Ulster lost two teams from the EYHL at the weekend with Ards ladies and Cookstown’s men both being relegated on Saturday.
Ards, needing a win to secure a play off, lost 2-1 at Cork Harlequins while Cookstown have also returned to the Ulster Premier League after falling to a 5-1 home defeat to Banbridge..
Zach McClelland started the scoring for the visitors, but Cookstown got back to 1-1 at half-time thanks to an excellently finished Scott McCabe goal. However, three third quarter goals sealed the Reds’ fate, condemning them to EYHL 2 and the Ulster Premier League next season.
Bann’s win, with two goals coming from from Johnny McKee, saw them draw level with Three Rock on 38 points but the Ulster side finish third on goal difference while there were contrasting emotions from the losers’ camp.
“It wasn’t a great day for the club but we didn’t perform when it mattered most,” said a devastated Cookstown captain, Greg Allen. “The Cork, Annadale and YM games let us down. We should also have taken more points throughout the season in a few other matches but unfortunately we weren’t able to do so.
“It’s very tough to take at this point, but I’m positive Cookstown will be back in the top league in the near future. We have a great youth setup and there are a few superstars coming through already. I, for one, cannot wait to see them in a red shirt. There are exciting times ahead for the club.
“All teams have their ups and downs. We’ve been in this position before and we know what it takes to return to the top. We’ll not shy away from the challenge or the prospect of looking at where we went wrong this time out.
“For a small country club with one feeder school and tiny player base, we can be proud of our achievements throughout the year. We punch well above our weight season after season and, after a couple of months off, we’ll look to do it all again next year.”
There was better news on the Interprovincial front for Cookstown. Reds man Richard McGaw was tournament winner with Ulster O35 while Gareth Cuddy, Julian Costelloe and Darren Cassells won their section with Ulster O40. Cookstown was also represented by Colin Somerville with the Ulster O45 team and Michael Millar with Ulster O50.
Elsewhere in the men’s EYHL, Lisnagarvey defeated Annadale 7-1 at Strathearn helped by a Troy Chambers hat-trick and will be joined by Bann, Three Rock Rovers and Glenanne in the playoffs next weekend at Havelock Park.
Newry and Queen’s will cross swords in the Sussex Regiment Cup after wins over Mossley and Civil Service respectively. The border side progressed via a penalty shoot-out after a goalless draw with David England grabbing the winner in sudden death while Queen’s were comfortable 3-0 winners at Stormont with Nathan Gamble hitting two and David Reid also on target.
Despite Ards and Cookstown’s misfortune, one more local team could be added to the EYHL list next Sunday when Queen’s ladies face Muckross in a play-off in Banbridge, needing a win to go up.
On Sunday, the students were unable to secure a place in the top-flight at the first time of asking following an agonising 3-2 penalty defeat to Catholic Institute after a 3-3 draw in the IHL 2 final in Dublin, meaning the Limerick side will take their place at the top table for the first time. Queen’s led 2-0 early on after goals from Erin Getty and Alyssa Jebb but Institute drew level through Roisin Upton and Laura Foley strikes on either side of the break. Koren Ferguson made it 3-2 with 10 minutes left before Upton equalised two minutes later to force the shootout in which she scored twice after the teams had been level at 2-2 following the first five attempts.
Queen’s coach Simon Bell said: “We started the game really well and could have been out of sight after 30 minutes but their goal just before half-time changed the momentum of the game.”
“From then on it was a tight and very exciting contest. Overall, it was a great advertisement for EYHL hockey but tough on the Queen’s girls to eventually loose it on a sudden death shootout.”
Ards’ relegation fate was sealed with that away loss to Cork Harlequins as the Co Down side lost their place in the national league for the first time under its expanded format.
The Ulster side made a poor start, Michelle Barry setting up Olivia Roycroft, who broke the deadlock after only two minutes.
Harlequins doubled their lead two minutes after the break when Ireland World Cup star Yvonne O’Byrne beat Ards keeper Naomi McKnight. Amy Benson pulled one back 10 minutes later but Ards were unable to add to their tally despite concerted pressure as the Cork defence stood firm. Harlequins’ victory earned them the final spot in next weekend’s top four play-offs in Banbridge in which they will face regulation season champions Pegasus in the semi-finals. On Saturday, Pegasus came back from 2-0 down to force a 3-3 draw with Belfast Harlequins in an exciting contest at Deramore.
Gemma Frazer and Rachel Johnston scored a goal at the start of each half to put Quins in the driving seat. Pegasus fought back to lead 3-2 with third quarter goals from Kate Millar, Caitlyn Harvey and Claire McKane, two of them gifted by the home defence. But World Cup star Zoe Wilson rescued Quins a deserved point when she fired home a brilliant backhand shot from the edge of the circle with 11 minutes left.
IHL 2 final: Catholic Institute 3 (R Upton 2, L Foley) Queen’s 3 (E Getty, A Jebb, K Ferguson) Institute won shootout 3-2.
EY Irish Hockey League: Belfast Harlequins 3 (G Frazer, R Johnston) Pegasus 3 (K Millar, C Harvey, C McKane); Cork Harlequins 2 (O Roycroft, Y O’Byrne) Ards 1 (A Benson); Muckross 1 (Y Pratt) UCD 1 (S Patton); Old Alex 3 (A Connery 3) Pembroke 3 (C Foley 2, G Pinder); IHL 2 semi-finals: Queen’s 1 (J McMaster) Monkstown 0; Catholic Institute 3 Trinity 2.
EY Irish Hockey League: Cookstown 1 (S McCabe) Banbridge 5 (J McKee 2, J Moffett, Z McClelland, E Magee); Annadale 1 (P Jack) Lisnagarvey 7 (T Chambers 3, D Nelson, M Nelson, H Morris, O Kidd); Cork C of I 2 (D Lynch, J Bruton) Three Rock Rovers 2 (K Mullins, C Empey); Glenanne 2 (B Venter 2) Monkstown 2 (G Sarratt, S Hohn); Dublin YMCA 2 (G Glutz, C Hynes) Pembroke 0
IHL 2 Play-off semi-finals:
UCD 2 (Z Agnew, A Meates) Instonians 1 (R McCaughan); Corinthian 2 (I Stewart, J Roberts) Railway Union 2 (J McKeever, A O’Callaghan) Corinthian win shoot-out 3-0
Final: Corinthian 2 (C Perdue, D Howard) UCD 2 (D Nolan, I Styles) Corinthian win shoot-out 3-2)
Sussex Regiment Cup semi-finals: Civil Service 0 Queen’s 3 (N Gamble 2, D Reid,); Newry Olympic 0 Mossley 0 (Newry win shoot-out 4-3)
Ulster Intermediate Cup: Ballynahinch 10 Parkview 0; Portrush 3 Ballymena 3