MEN’S HOCKEY: Instonians chase promotion to EY Hockey League

Lisnagarvey winners of the inaugural EY Hockey League
Lisnagarvey winners of the inaugural EY Hockey League
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Instonians will continue their bid to qualify for next season’s EY Men’s Hockey League when they face Bandon in the semi-finals this weekend.

Inst topped the first of the play-off competitons played at the weekend – a point ahead of UCD after the mini round-robin tournament.

The Belfast side will meet Bandon in the semi-final with the winners then meeting either Clontarf or UCD in the final for a place in the EY League.

The winners will automatically replace Annadale and the runners-up will meet Cookstown, who finished ninth in the League, in a further play-off.

In the women’s section, Randalstown, Lurgan and Belfast Harelquins all progressed to the semi-finals following their respective mini round-robin games at the weekend.

Randalstown will now meet Harlequins and Lurgan play Loreto this weekend in the semi-finals.

The victors meet in the final with the winner getting automatic promotion (replacing Greenfields) and the runners-up play-off against Loreto who finished ninth in the EY League.

Meanwhile, Lisnagarvey were presented with the EY Hockey League trophy as inaugural champions.

They had sealed the championship with several rounds to spare.

‘Garvey completed a remarkable run of 16 wins in succession with a 6-0 rout of Railway Union at Comber Road with Mikey Watt returning the side to lead the way, scoring the first three goals of the tie.

They were presented with the trophy by EY Partner Michael Kidd following an exceptional regular season with just one loss on their register from 18 games.

There was drama elsewhere.

Pembroke’s superb finish to the season saw them claim the last remaining Champions Trophy place as their 3-2 win over Cork C of I, combined with Glenanne’s loss to Banbridge, moved them into the top four for the first time this season.

The Dubliners needed to win and then waited on Banbridge to deliver.

Bruce McCandless had Bann 1-0 inside a minute only for Eddie O’Malley’s audacious effort to level matters.

But two goals early in the second half – one from McCandless, one from Stephen Dowds – were critical, holding off the Glens for whom David Keogh scored a stroke.

At the bottom end of the table, Cookstown ensured they did not have to rely on results from elsewhere as Greg Allen and Simon Todd scored in the last 15 minutes to earn a 2-0 win over Three Rock Rovers.

It meant Annadale were relegated as they fell 6-3 to Monkstown for whom Gareth Watkins scored a hat trick.

p In the Women’s EY League, Pegasus and Railway Union both landed berths at the EY Champions Trophy playoffs with their respective wins over Ulster Elks and Pembroke, respectively, on day 18 of the regular season.

For Pegasus, they got the better of their Ulster rivals 4-2 thanks in large part to Alex Speers’ driving influence.

She scored the first inside 45 seconds before setting up goals from Kate McConnell and Suzanne Ferris. Steph Thompson made it 4-1 from the penalty spot before Jess McMaster got one back at the end.

It meant Pegs ended second overall, a fine comeback after they took five games to register their first win of the campaign.

Railway will join them in the playoffs thanks to their narrow 2-1 win over Dublin 4 rivals Pembroke.

It meant UCD had to settle for fourth place in the table after they edged out Ards 2-1. Deirdre Duke struck twice, sandwiching a penalty stroke from Chloe Brown for the win.