It could not be tighter at the top of men’s Leinster Division One as YMCA and UCD moved up to 32 points, meaning three sides are level going into the final month of the regular season.
For the Y, they were nine points off the pace as recently as January but three wins in February and the reversal of their defeat to Dublin University has them right back in the mix.
Tom Ritchie and Jamie Tobin put them two up against Clontarf before Rob Forrest halved the deficit. The deadly duo of Ben Campbell and Grant Glutz, though, extended the advantage to 4-1 at half-time and Andrew Jones strengthened the advantage. Forrest got another back but a Glutz stroke made it 6-2.
“Good performance from the lads up front,” was YM coach Jason Klinkradt’s assessment, speaking to Dublin City FM’s Declan Hughes after the game. “A little disappointed with the goals we let in when we were maybe not switched on but going forward, we are a very good unit. We’ve put a lot of work into that and it paid off.”
As for the thrilling final few weeks of the campaign, he says there are plenty of things to play for.
“Top two is our target because if we falter at the final hurdle [in the playoffs], you have the cradle of IHL2. We have put ourselves in the mix for that. We had a shaky start to January, losing three in a row but have bounced back and won everything since. Sometimes you have to lose to regroup and take stock and move on.
“We have to win every game from now on. That’s what the playoffs are all about so it’s one game at a time. It’s a three-horse race but we can only focus on what we can do.”
At this stage, one win from their last four games assures them a ticket to the EYHL playoffs with first place allowing them to skip the first phase of that process. A top two finish will bring a place in the IHL2 next season at the very least.
UCD are in the same boat after a comfortable 4-0 win over Kilkenny on Saturday as the cats travails on water-based pitches continues.
On the sand on Sunday, though, they got the better of Trinity to move into fifth place in the table, quite the turnaround after five losses to start the season.
An early Wilf King goal set the tone for a strong first half from the students, leading 1-0 at the break of a tense, edgy affair. Kilkenny fought back in the second half with a trademark Billy McEnery run and tidy flicked finish.
King touched in a crash ball to put the college side back in front but Howard McDonnell equalised from a corner. His first effort cracked the crossbar but fell straight back to him to first time into the backboard.
And they got the winner five minute from time when a bouncing reverse ball was crashed across the circle from the end line through a body of players. The telling touch came from Ben Wallace whose deflection sent the ball into the roof of the net for his 11th goal of the campaign.
Avoca shared the spoils with Rathgar at Newpark with Jonathan Elmes credited with the last touch for the Blackrock side’s goal while Andrew Malcolm continued his good scoring form.
Portrane, meanwhile, are into the final four of the Irish Hockey Trophy thanks to a shoot-out win over Dublin North, joining Bandon, Bangor and Raphoe in the last four.
Men’s Leinster Division One
Saturday: Avoca 1 (J Elmes) Rathgar 1 (A Malcolm); Clontarf 2 (R Forrest 2) YMCA 6 (G Glutz 2, B Campbell, A Jones, T Ritchie, J Tobin); UCD 4 (A Tutty, J Henry, A Ramsay, K Douglas) Kilkenny 0
Sunday: Kilkenny 3 (B McEnery, B Wallace, H McDonnell) Dublin University 2 (W King 2)
Tuesday: Dublin University v Weston, 8pm, Santry Avenue
Irish Hockey Trophy, quarter-finals: Bandon 7 (C Sweetnam 4, D Jennings, A Smith, D Smith) NICS 3 (S Armstrong 3); Bangor 2 (J Easlea, R Burgess) UCC 2 (S Grace, D Wilkinson), Bangor win shoot-out; Newry 1 Raphoe 3 (W Kirkpatrick, T Orr, J Wilson); Portrane 2 (I Khan, R McKeon) Dublin North 2, Portrane win shoot-out 5-4
Munster Division 1: Cork C of I B 0 Cork Harlequins 0