Banbridge moved four points clear at the top of the EYHL after a hard-fought 3-2 victory over Monkstown at Havelock Park on Sunday thanks to a last-gasp winner from Eugene Magee.
The result completed a perfect week for Mark Tumilty’s side, who had beaten Annadale 2-1 on Wednesday night, when another late goal, this time from Johnny McKee, sealed the victory. Bann coach Tumilty was naturally happy with Sunday’s outcome as his side take a break from the national league and concentrate on the start of the Kirk Cup.
“I was delighted with the result, I thought we deserved to win the game due to our second half performance,” he said.
“We had a focus this week on trying to get six points and I am very happy to have achieved them. I don’t feel in the first six weeks of the season we have played the level of hockey we are capable of playing but it’s great to be top of the table going into the winter break.”
“We have three months now to work on the areas we need to improve and I expect us to be a better team come February. Hopefully by then our injuries will have cleared up and I may also be able to integrate Philip Brown and Hugh McShane back into the squad – two top players who would be great additions for us.”
In Sunday’s game, Bann were a threat from the start with Josh Moffett hitting the post from one of their first attacks before the striker was required in defence to charge down a couple of Town penalty corners. Bann hit the front when Fraser Mills won a corner and Magee dragged in with power for a 1-0 lead.
Monkstown responded immediately with player-coach Gareth Watkins continuing his good early seasons form to make it 1-1 at the quarter-time break. The Dubliners started to control the game in the second quarter and got their second via Andrew Ward with 25 minutes gone. It was all Bann in the third quarter and they got level just before the third break when Bruce McCandless produced a defence-splitting pass which found Zach McClelland who finished clinically.
They continued to press, having the bulk of the play in the final quarter as Monkstown shipped a couple of cards. The result looked to have gone beyond them, though, until the last play from a penalty corner which Magee did the honours. He had previously struck at the death in a 4-3 win over Three Rock while Bann also plucked a 3-1 win over Cork C of I despite trailing 1-0 with 10 minutes to go, showing their depths of mental strength.
Meanwhile, Annadale also left it late to see off Cookstown in the local derby at Strathearn on Saturday as Peter Caruth struck the winner. The dale player-coach kept his head amid a melee to score the crucial goal that hands Annadale their second win of the season, jumping them above Cookstown in the rankings.
Timmy Sloan was credited with the final touch to a Greg Allen corner push for 1-0 to the visitors. Caruth power-slapped in a corner switch for the leveller but Cookstown were back in front via Ryan Millar, a close range finish from Stu Smyth’s cross after Matthew Rollins pumped the ball in from the right.
The second equaliser came in the second half with Caruth lurking on the left baseline, beating a man before crossing for David Tremlett to dive onto. Ryan Burgess then got his second of the week with a drag-flick to put Dale in front. They did not stay clear for long, though, as Michael Kerr was unmarked to finish off from the centre of the circle from a ball in from the left for 3-3.
But the winner came when Ryan Getty showed some skills down the right to create the chance at the near post which Cameron Ruttle eventually dug out into the path of Caruth to pot.
“This was a seriously disappointing result,” said Cookstown striker Callum Anderson.
“We had more than enough chances to put the game to bed and we just couldn’t capitalise. There are plenty of positives to be taken but, at the end of the day, we still left the game without any points. We have to do better when we get ourselves into good positions like we had at half time.”
Lisnagarvey got back to winning ways as they fought their way to a 3-2 win over YMCA in Dublin. A nip and tuck first quarter ended scoreless before Garvey ramped up the pressure in the second, forcing some good saves from Jakim Bernsden.
Sam Hyland was key in breaking up their attacks and, against the run of play, he helped win a corner along with Tom Ritchie, which the former got on the end of for 1-0. Garvey replied instantly with Troy Chambers firing back with a free shot in the D.
It was backs against the wall for a while in the third quarter for YM with Ben Campbell serving a yellow card suspension. Three corners on the hooter were repelled to keep it at 1-1 but Daniel Nelson did get Garvey in front in the last period with a lift over Bernsden on his reverse. He scrambled in the next, too, straight from the restart. YM did likewise, breaking forward from the tip off to win a corner which Grant Glutz scored from but Garvey held on for the win.
Meanwhile, Kilkeel booked their place in the Irish Senior Cup third round with Mark Stevenson scoring twice in a 3-2 home win over Bandon, who had fought back from three goals down to set up a stirring finish.
However, Mossley were unable to join the Ulster champions in the third round after falling to a 4-0 loss against Clontarf in Dublin.
The Ulster Premier League produced a goal-fest with 29 in just four matches with Bangor, Newry and Raphoe hitting five apiece for wins over Portadown, Civil Service and Harlequins while North Down were 4-3 winners over South Antrim.
EYHL: Banbridge 3 (E Magee 2, Z McClelland) Monkstown 2 (G Watkins, A Ward); Annadale 4 (P Caruth 2, D Tremlett, R Burgess) Cookstown 3 (T Sloan, R Millar, M Kerr); YMCA 2 (S Hyland, G Glutz) Lisnagarvey 3 (D Nelson 2, T Chambers); Glenanne 1 (S Boucher) Three Rock 0; Pembroke 3 (K O’Hare 3) Cork C of I 2 (J Jermyn, K O’Dea)
Irish Senior Cup 2nd Round: Kilkeel 3 (M Stevenson 2, E Agnew) Bandon 2 (R Smyth, D Jennings); Clontarf 4 (A O’Malley 2, K Murray, P Hendy) Mossley 0; Railway Union 1 (A Colton) Corinthian 2 (I Stewart, G Dagg); Kilkenny 2 (B McEnery, H McDonnell) Dublin Univ. 2 (P Temperley, S Baggio) Kilkenny won shoot-out 3-1
Ulster Premier: Bangor 5 (C Barnes 2, H Dow 2, M Willis) Portadown 2 (R Bennett, M Bennett); South Antrim 3 (P Maguire, M Taylor, C Henry) North Down 4 (P Templeton 2, J Gilmore, T Finn); Civil Service 2 (R Anderson, C Bannister) Newry 5 (K McWilliams 2, M Russell 2, C McKnight); Raphoe 5 (J Long, T Orr, S Cleverley, S Goudie, G Patterson) Belfast Harlequins 3 (L McClelland 2, S McGrath)