Cookstown claimed the Ulster Indoor Championship title for the second time in two years with a winner-takes-all victory over Banbridge at Queen’s University PEC on Sunday.
As expected, it didn’t all go Cookstown’s way but the 2017 champions were able to lift the title again with a 4-3 win over a star-studded Banbridge side in the final game. Game one saw favourites Bann hit Queen’s University for four without reply. North Down were first up for Cookstown in game two but goals for Jack Haycock, Mark Crooks, Stu Smyth and Michael Kerr gave the Reds a 4-2 win.
It was a quick turnaround for Cookstown with Queen’s up next. The home side make the Tyrone men work for it, holding them to a 3-3 draw thanks to goals from Smyth (2) and Scotty McCabe. Bann kept their 100% winning record with a 6-1 victory over North Down before the students got one over the Comber lads with a 6-4 triumph in game five. That meant that Cookstown had to win their last match against Bann. In a tense affair the they emerged as 4-3 winners with Jack Haycock hitting a double alongside scores from Kerr and Raymond Miller.
Cookstown, who led 4-2 before Bann pulled a late goal back to set up a nervy finish, will now represent Ulster at Irish Indoor Finals on Sunday at the Antrim Forum.
In the men’s Anderson Cup on Saturday, Cookstown and Lisnagarvey all but booked their places in the semi finals after big quarter final first leg wins. Andy Williamson scored twice as Garvey crushed Bangor 7-1 while McCabe also got a double in Cookstown’s 6-1 victory at Newry. Dane Ward hit two as Instonians beat Mossley 5-3 in a delayed first round game as the Belfast side progressed 7-4 on aggregate to earn a meeting with North Down in the last eight.
On the women’s front, Ballymoney have closed the gap on Ulster Premier League leaders Lurgan to a single point after a hard fought 2-0 win over Dungannon at the Joey Dunlop Centre. However, they left it late as Katharine Minahan scored twice in the last 10 minutes to see off a dogged Tyrone side.
Queen’s stay in third place after a 3-0 win over Randalstown at the Antrim Forum but have three games in hand over Ballymoney and two over Lurgan. Rebecca Quinn, playing against her former club, broke the deadlock following a penalty corner in the 25th minute. Jessica McMaster doubled the students’ lead in similar fashion 15 minutes after the break and Emily McStea wrapped up a comfortable win with a superb finish near the end.
“Having beaten Banbridge 4-0 on Monday, it’s been a good week for us although we didn’t play as well against Randalstown, who made it tough for us and their keeper was outstanding,” said Queen’s coach Simon Bell.
Lisnagarvey remain in fourth place after goals from Katie Morris, Kerry McIlwaine, Rachel Houston and Jenna Flynn sealed a 4-0 victory over Ballymena. In the late slot at Meadowbank, Rainey and Mossley fought out a scoreless draw meaning Ballymena are ahead of the Magherafelt side only on goal difference at the bottom.
In Senior One, Omagh stay top after a double from Aimee Buchanan helped them to a 3-1 win over North Down in Comber. Raphoe remain two points off the pace after Lisa Patterson got the all important goal in a 1-0 victory at Coleraine.
Meanwhile, Ayeisha McFerran has been inundated with offers to play abroad after her heroics for Ireland at the World Cup but she has yet to decide where she will be playing her hockey next season.
The 23-year-old Larne woman, who was named goalkeeper-of-the tournament in London after inspiring Ireland to a silver medal finish, is mulling over a number of invitations from England and Germany.
“Nothing has been confirmed yet, I’m keeping my options open to see what is the best suit for myself in terms of development of my hockey individually and with Ireland whilst having a life balance too, so we will see what the future holds soon,” she said.
McFerran, who received the player-of-the-year accolade at last week’s Belfast Telegraph Sports Awards, is back in America where she is in her final year of a hockey scholarship at the University of Louisville. She made her first appearances for Ireland since the World Cup during last week’s four-match series with Chile in Santiago where it ended all square with one win apiece and two draws.
McFerran says it was a useful exercise, especially as four newcomers – including Lurgan-born twins Serena and Bethany – were bedded into the squad ahead of the Olympic qualifying process which begins in Ireland in June.
“It was a very positive trip with the fact that we were able to get so many numbers together, and see four talented girls get their first caps,” she added.
“This allowed us to integrate new players in and develop the talent through the panel which is key going forward. I believe there are many exciting times ahead for Irish hockey, with us hosting the qualifiers in June in Ireland allowing people to get on board and support us again, this time on home soil, which is great.”
“Following that up with another A division Europeans, it’s another busy summer for all of us, which we are very much looking forward to. We are ready to embrace the challenge of it all, especially having moved up to eighth in the world rankings. However it’s just a number and we believe that when we put in good performances against teams we can get the result we want.”
“After the summer, we saw what we could achieve, and believe that with each little bit of improvement we will become more consistent, and go on to break more boundaries in the hockey world.”
Ulster Premier: Ballymoney 2 (K Minihan 2) Dungannon 0; Lisnagarvey 4 (K Morris, K McIlwaine, R Houston, J Flynn) Ballymena 0; Rainey 0 Mossley 0; Randalstown 0 Queen’s 3 (R Quinn, J McMaster, E McStea)
Senior One: Castle 3 (N Munn, R Lynas 2) Priorians 2 (M Riddles, E Allen); CI 1 (J Maghie) Armagh 2 (Y Morrow, E Mackey); Coleraine 0 Raphoe 1 (L Patterson); North Down 1 (H Brittain) Omagh 3 (A Buchanan 2, A McCollum); Portadown 1 (A Black) Club KV 5 (J Orr 3, L McClay, J Doak).
Anderson Cup 1st round 2nd leg: Instonians 5 (D Ward 2, C Kirk, J Palmer, R McGaughan) Mossley 3 (R Lavery, T Monahan, J Robinson) Instonians won 7-4 on aggregate
2nd round 1st leg: Newry Olympic 1 (B Simms) Cookstown 6 (S McCabe 2, S Smyth, J Haycock, M Anderson, C Anderson); Lisnagarvey 7 (A Williamson 2, J Lorimer 2, J Lynch, O Kidd, T Chambers) Bangor 1 (C Barnes)
Ulster Premier League Division B: Portadown 4 (M Beattie 2, M Winter, A Stevenson) Civil Service 2 (M Vincent, C Bannister); Queen’s 3 (B Alford 2, F Harkin) Belfast Harlequins 3 (M Patterson 2, N Anderson); Raphoe 8 (P Meehan 3, T Orr 3, J Wilson, J Watt) Antrim 1 (D Wilson)
Intermediate League: PSNI 3 Armagh 1; Down 2 CI 2; Parkview 3 Saintfield 7; Ballymena 5 Portrush 1
Ulster Indoor Championships (Queen’s PEC): Queen’s 0 Banbridge 4 (P Brown 2, J McKee, D Rae); North Down 2 (P Templeton, M Shannon) Cookstown 4 (J Haycock, M Crooks, S Smyth, M Kerr); Queen’s 3 (F Harkin, J Hermon, S Murray) Cookstown 3 (S Smyth 2, S McCabe); North Down 1 (G McKeown) Banbridge 6 (L Witherow, J McKee, D Rae, W Malcolmson, P Brown, D Carlisle); North Down 4 (T Donnan 2, J Linter, A McKibben) Queen’s 6 (D Reid 2, J Weatherup, F Harkin, J Hermon, S Murray); Cookstown 4 (J Haycock 2, M Kerr, R Millar) Banbridge 3 (J Moffet, P Brown, D Rae)