Belfast Harlequins go top on matchday one

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Ulster Hockey’s Men’s Premier League returned with 22 goals being scored in the five opening weekend fixtures.

In all, nine out of the ten participating teams made their way onto the scoresheet with Belfast Harlequins being the day’s big winners.

The Deramore side got their season underway with a brilliant 5-1 win away to Portadown which puts the side top of the league after matchday one.

Quins took the lead in the first quarter when defender Henry Chapman scored from a penalty corner.

The visitors doubled their lead when Captain Paddy Jack scored from another penalty corner midway through the second period before Chapman got his second of the game to take it beyond sight for their hosts.

Two more goals from Alex McKeown and Peter Bailey made it 5-0 to Harlequins before Portadown grabbed a consolation goal as the game finished 5-1.

Elsewhere North Down came from two goals down against last season’s runners-up South Antrim to seal a dramatic 3-2 win at Friends School Lisburn.

The hosts took an early 2-0 lead with goals from Max Taylor and Chris Henry before Phil Wilson grabbed a goal back for the County Down side just before half time.

After the restart, North Down drew level with a Josh Gilmore goal before Gareth McKeown completed the comeback and sealed all three points for his side.

In the third game of the afternoon, Cookstown met Raphoe as both teams marked their return to the division following their respective relegation and promotion campaigns last year.

An opening goal from Haycock was followed by strikes from teammates Crooks and Millar as they sealed a comfortable 3-0 win for the side which last won the Men’s Premier League in 2022.

The result puts Cookstown into second place only behind Belfast Harlequins whilst Raphoe finish the weekend in ninth.

Last season Bangor finished third, six points off top spot, but they got off to a losing start in 2023/24 as they fell to a 2-1 opening-day defeat away to Kilkeel.

A goal from Nathan Belshaw gave Bangor the lead but the youngest side in the league were unable to see the game out as Jordan McCartan equalised before Luke Russell won the game for their more experienced counterparts.

Meanwhile, on Friday night last season’s Champions, Queen’s University got their title defence off to a flying start as they beat NICS 3-2 at Playball.

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