Kilkeel and Lurgan the Ulster Premier champions

Kilkeel men lifted the Ulster Premier title for the first time in the club’s history following a 3-1 win over Bangor in the title decider on Saturday while Lurgan were subsequently crowned women’s champions on Wednesday night.

Kilkeel had to come from behind to add the trophy to the Kirk Cup they also won for the first time on St Stephen’s Day.

Kilkeel celebrate their success. Picture: Dtmcc Photography (click for more images)

Bangor took an early lead through Chris Campbell but David Rea levelled before the break and Mark Stevenson sealed the win and the title with a second half set piece double.

Kilkeel, though, have decided for the second successive season not to take part in the EY Hockey League playoffs due to a combination of their club constitution forbidding Sunday hockey and player unavailability.

A club statement explained: “We can’t do it this season. We would be missing seven players from our squad and that would make it impossible.

“Neil Stevenson is getting married this Saturday and will still be on honeymoon for the play-offs, others are heading off on holiday and one is out injured and requiring surgery.

“Add that to the three or four who decline to play on Sundays and we are left with insufficient players to do ourselves or Ulster Hockey justice.

“As a hockey outpost, we work on a small squad and it’s hard to attract players other than what comes through from the High School.

“But we plan to move forward in the future, whatever that entails. We are willing to enter the new Irish Hockey League Two which starts next season, if Hockey Ireland will accept us.”

It means Bangor go into the second weekend of EYHL promotion playoffs with Mossley taking up the extra place in the wildcard round – along with Instonians – which takes place this coming weekend. In Saturday’s other Premier games, Antrim defeated Raphoe 5-0 and NICS were 7-4 away winners over Newry.

On the women’s side, Lurgan grabbed the Ulster Premier title on Wednesday night following a rapid conclusion to the season with two goals in the last three days.

Queen’s moved back to the top of the women’s Ulster Premier League after two goals apiece from Anna Hutchinson and Emily McStea helped them to a 5-0 win over Ballymoney to set up a potential title decider with Lurgan on Monday night.

A win for either side would have secured the trophy but a 0-0 draw meant the race would go to the wire, with Lurgan still to play Mossley later in the week.

The Lurgan three in-a-row winning side

And so it came down to Wednesday night where a single goal was enough for the Co Armagh side as their 1-0 victory moved them above Queen’s after their season-long battle.

Lurgan go straight through to the final playoff series in Cork while Queen’s are off to the wildcard playoffs where they will be joined by Dungannon. Their ticket was stamped when they drew their game at Randalstown on Wednesday, putting them out of reach of Ballymoney who lost 3-2 to Banbridge on the same night in any case.

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