Lisnagarvey took the honours in the big EYHL Ulster derby at Havelock Park on Saturday, edging out Banbridge 2-1 to complete a notable double following their 4-3 victory at Comber Road.
First half goals from Andy Williamson and James Lorimer saw Garvey score a vital victory in the title race as they moved level on points with Bann. Both are three points back from Glenanne but have a game in hand, making for an exciting seven rounds ahead in the league.
Williamson broke the deadlock 22 minutes in before Lorimer added the second from a corner with half-time approaching. Bann got one back with just over a minute to go from Eugene Magee’s corner shot but the points were going up the road to Hillsborough. The hosts had started the game well with the majority of the ball but Williamson’s goal came following a quick counter-attack. Lorimer then slotted a low drag-flick.
Again, Bann came forward in the second half and put Garvey under more pressure but Garvey made some crucial tackles in the final phases while James Milliken made a key triple save, keeping them out of range despite the late Magee goal.
Cookstown were left cursing their luck after losing 4-3 to Glenanne in Dublin, having been just seconds away from securing an important point in their survival bid.
Michael Kerr’s drag following a spin move beat Iain Walker to put the visitors 1-0 up after David Keogh had missed an early penalty stroke for the Glens. Glenanne then set about swapping the lead with a couple of corner goals, the first a Stephen Brownlow slip to Gary Shaw for 1-1 and then Shannon Boucher dragged in for 2-1.
Cookstown tied the game for the second time from a corner rebound from Daniel Crooks after a flurry of chances, 2-2 at half-time. Richard Couse claimed the Glens third via a defensive stick but Cookstown kept coming back when Paul Thompson slapped home from a baseline pull-back. But the Glens had the final say in the dying moments when Joe Brennan slapped across from the right flank for McCormack to tap in at the back post.
Annadale lost 2-1 to Pembroke at Strathearn as the Dubliners ended their mini-slide after back-to-back defeats to strengthen their place in the top four.
They went in front following a very well constructed move from a free on the right edge of the circle, working the ball back through both centre-backs and then to the left wing where a powerful cross was turned in by Greg Chambers. It was 2-0 when Andreu Gomez Costa pumped in a sideline ball from the left which ricocheted into the path of Andrew Shekleton who slotted home with eight minutes to go.
Annadale got one back when Callum Robson nicked the ball on the 23 from a defensive slip. He rolled the ball right to Andrew O’Hare to calmly finish in the last minute but the points were gone at that stage.
At domestic level, champions Kilkeel and Instonians are eight points clear of the chasing pack after good wins. Eddie Agnew hit a treble for Kilkeel in their 4-2 win over South Antrim while William Robinson struck twice for Inst in their 3-1 success at Bangor. Elsewhere, a late winner from Josh Gilmore – his second goal of the game – sealed North Down a 3-2 victory over Mossley.
Ballynahinch earned promotion to the top flight after a decisive 3-2 win over Ballymena as they added the Intermediate League trophy to the Linden Cup.
On the women’s front, Pegasus remain four points off the top of the EYHL but with a game in hand after defeating Railway Union 3-1 in the late slot at the Dub.
Pegasus made a blistering start to the game and were 3-0 up at half-time as Railway seldom looked likely to repeat their big win over Belfast Harlequins on their last visit north. Ireland World Cup silver medallist Shirley McCay set up the opener in the seventh minute providing Taite Doherty with the perfect pass to fire home on her backhand.
McCay made it 2-0 14 minutes later when she rifled home a penalty corner to put Pegasus firmly in control. Lucy McKee added number three in the 27th minute when she shot home from close range after a good move down the left flank.
Eimear Lucey had Railway’s first chance shortly before the break but home keeper Megan Todd got down well to save. It was more closely contested in the second half as the Dubliners recovered from that nightmare start forcing Todd into several fine stops. They deservedly pulled one back when Hannah de Burgh Whyte scored from a 64th minute set-piece, firing low into the corner of the net from a switch to the left.
Belfast Harlequins had a weekend of mixed fortunes, beating Muckross 4-1 in Dublin on Saturday before going down 4-2 to Cork Harlequins on Sunday in horrendous conditions. Sunday’s game was delayed by the rain but the hosts did not hang about when it did get going with former Ulster Elk Rebecca Barry firing home from a break into the D. It was 2-0 after five minutes when Jane Murphy scored from the next attack, rebounding off an initial save.
And with just eight minutes gone, Barry had her second following a great run and cut-back from another ex-Elk Emily O’Leary. Rachel Johnston pulled one back in the 11th minute from a corner but the Cork side kept coming and were 4-1 up with barely 20 minutes gone, Barry this time setting up O’Leary to lift home her finish. After that flurry of early goals, it remained that way until deep into the third quarter when Jenna Watt during a spell of Belfast pressure with a corner deflection. And they had further set pieces in the last quarter but Cork stayed resolute in defence to see out the result.
On Saturday, Belfast Harlequins had jumped from eighth to fifth thanks to their fourth win of the season as they beat Muckross 4-1 in Donnybrook. Johnston’s corner in the 13th minute gave them the perfect start in the first quarter with Emilia Cutrona backing her effort up in the second for a 2-0 half-time lead. Watt finished off amid a goalmouth scramble for the third before Emma Mathews pulled one back from play while Marianne Fox also saved a stroke during this phase as Muckross threatened a comeback. Watt, though, grabbed her second 30 seconds into the final quarter to kill off any hopes of a big revival.
Ards stay in the relegation play-off spot after losing 2-0 to Loreto at Londonderry Park and to UCD by the same margin on Sunday. UCD completed a six-point weekend with a second clean sheet to boot as Niamh Carey and Lena Tice goals saw them home and hosed.
After an even first quarter, UCD went in front in the second from a move started by Michelle Carey, winning a corner which her twin sister got on the end of. Both sides had their moments but could not advance the score while the third quarter was also very even. The game-breaking second goal came with 10 minutes remaining when Hannah McLoughlin’s ball into the D was deflected in by Tice.
The students closed out the tie the stronger from there to make it a good weekend. They sit third, eight points off leaders Loreto with a game in hand, four points back from Pegasus.
On Saturday, Ards also gave as good as they got for long spells only to go down 2-0 to leaders Loreto. Missing a few regulars, Loreto deployed Hannah Matthews in central midfield and created several good first half chances with Nicci Daly testing Naomi McKnight on number of occasions. The Beaufort side went in front when Matthews won the ball in midfield and passed to Sarah Torrans who hit a lovely reverse through the goalkeeper at pace.
Ards, though, caused lots of problems with speed down both wings and went close to getting level from a corner hit which Liz Murphy got down well to save with her stick. The second half followed a similar pattern with Loreto getting the insurance goal from a fine team move. They turned over possession in their own 23 with Siofra O’Brien eliminating one players before putting Torrans on the gallop. She went around a defender to get to to the baseline and cross for O’Brien to follow up and deflect in.
In the women’s Ulster Premier League, Ballymoney stay four points clear at the top after a 3-0 away win over Ballymena with goals from Ruth Sutherland and former international Nikki Parke, who got two.
The result leaves Ballymena in serious relegation difficulty as they are now a point adrift of Randalstown at the bottom. It’s been a tough season for the Braidsiders, having secured promotion back into the top flight after more than a decade in Senior One.
Champions Lurgan remain second after a 2-1 win over Rainey while a late equaliser from Jessica McMaster salvaged Queen’s a 3-3 draw at Lisnagarvey. However, Lurgan didn’t have things all their own way against the Magherfelt side who took the lead through Andrea Heggarty midway through the second half. Olivia Gibson levelled matters with 10 minutes left before Jo-Ann Reid grabbed the winner with two minutes on the clock. Queen’s had led Garvey 1-0 at the break but trailed 3-2 before McMaster popped up to steal a point when she scored in the dying seconds.
In the other top tier games Randalstown nicked a crucial point in their bid to avoid the drop as they held Mossley to a scoreless draw at the Antrim Forum while Banbridge beat Dungannon 3-2.
In Senior One, Raphoe stay top after the Pattersons, Wendy and Leanne, both hit hat-tricks in a 7-1 win over Castle at Carrickfergus.
Saturday: Ards 0 Loreto 2 (S Torrans, S O’Brien); Muckross 1 (E Mathews) Belfast Harlequins 4 (J Watt 2, R Johnston, E Cutrona); Pegasus 3 (T Doherty, S McCay, L McKee) Railway Union 1 (H de Burgh Whyte); Pembroke 1 (O Macken) Cork Harlequins 0; UCD 4 (H McLoughlin 2, S Thomas, M Carey) Old Alexandra 0
Sunday: Cork Harlequins 4 (R Barry 2, J Murphy, E O’Leary) Belfast Harlequins 2 (R Johnston, J Watt); UCD 2 (N Carey, L Tice) Ards 0; Railway Union v Pembroke, abandoned due to snow
Ulster Premier League: Ballymena 0 Ballymoney 3 (R Sutherland, N Parke 2); Banbridge 3 (P Haugh, O Magee, E Reid) Dungannon 2 ( L Cassells, K Elliott); Lisnagarvey 3 (S Holdsworth, K McIlwaine, J McQueen) Queen’s 3 (J McMaster 2, J Morrow); Mossley 0 Randalstown 0; Rainey 1 (A Heggarty) Lurgan 2 (O Gibson, J-A Reid)
Senior One: Castle 1 (E McMaw) Raphoe 7 (W Patterson 3, L Patterson 3, V Wray); Club KV 3 (Z Lowry, R Hewitt, C Houston) Armagh 1 (L Johnston); Portadown 2 (L Craig, C Porter) Priorians 1 (E Allen)
Saturday: Annadale 1 (A O’Hare) Pembroke 2 (G Chambers, A Shekleton); Banbridge 1 (E Magee) Lisnagarvey 2 (A Williamson, J Lorimer); Glenanne 4 (G Shaw, S Boucher, J McCormack) Cookstown 3 (M Kerr, D Crooks, P Thompson); Three Rock Rovers 5 (L Madeley 2, B Walker, M English, H MacMahon) Monkstown 2 (G Sarratt, R Quirke); YMCA 2 (G Glutz, R Henderson) Cork C of I 1 (J Jermyn)
Sunday: Three Rock Rovers 4 (H Morris, L Madeley, B Walker, J Hosking) Cork C of I 0
Ulster Premier League: Kilkeel 4 (E Agnew 3, L Russell) South Antrim 2 (M Gray, C Henry); Bangor 1 Instonians 3 (W Robinson 2, S Kelso); North Down 3 (J Gilmore 2, T Fynn) Mossley 2 (S Todd 2)
Intermediate League: Ballynahinch 3 Ballymena 2