Instonians men and Raphoe ladies celebrated notable successes on Saturday while Pegasus should shortly be popping open the champagne.
Inst dethroned champions Kilkeel in a head-to-head to lift the Ulster Premier League trophy while Raphoe are back in the top flight after a two year gap. And Pegasus are just a point away from claiming the EYHL regulation season title for the first time since it moved to an 18-match format.
Instonians were crowned Ulster champions after a decisive 4-1 win over Kilkeel at Shaw’s Bridge. The Belfast team have an unassailable four points lead over the Co Down side with both having one game still to play. Inst captain William Robinson hit two of the goals with Dane Ward and Stephen Kelso also on target with Luke Russell replying.
However, Instonians would ideally like to be in a position to not to be able to defend the title next season as they hope to be playing in the EYHL having reached the promotion play-offs.
Mossley’s 3-0 win at South Antrim, two of the goals coming from Simon Todd, means they finish third. The Lisburn team could edge Bangor into fifth place but only if they were to beat Instonians on Saturday.
Intermediate League champions and Linden Cup winners Ballynahinch completed their league programme with a 12-0 win at Parkview, with Stuart Hunter claiming a hat-trick.
The ‘Hinch will now be concentrating their attention to the Irish Hockey Challenge final against Limerick in April as they bid for a hat-trick of trophies.
The latest twist in the men’s EYHL title chase saw Lisnagarvey move three points clear at the top with Banbridge in pursuit and Glenanne and Three Rock Rovers waiting in the wings.
For Garvey, they saw off Cork C of I for the second week running, James Lorimer scoring a pair of first half drag-flicks to get their 4-1 win on the road. Simon Wolfe got one back for the bottom side but Daniel Nelson and Troy Chambers soon put the result out of reach. It leaves C of I six points adrift while Garvey moved three points ahead of Glenanne and Banbridge.
Bann won their battle with the Glens 2-1 with Eugene Magee netting twice in the third quarter to make the difference. Stephen Brownlow got one back for the Glens in a rousing finale but the Co Down side held on.
At the bottom, Cookstown got the big win as Mark Crooks struck late on for a 4-3 win over Pembroke in Dublin, lifting them to 10 points. They had led twice before at 1-0 and 3-1 but were in danger of letting the chance of victory slip until Crooks’ late intervention got them the win.
Their third win of the campaign meant they moved level with YMCA who picked up a point but were denied all three by Monkstown’s late comeback forcing a 3-3 draw. Three Rock Rovers made it five wins in a row when they beat Annadale 4-2 to strengthen their hold on fourth spot.
On the women’s front, regulation season champions-elect Pegasus will be the only Ulster side in the EYHL play-offs after a 4-1 defeat for Ards by Cork Harlequins at Londonderry Park on Sunday.
The result means that Belfast Harlequins can no longer qualify for the top-four and a possible place in Europe next season. Their Cork namesakes side led 3-0 at the break on Sunday after goals from Cliodhna Sargent, Alex O’Grady and Yvonne O’Byrne.
Nicky Barry added a fourth before Francesca Brown pulled one back with Ards resigned to a relegation play-off, provided they can hold on to their four-point lead over basement side Muckross.
Pegasus are on the brink of a return to Europe as they need just a point to win the title following a comfortable 3-0 win over Cork at the Dub on Saturday. A draw against Muckross on Saturday week will be enough for Pegasus to lift the trophy for the first time in the league’s expanded format. If they can do needful, then Pegasus will be back in Europe after a four-year absence, having last won the IHL in its shorter edition in 2015.
Against Cork, Lucy McKee gave Pegasus a dream start when she fired high into the net in the third minute after an incisive move, initiated by Shirley McCay and carried on by Taite Doherty.
Four minutes from the break, Ruth Maguire doubled the hosts’ lead when she netted a penalty corner switch. With 12 minutes left, Alex Speers wrapped things up when she scored from close range following another set-piece.
Elsewhere on Saturday, Belfast Harlequins had kept their faint play-off hopes alive, albeit temporarily, with a 3-2 away win over Ards. Brenna McEwen gave the hosts a 1-0 interval lead from the penalty spot but goals from Lucy Geddes, Jenna Watt and Gemma Frazer put Quins in the ascendancy before Faye Kidd’s late consolation.
In IHL 2, Queen’s clinched top spot in Pool 1 after Emily McStea hit a hat-trick in a 6-0 win over Greenfields in Galway.
Queen’s coach Simon Bell said: “From August, our target had been to reach the play-offs and we are really pleased to have finished top of a very competitive group.”
“We can now look forward to meeting either Monkstown or Catholic Institute in the semi-final on April 27.”
Ballymoney have gone three points clear at the top of the Ulster Premier League after a 3-1 win over Randalstown at the Joey Dunlop Centre. Struggling Town went in front through CJ McDonald but Money replied with three goals in the space of 10 minutes early in the second-half through Olivia Mullan, Katherine Minihan and Nikki Parke.
Ballymena’s 4-1 loss to Mossley means they stay bottom, a point behind Town while Lisnagarvey kept their top-three hopes alive with a 7-2 win over Rainey.
In Senior One, Raphoe have been promoted to the top flight despite being held to a 1-1 draw by CI after Omagh lost 4-1 to Priorians.
EYHL: Ards 2 (B McEwen, F Kidd) Belfast Harlequins 3 (L Geddes, J Watt, G Frazer); Loreto 3 (S Torrans, N Daly, S Clarke) Old Alexandra 1 (E Russell); Pegasus 3 (L McKee, R Maguire, A Speers) Cork Harlequins 0; Pembroke Wanderers 2 (H O’Donnell, G Pinder) UCD 1 (A Russell); Railway Union 2 (K Lloyd, H de Burgh Whyte) Muckross 1 (S Cannon)
IHL 2 Pool 1: Dungannon 1 (L Cassells) NUIG 0; Greenfields 0 Queens University 6 (E McStea 3, J McMaster, C Whiteside, K Ferguson); yesterday: Corinthian 3 Greenfields 0
IHL 2 Pool 2: Monkstown 3 (S Hoban-Logan 2, C O’Reilly) Lurgan 2 (C Johnson, S McCLure)
Ulster Premier League: Ballymoney 3 (O Mullan, K Minihan, N Parke) Randalstown 1 (CJ McDonald); Lisnagarvey 7 (L Gamble, C Gillard, J McQueen 2, R Chambers, R Houston 2) Rainey 2 (A Hegarty, E Montgomery); Mossley 4 (N McIvor 2, R McConnell, M Dougan) Ballymena 1 (R McCluggage)
Senior One: Castle 1 (L Kirker) North Down 7 (H Brittain 2, A Kimber 2, F McCann, R Murphy, R Lucas); CI 1 (B Young) Raphoe 1 (L Smyth); Priorians 4 (J Kennedy 2, R McSparron, N Lowry) Omagh 1 (E Shortt).
EYHL: Cork C of I 1 (S Wolfe) Lisnagarvey 4 (J Lorimer 2, D Nelson, T Chambers); Banbridge 2 (E Magee 2) Glenanne 1 (S Brownlow); Pembroke Wanderers 3 (C Murphy, S Sweetnam, C Thomas) Cookstown 4; Dublin YMCA 3 (F Marriott, B Campbell, S Hyland) Monkstown 3 (K Lynch 2, G Sarratt); Annadale 2 (R Burgess, P Corrie) Three Rock Rovers 4 (J Hosking, B Walker, L Madeley, H Morris)
Ulster Premier League: Instonians 4 (W Robinson 2, D Ward, S Kelso) Kilkeel 1 (L Russell); South Antrim 0 Mossley 3 (S Todd 2, J Robinson)
Sussex Regiment Cup: Newry Olympic 4 (K Fletcher 2, J Porter 2) Queen’s 2 (R Kelly, A Doyle); Belfast Harlequins 2 (M Gray, R Quigley) North Down 3 (P Templeton, S Moore, J Gilmore)
Intermediate League: Parkview 0 Ballynahinch 12.