Three sides still in men’s Pool A mix as Pool B looks all but done and dusted

Men’s Irish Hockey League
Pool A

Pembroke and Three Rock Rovers pressed on in Pool A with single-goal victories on home soil against Ulster opposition, shading battles with Instonians and Cookstown, respectively. The former’s 3-2 success puts them in great shape following Alan Sothern’s hat trick, especially with two more home games – the first against Cork Harlequins.

Three Rock's Mitch Darling fired two goals in their win over Cookstown Pic: Adrian Boehm

Three Rock’s Mitch Darling fired two goals in their win over Cookstown Pic: Adrian Boehm

Sothern got his first a minute before the break who, for once, found space in the circle and his reverse-stick shot found the goal for a 1-0 half-time lead. The striker added a corner early in the second half for 2-0, a goal that instigated a marked Instonians fightback with the speed and skill of McNeice causing plenty of problems.

They were back in the tie at 2-1 via William Robinson’s corner goal and they looked on course to level but Pembroke kept out four corners in a row and had a couple of penalty stroke shouts turned away.

But Pembroke’s cutting edge was sharper and they landed the win two minutes from time when Sothern inevitably converted his 21st goal of the season from a corner. Andy Coulter nabbed one back at the death to earn a losing bonus point but it was not enough to keep their semi-final chances alive.

Three Rock Rovers claimed their third win in succession as they scraped to a second narrow win in succession against Ulster Premier League opposition, seeing off Cookstown 4-3.

Cookstown got off to a great start, Raymond Miller snapping up an early chance before Stuart Smyth poked home for 2-0 inside the opening 11 minutes. They allowed Rovers a lot of ball, however, and were stung by a Mitch Darling double before half-time, scoring with two emphatic shots from mid-circle.

Peter Blakeney’s drag-flick a minute into the second half put Three Rock in front as they controlled the play in spite of a couple of cards but they were stung by Jody Hosking’s own goal from David Best’s crash ball deflected in the 55th minute.

Parity lasted scarcely a minute, however, as Ian Hughes could only clear as far as Blakeney who thrashed home through a crowded circle for 4-3. Cookstown had a couple of late corners but could not convert as Stephen West stood tall, landing their third win in a row.

Lisnagarvey eased to their second win of the IHL campaign with a 3-0 win over Cork Harlequins in Farmer’s Cross. They broke the deadlock a minute before half-time and scored once in the third and fourth quarter each with Timmy Cockram bagging a pair.

It sets up a big day out against Three Rock Rovers next Saturday at Comber Road with the winner likely to join Pembroke in the semi-finals.

Pool A: Cork Harlequins 0 Lisnagarvey 3 (T Cockram 2, A Williamson); Three Rock Rovers 4 (M Darling 2, P Blakeney 2) Cookstown 3 (R Miller, S Smyth, own goal); Pembroke 3 (A Sothern 3) Instonians 2 (W Robinson, A Coulter)
Standings: 1. Three Rock Rovers 12pts (+13) 2. Pembroke 12pts (+3) 3. Lisnagarvey 8pts (+4) 4. Cookstown 6pts (+4) 5. Instonians 2pts (-4) 6. Cork Harlequins 0pts (-20)

Cookstown's Andy Barbour gets away from Peter Blakeney Pic: Adrian Boehm

Cookstown’s Andy Barbour gets away from Peter Blakeney Pic: Adrian Boehm

Pool B
Monkstown and Banbridge are all but home and hosed in Pool B with two games to go as both ran up big wins courtesy of big second half performances against Cork C of I and Corinthian, leaving them eight points clear of the chasers.

For Town, they were made to work for their four points, falling behind to Stephen Sweetnam early on and were only assured of the points in the last quarter. Sweetnam got on the end of a David Hobbs with a nice deflection on the reverse in the fourth minute.

They maintained that lead until the 28th minute when Lee Cole equalised from a short corner but they were not able to find fluidity until the last 20 minutes with Phil Smith immaculate for CI.

But Gareth Watkins eventually got Town in front in the 53rd minute when Gareth Watkins got on the end of a baseline pullback and his shot took a deflection in off the back-pedalling Richard Sweetnam.

From there, there was only one winner as CI chased the game and were picked off. Watkins scored his second in the 61st minute, closely followed by Peter Caruth’s third in two games. Davy Carson completed the 5-1 success.
Bann’s win was described as “a turgid affair” in their post match report with cards punctuating the game.

Stevie Dowds’ penalty corner put the Havelock Park hosts in front in the first quarter. Josh Moffett confidently finished a flowing move from the home team for 2-0 but, on 30 minutes, Corinthian managed to get on the scoresheet when Jonathan Lewis scored following a misplaced pass in the Bann defence.

The hosts cut loose, however, in the second half as Simon Magowan and Own Magee, allied to an own goal, extended the lead out to 5-2 at three quarter time and then Phil Brown advanced the score further. Lewis got one back before Dowds scored his second in the dying moments.

UCD, meanwhile, moved from sixth to third in the group with a strong away win against Annadale. After a tentative start, the students hit the front when Peter Brown took the ball along the end line to set up Jeremy Duncan.

Shane O’Donoghue’s 47th minute corner made it 2-0 and Nick Burns closed out the win with a 58th minute effort from mid-circle. The upshot of the day’s play means that Bann and Town need just a point from their remaining two games to go through.

Pool B: Cork C of I 1 (S Sweetnam) Monkstown 5 (G Watkins 2, L Cole, P Caruth, D Carson); Anndale 0 UCD 3 (N Burns, S O’Donoghue, J Duncan); Banbridge 7 (S Dowds 2, O Magee, P Brown, S Magowan, J Moffett, own goal) Corinthian 2 (J Lewis 2)
Standings: 1. Banbridge 12pts (+13) 2. Monkstown 12pts (+13) 3. UCD 4pts (-3) 4. Cork C of I 4pts (-8) 5. Corinthian 3pts (-6) 6. Annadale 2pts (-9)

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