Men’s EY playoff battles abound at top, bottom and for promotion

Glenanne, Pembroke and Three Rock’s Champions Trophy chances along with the fate of Annadale, Cookstown and Cork C of I are the remaining bones of contention on the final weekend of the inaugural men’s EYHL regular season.

At the top end, the timing of the fixtures means that it may not be until the last ball is hit on Saturday evening that the destiny of the the former tussle is decided.

Matthew Bell is anxious for Banbridge to hit their straps in the coming weeks. Pic: Adrian Boehm

Matthew Bell is anxious for Banbridge to hit their straps in the coming weeks. Pic: Adrian Boehm

Three Rock and Pembroke will hope to set a marker for Glenanne, playing at 4.30pm at Havelock Park, will try and outdo when they take on Banbridge.

The Tallaght side hold the box seat and are the only side with their destiny in their own hands. On a recurring theme, managing Shannon Boucher will be a crucial task for Bann if they are to stall the Glens’ charge after another hat trick last Saturday lifted him to 27 for the season, top of the scoring charts at national level by seven goals.

Indeed, the Tallaght side have had just seven goalscorers this term, the lowest number of any team, showing his huge importance from play and from corners.

Similarly, Lukasz Domachowski has been superb at the far end while Sam O’Connor has emerged as a crucial player this term.

Bann have little to play for bar form with an EYHL semi-final tie against Monkstown already confirmed even if they were to leap-frog the south Dubliners.

Last week, they shuffled their deck so as not to over-burden their international players and defender Matthew Bell is hoping his side can gel in the closing phases of the campaign, especially for the Monkstown tie.

“We’ve struggled against them [Monkstown] in recent years,” said Bell, “but this season we have drawn with them twice and felt we should have won both games. Hopefully we will have the upper hand on them at our place.

“It’s been a difficult season. We’ve been dropping in and out [of the squad] and it’s hard for the other guys not having the full squad there all the time.”

Earlier in the day, Three Rock take on Cookstown at 3pm with anything other than a win leaving them outside of the playoffs. They are playing a side they have beaten in both the league and cup already this season.

It has been a largely productive season for Rovers’ young side under Niall Denham after a tumultuous summer last year but they fell out of the top four for the first time in 2016 last Sunday.

For Cookstown, their need for victory is also vital – anything less and they will be, at best, in the relegation playoff place or, at worst, will fall behind Annadale and direct relegation.

Pembroke meet a Cork C of I team who need to pick up a point from their two remaining games over the weekend to retain their place in the top tier.

Plenty of familiar faces will line out against their former club. Jason Lynch, Nick Burns and Adam Pritchard could meet their youth club while Karl Lynch, who missed last Sunday’s win over Annadale, is another who could return. On the flip side, John Jermyn – who lifted his seasonal tally to 14 last week – and David Harvey have also had spells with Pembroke.

The Dubliners delved into the archives for their Sunday team last week with Keith Crawford and Tim Hill making rare appearances for the side against Dale while Justin Sherriff also took on a player-coach role. A win for them guarantees a top half finish but they require help from Banbridge if they are to nick an unlikely playoff place.

Annadale’s trip to Monkstown is a huge one for Andy Smyth’s side who require a win if they are to have any chance of escaping the drop.

Lisnagarvey and Railway’s tie at Comber Road is academic while Sunday’s refix between Monkstown and Cork C of I could be similarly low-key depending on Saturday’s results.

Clontarf celebrate their Railway Cup success. Pic: Deryck Vincent

Clontarf celebrate their Railway Cup success. Pic: Deryck Vincent

At Comber Road and Monkstown, meanwhile, the labyrinthine promotion playoffs behin in earnest this evening with the group stages from which eight contenders will be reduced to four.

Corinthian and Clontarf’s battle at the Merrion Fleet Arena is of key Leinster interest. Three previous ties have been extremely tight between the teams, the reds winning one 1-0 while the other games have both been drawn.

The Bulls have had a stellar season since moving up from Leinster Division 2 and they added silverware last Sunday with a 3-2 Railway Cup success against Railway Union II.

That looks to be the key game in Pool B and they may well be the fancied pair to advance from this group. Bandon – who finished second to Leinster Division 1B side Kilkenny in the Irish Hockey Trophy – and Ulster’s third place finishers Belfast Harlequins complete the group.

Quins, incredibly, could feature goalkeeper Iain Kelly who could make his 1,000th first team appearance.

In Garvey, UCD are the Leinster representative but have a big task on their hands. They meet Ulster champions Instonians and Munster’s winners UCC, following two wins in a week over Bandon, in their bid to reach the knock-out stages.

The Dublin students have built their season well, though, improving steadily in the second half of the campaign with Jazze Henry and David Nolan making key impacts. Donegal’s Raphoe complete the group.

Men’s EY Hockey League
Monkstown v Annadale, 2.15pm, Merrion Fleet Arena; Lisnagarvey v Railway Union, 3pm, Comber Road; Three Rock Rovers v Cookstown, 3pm, Grange Road; Pembroke v Cork C of I, 4pm, Serpentine Avenue; Banbridge v Glenanne, 4.30pm, Havelock Park
Sunday: Cork C of I v Monkstown, 2.45pm, Garryduff

EY Hockey League Playoffs
Pool A (Lisnagarvey):
Instonians, UCD, UCC, Raphoe
Friday, April 15: Instonians v Raphoe, 5.30pm; UCD v UCC, 7.30pm
Saturday, April 16: Instonians v UCD, 1pm; Raphoe v UCC, 3pm
Sunday, April 17: Instonians v UCC, 12.30pm; UCD v Raphoe, 12.30pm

Pool B (Monkstown): Corinthian, Clontarf, Bandon, Belfast Harlequins
Friday, April 15: Corinthian v Clontarf, 5.30pm; Bandon v Belfast Harlequins, 7.30pm
Saturday, April 16: Corinthian v Belfast Harelquins, 12.15pm; Bandon v Clontarf, 1.15pm
Sunday, April 17: Corinthian v Bandon, 12.30pm; Clontarf v Belfast Harlequins, 12.30pm

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