Hermes and YMCA needed just one game to negotiate their passage into next season’s Irish Hockey League, after the final day’s play in the men’s and women’s competitions was cancelled.
With two sides to qualify from each three-team tournament, by the end of Saturday’s games, the women of Hermes and Ards and the men of YMCA and Instonians had already qualified for next season’s competition.
The pairs were due to face off in Banbridge yesterday but with both games now dead rubbers – the qualifiers’ pool allocation will be drawn from a hat – the Irish Hockey Association sensibly cancelled the games at the clubs’ request.
YM were always going to be confident in facing Irish Hockey Trophy holders UCC, who were without a number of exam-tied stars and were playing their second game in one day.
The students had earlier gone down 6-1 to Instonians, with Mark Irwin’s first-half strike the sole difference between the sides at the break before the Ulster men cut loose with both Irwin and James Corry notching hat-tricks.
And in game two, YM flew out of the blocks with Andy Walker sliding in to convert in the opening few minutes, before they were stung by a brilliant UCC counter off a defesnive short corner that ended with Shrew Power deflecting high to the net on his reverse for 1-1.
Undeterred, the Y hit back immediately through Marcus Richardson off turnover ball and although the goal glut slowed somewhat, Jonny Bruton arrowed a reverse to the bottom corner for a 3-1 half-time lead.
A largely uneventful second half was mostly notable for Geoff Walker receiving a red card, coming after he’d twice seen yellow for taking out Power in full flight.
And this season’s IHL finalists ensured they’ll be back in the mix next season as Richardson added his second late on after Richard Pedreschi got in around the back and pulled the ball back for the Australian to finish.
In the women’s competition, Hermes trounced Galway bidding to become the first Connacht side ever to feature in the IHL – 8-0 on Friday night, Aine Connery (pictured, above) getting four to all but secure their place in next season’s competition.
And that was confirmed a day later as Ards joined them with a 2-0 win over the westerners, whose resistance was eventually broken by two goals in the final 14 minutes from Chloe Brown.
The Bangor schoolgirl was fresh from being part of a delegation — which included football superstar David Beckham — that brought the Olympic flame from Athens to the UK on Friday.
Irish Hockey League wildcard playoffs, Belfield
Men: Instonians 6 (M Irwin 3, J Corry 3) UCC 1 (G Catchpole); YMCA 4 (M Richardson 2, A Walker, J Bruton) UCC 1 (A Power); Instonians v YMCA, not played; Instonians and YMCA qualify for IHL 2012/13; last game cancelled as it was a dead rubber.
Women: Hermes 8 (A Connery 4, A O’Flynn, E Horan, K McComish, M Crowley) Galway 0; Ards 2 (C Brown 2 ) Galway 0; Hermes v Ards, not played; Hermes and Ards qualify for IHL 2012/13; last game cancelled as it was a dead rubber.