IHL not for changing after strong feelings derail plans

Mark Raphael
Mark Raphael

At least now we know that the Irish Hockey League will remain in its current form for at least another season.

The Working Group appointed to look at the possibility of creating an All Ireland Super League were stunned at the huge turnouts at each of the three forums, and the strong feeling that clubs did not want the new proposed league to be formed until the season beginning 2015/16, at the earliest.

So with that out of the way, for now, the clubs involved in this season’s competition can get on with the job of reaching next month’s finals at Havelock Park.

It was a mixed bag of results for Ulster clubs in last week’s opening round with wins for Banbridge and Lisnagarvey, a draw for Annadale, and defeats for Instonians and Cookstown.

Inst and Cookstown must bounce back this week as another defeat would more than likely end their hopes of lifting the IHL title for another season.

Instonians face a tough test with the visit of high scoring Three Rock Rovers who hammered Cork Harlequins 11-0 last week. And Rovers are on the crest of a wave as they have just won the Irish Senior Cup and would like to land an Irish trophy double.

Cookstown, who have an unchanged team for the visit of Cork Harlequins, will be confident that they can notch up their first win in the competition.

Clash of the round will take place at Comber Road, Hillsborough where Lisnagarvey entertain Pembroke Wanderers. Garvey will still be missing the influential Mark Raphael.

But if Garvey’s young guns, Daniel Nelson, Sean Murray and Aaron Martin can keep notching up the goals the Hillsborough side should secure another four points.

Mark Tumilty’s Banbridge side are back to full strength for the visit of UCD, who include former Bann and Irish International Peter Brown in their side. And there will be no brotherly love as his older brother, Philip, still plays for Bann.

Annadale face the toughest test of all, as they are off to Dublin where they tale on Leinster and reigning IHL champions Monkstown.

But the IHL is not the only show in town, as the Irish Trophy has reached the quarter-final stage and Newry, North Down, Portadown and Queens are all hoping to be in the hat for the semi-final draw.

Senior One champions, Newry welcome Avoca to their south Down base and a win for Newry will take them a step closer to a possible treble winning season.

North Down make the long trip to Cork for a clash against Bandon, and the Comber based team will be without Simon Watt.

In the all Ulster tie, Portadown will take on Queens who they have defeated twice already this season and one of those coming last week when the Ports won 3-2. But the Ports will be without Geoff Edgar and Neil Gilmore for Saturday’s game.

And Portrush can go clear at the top of Senior Two with a win at Saintfield.