforts.

Rovers almost responded immediately when Colin Huet’s crack from the centre almost wrong-footed John Tormey as Canning applied a clever touch but the keeper did superbly to touch around the post. Huet was similarly unmarked in the circle from the next long corner but clean shot came off to leave it 1-0 at three quarter-time. Forrest’s run and reverse skipped just off target while Rovers won their first corner in the closing ten minutes but the pull out was off course from what was the major chance to level.

Buser saw yellow for breaking down play but the hosts failed to capitalise as Peter Blakeney went soon after when his wild swing – attempting a first time shot – clattered a defender. In the next phase, Garvey worked the ball forward to makeshift striker John Gray who finished adroitly with four minutes to go. As the large visiting contingent sang his name, the old head could have grabbed a bonus point but did not get enough on a Forrest cross when well placed.

Pool B: Cork C of I 2 (G Wilkinson, P Smith) YMCA 1 (D Robinson); Pembroke 2 (M Elliott, A Sothern) Annadale 4 (P Caruth 2, A Williamson, N Hamilton); Three Rock Rovers 0 Lisnagarvey 2 (A Forrest, J Gray)
Standings: 1. Lisnagarvey 9pts (+4) 2. YMCA 6pts (+1) 3. Annadale 6pts (0) 4. Cork C of I 6pts (0) 5. Pembroke 5pts (0) 6. Three Rock Rovers 1pt (-5)

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