Lisnagarvey and Banbridge locked together at top of the league

Banbridge's Steven Dowds and Cookstown's Matty Rollins
Banbridge's Steven Dowds and Cookstown's Matty Rollins

Lisnagarvey’s score board can now predict results, as just before their game with Belfast Harlequins, the score board flashed 6-0 for Garvey and that’s exactly how it finished.

But can it predict the outcome of this season’s premiership race? Garvey are locked at the top of the table, on the same points as Banbridge and this one looks like going to the wire.

However, if both teams end up with the same points, there will not be a play-off and the title will be decided on goal difference, so Bann better start banging the goals in, as Garvey’s goal difference is much superior.

Garvey’s coach, Erroll Lutton, knows that the title is going to be a close call.

“I said before Christmas there was still a lot of hockey to be played and it was too early to predict the outcome,” said Lutton.

“We drew with Instonians midweek and it could have gone either way. We have had some good results this year and we knew Harlequins would give us a tight game.

“I thought we played very well with some good hockey and 6-0 is a pretty good return, especially the way it has been since after Christmas, with the disruption for Irish training sessions and breaks for the weather and it’s good to get into a run of games again.”

Garvey opened their account after just seven minutes on the clock, when Andy Williamson linked with Daniel Hunter, for the latter to drill past Ian Kelly in goal.

Timmy Cockram doubled Garvey’s lead in the 17th minute, this time slamming home a penalty stroke after his initial penalty corner was stopped on the line by Andrew Smythe.

Unfortunately for Smythe he took the full force of the ball on his leg and that was the end of his game as he had to go to hospital.

Two minutes later, Garvey went further ahead this time Aaron Martin deflecting the ball past Kelly. Just after the turn Cockram collected his second goal after good advantage from the umpire.

In the 46th minute, it was Williamson’s turn to get on the score sheet and just before the final whistle, Williamson was on target again.

The result didn’t do Harlequins hopes of IHL qualification any good, but results went Annadale’s way, as their hard-fought 3-2 win at Raphoe sent them fifth.

Goals from James Cox, Michael Robson and Conor Allison secured three valuable points for the Belfast side, but Harlequins and Kilkeel still have games in hand, so the qualifying spot is far from decided.

Joint leaders Banbridge, ended Cookstown’s chances of winning the league title after Bann crushed the visitors 4-1, thanks to two goals from Stephen Dowds and one each from Owen Magee and Simon Magowan, with a consolation goal from Mark Crooks for the Reds.

Mossley also dented Kilkeel’s IHL qualification aspirations, with a 2-1 win at the Glade. And Inst are still on course for the third spot, as they collected all three points against Civil Service, with goals from William Robinson, John Watson, James Corry and Ross Anderson.

So with four games each remaining for Garvey and Bann, this season’s title is still up for grabs. They have important midweek games against Annadale and Harlequins respectively, before turning their attention to their Irish Senior Cup quarter-finals on Saturday.