YMCA’s heart-stopping rolller-coaster eventually ends with EYHL promotion

YMCA produced a suitably mad-cap finish to their men’s EY Hockey League promotion journey, contriving to blow a 4-1 lead in the last nine minutes only to beat Bangor in a shoot-out at the Mardyke to win the provincial promotion playoff series.

Hockey Ireland vice president Martin Canniffe presents YMCA’s Ben Campbell with their promotion ticket

Indeed, they led 3-0 via a Ben Campbell double and one from Jamie Tobin. Tobin got the first 10 minutes in when he slammed home on his reverse following Andrew Jones’ spin into his path. Will Powderly won a stroke soon after which Ben Campbell nailed, taking over the duties from Grant Glutz who missed one in the 5-1 semi win over Inst.

And it was three when Ben O’Grady was sent clean through and while Andrew Seay saved, the ball fell to Glutz who squared to Campbell to score. They had chances to further strengthen their lead in the third quarter but remained in reasonable control at 3-0 at the three quarter time break.

Ryan Burgess got Bangor on the board with 12 minutes to go from a corner but Sam Hyland swept home an improvised corner for what should have been the killer goal at 4-1 inside the final 10 minutes.

But suddenly the Y got white-line fever and the coastal Ulster side – who worked off a panel of just 12 players for this tie – pounced to score a scarcely believable three times in the last eight minutes with Burgess running up a hat trick from a stroke and a corner while Rhys Cunningham scoring the other.

Bangor had produced an incredibly similar comeback a day earlier at Garryduff when they scored twice in the last three minutes to beat Bandon 5-4.

Level at 4-4, it sent the game to a shoot-out with Bangor holding the momentum but YM regathered with goalkeeper Jakim Bernsden keeping out two efforts before Andrew Jones popped in the winning effort.

It was a suitably dramatic endgame to match their season. The Dubliners looked down and out in January, falling nine points behind Corinthian in Leinster Division One but got a big reprieve when a registration error from Dublin University saw the Y pick up three points from an initial 2-1 loss.

It was the key margin between a third place finish in the provincial league and top spot, edging out Corinthian only via goal difference, meaning they skipped the minefield of the wildcard playoffs.

With promotion assured, they can look forward to an exciting season ahead at the top table with the potential of their new pitch in the pipeline at Wesley College soon.

They will replace Railway Union in the top tier as they lost 7-0 to Lisnagarvey in a game they needed to win. Cookstown will meet Bangor next Sunday in the last promotion-relegation playoff tie.

Men’s EYHL Provincial Play-offs – semi-finals: Bangor 5 (R Burgess 2, R Cunningham, D McClune, S Hamill) Bandon 4 (C Sweetnam 2, D Smith 2); YMCA 5 (T Ritchie 2, J Tobin 2, B Campbell) Instonians 1 (W Robinson)

Final (Sunday): Bangor 4 (R Burgess 3, R Cunningham) YMCA 4 (B Campbell 2, T Ritchie, J Tobin), YMCA win shoot-out 4-2

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