Andy Williamson was the lead off scorer for the second week running when he netted a penalty corner in the first half. They were well on top in the first half, winning five corners, while Town struggled but they improved markedly in the second half to be well in the tie. But two goals in quick succession in the 56th and 58th minute from Mark McNellis and Matthew Nelson soon took the game away from the Dubliners.
Guy Sarratt pulled one back from a penalty corner – his third of the weekend – with Davy Carson getting another on the board with time running out.
In Saturday’s win at Pembroke, Williamson put the Ulster side in front 23 minutes into the tie and they were in a commanding position at half-time when Troy Chambers finished off at penalty corner time.
Pembroke got back into the game nine minutes into the second half when Stephen Sweetnam scored from play but they were two behind once again with 10 minutes left when Daniel Nelson got on the board. The hosts replied quickly via Keith O’Hare’s penalty corner strike but they could not summon another famous comeback.
Three Rock and Banbridge shared the spoils at Grange Road in a lively tussle between two of the league’s top teams.
Both goalkeepers shone in a lively opening in front of a good crowd while Josh Moffett’s corner running charged down a couple of Luke Madeley drags.
The deadlock was broken when David Rae produced a beautiful jink to evade a tackle and then slammed a powerful ball into the circle which Jamie Wright got the perfect touch to, lifting over Jamie Carr in the Rovers’ goal. Rovers equalised quickly when Jody Hosking stole the ball wide on the left, creating a three-on-one. He slipped to Mark English who flicked over Luke Roleston at close quarters – 1-1 at half-time.
The tempo cranked up in the second half with Carr saving Peter Brown’s rising shot with his shoulder before Bruce McCandless produced one of the stops of the season. Rovers eliminated the goalkeeper to leave Ross Canning with a clear chance – he smashed full throttle at goal from eight yards but McCandless stopped it in what he later described as “operation eyes shut”.
Roleston made a brilliant stop with the inside of his boot to deny Ben Walker as Rovers looked well in control. Drew Carlisle blocked Harry Morris’s reverse over but Bann fought had the best chance to win it in the endgame after David Kane served a yellow card sin-binning. Eugene Magee, though, did not fully catch his drag-flick and Madeley cleared off the line.
“Decent point, happy enough,” Banbridge coach Mark Tumilty said afterwards. “They are going to be there or thereabouts in the playoffs and if you offered me seven points out of nine from the last week, I would have taken it.”
He was delighted to get Philip Brown back into action after a lengthy injury delay while 15-year-old Eddie Rowe also showed up well.
“It’s a huge step up from last year. We struggled last year with our back four without Kyle [Marshall], Matthew [Bell] and Jake Rowe as well as Phil. We are now getting comfortable with our back four which is the platform we like to play with. The likes of Alex Tinney, Zach McClelland and David Rae in the last few weeks are really making progress.”
Opposite number Niall Denham:said: “It’s a big step up since getting back outdoors. We probably left a few goals out there and were a little bit soft in the middle which would get us more outcomes in the final third.
“We still have 30 points to play which would get us up to 43 and hopefully get us in the shake-up. It’s been very busy with an awful lot of miles in the legs. It was better today; Wednesday we looked very fatigued against Pembroke so we will have a light week [of training] ahead of us.”
Elsewhere, YMCA recorded their first ever win in the EYHL to move off the bottom of the table for the first time, continuing Cookstown’s rough week with a third defeat in eight days.
It was a complete turnaround from the opening day of the season when the Co Tyrone side won 7-1 at Steelweld Park, their only win of the campaign thus far. Cookstown started the stronger, seeing one corner charged down by Sam Hyland and another finding the net but disallowed for a high stick.
But YM have one of the league’s top scorers in Grant Glutz and he nailed a penalty corner just before quarter-time for 1-0. Cookstown replied during a good spell to win a stroke which Greg Allen converted. YM went down to nine players during one spell in the first half as they were under the pump but they survived to the break.
And then YM burst out of the blocks in the second half with skipper Ben Campbell and Ross Henderson’s first goal for the club transforming the game into a 3-1 lead within six minutes of the restart. A Campbell drag-flick made it 4-1 by the end of the third quarter and they held that advantage through to the finish two places.
At Strathearn, Monkstown overcame a sluggish first half to run up a 5-0 win over Annadale, moving level with the Ulster side on 12 points. The first half was very even but the opening goal proved crucial as Dale had their chances but fell behind to Guy Sarratt’s drag-flick with the big break closing in. In the third quarter, Town made a break for it with Andrew Ward scoring twice from play either side of Sarratt’s second goal as confidence and momentum grew, Ross Quirke completed the scoring in the closing quarter.
Meanwhile, Corinthian became the first side to make it through to the last four of EYHL 2 as they produced an excellent second quarter performance to beat Kilkeel.
The Mourne men did take a fourth minute lead when David Finlay was on the mark but Ian Stewart replied with his 28th goal of the season in all competitions for 1-1 at the end of the first quarter. Quickfire goals from Josh Greaney, Johnny Roberts and Davy Howard, though, soon developed a 4-1 lead. Eddie Agnew got one back with two minutes to go but the reds already had what they needed to go through.
Instonians will likely follow them following a 4-0 win over UCC in Cork with goals from Ben Palmer, Mikie Watt, William Robinson and Stephen Kelso. They need just a losing bonus point from either of their two remaining games in the group to go through.
Pool A is much tighter with four points covering the top three sides. Bandon got their first win of the group to close the gap significantly, seeing off Bangor 3-1. Ali Smith put them on the board from a penalty corner rebound in the first quarter. Both Clinton and Ivor Sweetnam followed up in the second period to build a 3-0 half-time lead and while the prolific Chris Barnes got one back for Bangor in the third stage the hosts defended well for a big result.
In Dublin, UCD fought back from 2-0 down to draw with Railway Union in the group for the second time, maintaining their place at the head of the table. It leaves UCD on 12 points, Railway on 10 and Bandon on eight. Bandon face both of their rivals in the closing two rounds of the competition.
At domestic level, Simon Todd claimed a hat-trick as Mossley stay third in Division a of the Ulster Premier League after a 7-2 win over Newry Olympic. North Down lost 2-1 to South Antrim after the Lisburn side came from behind to register the win.
EYHL: Annadale 0 Monkstown 5 (G Sarratt 2, A Ward 2, R Quirke); Glenanne 5 (C Jakobi, S Boucher, R Shaw, N Byrne, J Brennan) Cork C of I 0; Pembroke 2 (S Sweetnam, K O’Hare) Lisnagarvey 3 (A Williamson, T Chambers, D Nelson); Three Rock Rovers 1 (M English) Banbridge 1 (J Wright); YMCA 4 (B Campbell 2, G Glutz, R Henderson) Cookstown 1 (G Allen)
EYHL 2, Pool A: Bandon 3 (A Smith, C Sweetnam, I Sweetnam) Bangor 1 (C Barnes); UCD 2 (P Lynch 2) Railway Union 2 (A Colton, M McKenzie)
Pool B: Corinthian 4 (I Stewart, J Greaney, J Roberts, D Howard) Kilkeel 2 (D Finlay, E Agnew); UCC 0 Instonians 4 (B Palmer, M Watt, W Robinson, S Kelso)
Ulster Premier League: Mossley 7 (S Todd 3, J Robinson 2, M Steele, R Lyall) Newry Olympic 2 (K McWilliams, K Fletcher); North Down 1 (J Gilmore) South Antrim 2 (J Brown, A Glass); Antrim 2 (D Wilson 2) Civil Service 5 (R Anderson 2, M Vincent, M Johnston, J Anderson); Queen’s 2 (R West, S McCabe) Portadown 5 (M Winter 2, R Bennett 2, S Johnston); Belfast Harlequins 0 Raphoe 2 (J Watt, G Patterson).