Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Men's IHL: Cookstown 0 Annadale 4

Cookstown 0 Annadale 4 (Gareth Kidd, Neil Hamilton, Paul Jackson 2)

In a crucial match for Glenanne and Pembroke's IHL chances, Annadale jumped to the top of Group A with an emphatic 4-0 scoreline against Cookstown, ending their long unbeaten run at Coolnafranky.

The match was postponed back in December with Dale 4-1 up in the third quarter before the pitch froze however, Annadale did not give Cookstown a second opportunity and eliminated the Tyrone club. In basketball, the third period referred to as the 'killer quarter' and so it proved tonight as all four goals came within 17 minutes.

Paul Jackson opened the scoring, flicking past Ian Hughes. Neil Hamilton deflected in a corner before an impressive touch from Jackson to Peter Caruth's long ball made it three. Gareth Kidd added a fourth to complete an amazing turnaround from last Saturday when the same sides at the same venue saw Town win 3-1.

Annadale's bonus point puts them top of the table and will make the semi-finals if they can pick up at least a losing bonus point against Pembroke.

* More pictures from Saturday's match between Cookstown and Annadale by Johnny Brisbane can be seen here

Men's Division One: Fingal 5 UCD 2

Fingal 5 (David Bane 2, Derek O'Gorman, Andrew Shekleton, Adrian Sweeney) UCD 2 (Robbie McFarlane, Hugh Butler)

Fingal pulled level with Corinthian in fifth place with an easy 5-2 win over UCD tonight to set up a tense final day to the season. The airport side built up a 4-0 lead by half-time and got a fifth in the second half before Robbie McFarlane and Hugh Butler pulled back a couple.

David Bane scored twice from penalty corners in the rout which means if Fingal can out-perform the reds on April 18, they will take the wildcard place. However, with both sides on an equal amount of wins, Corinthian have a far superior goal difference and so hold the box seat. They play UCD while Fingal play Railway.

Smyth receives Ireland call-up

Emma Smyth is the one new name in Gene Muller’s latest Irish senior squad for the Easter weekend series with England, announced on Monday.

She is joined by four Loreto players – Nikki Symmons, Louisa Healy, Lizzie Colvin and Cathy McKean – and UCD duo Roisin Flinn and Lisa Jacob, though the latter must be a major doubt having been carried off in Monday night’s match with Railway.

Mary Goode is the only other Leinster based player while Eimear Cregan is included after her injury problems. She scored on her league comeback against Cork C of I last weekend.

Ireland senior women’s squad: Lauren Barr (Ballymoney), Bridget Cleland (Ballymoney), Emma Clarke (Ulster Elks), Eimear Cregan (Cork Harlequins, capt), Lizzie Colvin (Loreto), Roisin Flinn (UCD), Megan Frazer (Ballymoney), Mary Goode (GK, Bray), Louisa Healy (GK, Loreto), Lisa Jacob (UCD), Shirley McCay (Ulster Elks), Cathy McKean (Loreto), Cliodhna Sargent (Cork Harlequins), Emma Smyth (Railway Union), Emma Stewart (Armagh), Nikki Symmons (Loreto).

Railway Union win first ever division one crown

Railway Union 2 (Kate Dillon, Emma Smyth) UCD 1 (Lisa Jacob)
Railway Union claimed their first ever women's Leinster Senior League final in over 100 years of hockey as they got the three points they needed at Park Avenue.

Victory was sealed, perhaps in the most fitting manner, by Emma Smyth's reverse-stick thunderbolt. One of the country's outstanding players this term, her second-half goal with 24 minutes remaining was one of the goals of the season and completed an incredible day on a personal level for the midfielder having received her first full international call* confirmed just a few hours earlier.

It was the decisive goal in a high quality encounter at Park Avenue and was enough to keep out of reach of Loreto. The Beaufort side can still draw level on points but, in tie situations, the amount of games won dictates the champion. Loreto can only achieve 12 league wins while this was Railway's 13th victory of the campaign from 15 games.

UCD had the best of the early chances, with Emer Lucey pulling off a spectacular block off the line to keep the game scoreless. In response, Kate Dillon emphatically roofed a switched penalty corner for a 1-0 half-time lead.

But the students are a lively outfit and leveled early in the second half when Roisin Flinn's sublime inside pass from the left channel, found international colleague Lisa Jacob one-on-one with Helen Stevenson. The Kilkenny woman deftly rounded the keeper to roll in before succumbing to what looked a nasty calf injury which ended her involvement on the night.

And then came Smyth's wonderful effort. Her path to goal initially looked well guarded as she drifted back and forth with her back to goal but she found a chink of light far out on the left edge of the circle and unleashed a rasping, rising shot to bulge the netting and restore the advantage.

A couple of nervy defensive moments ensued, including four UCD corners, but Railway held on to ensure the title.

As the champagne bottles popped in the Railway bar, coach Mick McKinnon explained that a major factor in his side's progression was a new found self-confidence to go with a talent he always believed the players had.

"When I came here, I said I had a three-year plan and year two was to win Leinster and we’re on track to hopefully win something at All-Ireland level, although we haven’t ruled out this year’s IHL.

“I just think there’s a belief now. We beat Hermes in the first league game of the season and a lot of these girls had never beaten them before. That gave them the belief to go on a roll.

"I do get a bit angry when people talk about these players not being very good, I mean there’s been some comments going round; but you can’t coach a bad team to win a title – there’s very good players in this team."

McKinnon has managed to marry a strong professional ethic in his team - aided by his impressive support team - with a certain light-hearted demeanour, creating one a unique atmosphere within his squad which, he feels, has gone a long way to scoring this maiden success.

"I said to them before tonight’s game 'I’d rather lose it our way than to win it someone else's way' but we won it our way. You see the amount of fun we have in this place?

“I wouldn’t coach if it wasn’t fun. After all, this is our chosen leisure time. If it’s not fun, why do it? Every training session we try and have a bit of craic. There’s been a couple of times this year when I’ve tried to reel them in a bit from partying a bit too hard but its part of what they are and what makes them a team."

They wrap up the title with three league games left to play while Loreto have a chance for near instant revenge on Saturday in a vital IHL group decider.

* More on this on Tuesday morning. For a couple more pics from tonight, click here

Monday, March 30, 2009

Irish girls U-18 and U-16 squads announced

Mary Logue named her squad of 16 from the panel of 24 for Ireland U-18s upcoming two test matches against Belgium on April 16 and 17 as she continues her preparation for the Euro Hockey Youth Nations Championship. The matches will be played at Nivelles - the venue for the U-18 Europeans in July.

Niamh Atcheler (Hermes), Natalie Barr (Lurgan), Naomi Carroll (Catholic Institute), Katie Codyre (Greenfields), Brenda Flannery (Greenfields), Orla Fox (Pembroke), Dora Gorman (Greenfields), Sarah Greene (Hermes), Sammy Jo Greer (Ballymoney), Hannah Matthews (Loreto), Ali Meeke (Loreto), Lynsey Trainor (Galway), Emile Molloy (Galway), Gillian Pinder (Hermes), Vanessa Surgeoner (Randalstown), Chloe Watkins (Hermes)

Meanwhile, Irish U-16 coach Una McCarthy announced her squad of 18 for a three test series against Belgium to be played at the National Hockey Stadium between April 7 and 9.

Squad: Rebecca Barry (Catholic Institute), Emily Beatty (Old Alex), Chloe Brown (North Down), Michelle Carey (Galway), Amy Cooke (Ballyclare), Leah Ewart (Armagh), Lauren Johnston (Lurgan), Anna Jones (Lisnagarvey), Juliette King-Hall (Hermes), Lisa McCarthy (Railway Union), Kerri McDonald (Dromore), Lucy McKee (Armagh), Louise Murray (Lurgan), Aisling Naughton (Corinthian), Joanne Orr (Armagh), Freddie Timmins (Galway), Amy-Kate Trevor (Cork C of I), Roisin Upton (Catholic Institute)
Manager: Jean McDonnell
Coach: Una McCarthy
Asst Coach: Michelle Rainey

Schedule (all at UCD):
Tuesday, April 7, 4pm - Ireland vs Belgium;
Wednesday, April 8, 4pm - Ireland vs Belgium
Thursday, April 9, 4pm - Ireland vs Belgium

Men's Division One: Round-Up

Pembroke took a major step toward reclaiming the league title from Three Rock's clutches as they held off the intentions of Corinthian at Serpentine Avenue. The 'Broke took full points to come closer to taking their first of what could be a glut of trophies this season.

Conor Harte zinged in a corner while Maurice Elliott knocked in a pull-back from six yards to make it 2-0. From that point on, Corinthian enjoyed the majority of possession but Dan Williams' close range effort was all they had to show for their endeavour.

Three Rock's loss on Saturday to a supremely impressive Monkstown put paid to the Grange Road side's tenure as division one champions. Rovers took the lead early on when Mitch Darling rounded off a nice move involving Michael Maguire and Peter Blakeney.

However, Andrew Ward and Gareth Watkins scored to swap the lead, their side's direct style working to their advantage. Peter McConnell's drag made it 2-2 but another long ball was smartly finished by Ward's reverse-stick. Watkins made it 4-2 before McConnell got an academic goal back in the closing minutes.

It made Rovers' tie with Corinthian on Sunday less meaningful as the pair played out a low-key 1-0 result. The game marked Darren Kimfley's interesting sojourn to Ireland but he was unable to end his time with victory despite his side enjoying the lion's share of possession for the second successive day.

Peter Blakeney's fine open-side strike was the day's high point. Wendel Armstrong had an impressive day between the posts while John McInroy hit the woodwork, as did Andy McConnell during Rovers' best period - bizarrely coinciding with being down to ten men. The reds also had an odd injury concern over Brian Doherty who collapsed in a heap when a routine was passed back to the sweeper. He recovered, though, to finish out the game and will hope to stay fit for the Ireland A panel.

Glenanne remain the only side left in contention for the title, though they need Pembroke to drop points against either Kilkenny or Monkstown. Understrength, they beat Fingal 5-2.

Fingal, meanwhile, could be on course for yet another Leinster Branch ruling over who takes the wild card space for fifth in division one. The northsiders and Corinthian will fancy their chances of maximum points from their respective remaining games which would see the pair tied on 27 points in the final reckoning.

Finally, UCD enjoyed a doubly good day as the men added to their ladies' success with a 2-1 win of their own. Their first win of the season sees them leap-frog the Cats and up into ninth place.

Robbie McFarlane got the winner of a tense affair nine minutes from time from a neatly worked long corner move. Kilkenny took the lead but Ben Grogan's (pictured celebrating) drag-flick made it 1-1.
Saturday results
Monkstown 4 (Gareth Watkins 2, Andrew Ward 2) TRR 3 (Peter McConnell 2, Mitch Darling); Pembroke 2 (Conor Harte, Maurice Elliott) Corinthian 1 (Dan Williams); UCD 2 Kilkenny 1; Fingal 2 (Andrew Shekleton 2) Glenanne 5 (John Goulding 2, Jonathon Kane 2, Shane O'Donoghue)
Sunday: Corinthian 0 TRR 1 (Peter Blakeney)

* For more of Adrian Boehm's pictures from UCD's game with Kilkenny, click here. For John Keogh's pics of Corinthian vs TRR, click here while Emer Keogh's of Monkstown vs TRR are here.

Women's Division One: Round-Up

Railway Union took a massive step toward a first ever division one title as the momentum that was going Loreto's way in recent weeks took an about turn back in favour of the Sandymount club.

In truth, Loreto's comeback was more due to Railway's inactivity in the domestic league than a marked downturn in form as they played their first league since February. Goals from Connacht skipper Sinead Walsh, Jean McDonnell and a rare strike from left-back Isobel Joyce.

It means four points from their remaining four games - starting with UCD tonight - will see them home. That is because Loreto drew with old rivals Hermes and can now only reach a total of 41 points. Railway are on 38, level with Loreto's current total.

At the bottom, Corinthian look to be the side destined for a promotion/relegation playoff with Genesis after they fell 2-1 to Trinity. The students goals came from Lucy Small and Rachel Scott - the former Pembroke player so often their shining light this season - with Susie Geoffroy getting the sole response for the reds.

Pembroke, meanwhile, moved back into a tie for the fourth IHL qualification place with Old Alex thanks to Alex schoolgirl Alice Ward's hat-trick against Glenanne. With Hermes, Loreto and Railway all but assured the first three places, a tense run-in is likely to ensue as Pembroke and Alex play on the final scheduled day of the season while the 'Broke must also rearrange a tie with UCD who could yet play a major part in this particular battle.

Division One Results:
Corinthian 1 (Susie Geoffroy) Trinity College 2 (Lucy Small, Rachel Scott); Loreto 2 (Cathy McKean, Niamh Small) Hermes 2 (Jenny Burke, Aoife Harte); Glenanne 0 Pembroke Wanderers 3 (Alice Ward 3); Bray 1 (Stephanie Hall) Railway Union 3 (Sinead Walsh, Jean McDonnell, Isobel Joyce)

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Men Division Two: Week 15 results

Avoca 2 (Enda Gallanagh, Scott Wilkie) Dublin University 2 (Stu Cinnamond, Ben Hewitt)

A result which does a neither side's playoff hopes much good, Avoca and Dublin Uni are both still technically able to pick up the playoff spot but such an outcome looks beyond both. Irish Senior Cup winner Enda Gallanagh and Scott Wilkie were on target for the Blackrock club while former Corinthian Stu Cinnamond and Bangor's Ben Hewitt meant honours were shared at Newpark.

Clontarf 6 (Rob Abbott 3, Ciaran McNamara, Tom Noonan, Dan Treacy) Weston 1 (C Adams)
Clontarf moved a step closer to the perfect season as they pulled away in the second half against Weston after a tightly contested first half saw the Bulls lead 2-1 at the turnaround. Skipper Ciaran McNamara got the ball rolling while there was a goal against his former club for Dan Treacy. The prolific Rob Abbott netted a hat-trick.

Bray 3 (Cliff Bailey 2, Simon Cox) Skerries 1 (Ali McMahon)
Cliff Bailey made a triumphant return as Bray edged the crucial fixture between second and third place to retake the play-off position they had relinquished just last Thursday night. Bailey hit a double, his first goals since returning from Australia while Simon Cox popped up once again on the score sheet in a vital 3-1 win. Bray hold a one-point advantage over Skerries but still need to outdo their fellow seasiders in their last two games - Trinity and Clontarf - to assure a shot at a return to division one hockey.

Naas 1 (C Hill) Suttonians 3 (Conor Gillette 2, Vikram Singh)
Suttonians are another side with mathematical hopes of a playoff place with three games to play - two against Avoca and one with Trinity - but such an outcome would need all the sides above them to go pointless for the remainder of the season.

They did, however, pick up a comfortable 3-1 victory over Naas to stay in fifth place.

UCD look to bridge 58 year gap: ISC and IJC round-up

UCD won the battle of the students to keep alive their hopes of claiming the Irish Senior Cup for a second time - the previous coming way back in 1951. They added the scalp of fellow students Ulster Elks to their list of victims in an intriguing cup run which has seen the students beat both of Leinster's most celebrated pair of recent times - Loreto and Hermes.

They were made to work by an Elks' side, powered by Emma Clarke in midfield. Lisa Jacob gave the Belfielders the lead with a neat run and shot but her side were pegged back Lyndsay Neish's goal, leaving the game delicately poised in the second half.

Former St Andrew's student Rachel Burke, though, popped up with the winner. They now advance to take on three-in-a-row chasing Pegasus. The Belfast side with Irish Hockey's Player of the Year for 2007/08 Claire McMahon netting the winner in a 2-1 victory over Ballymoney.

Former Irish team mate Lynsey McVicker got on the mark for 'Money but McMahon's goal, in addition to Julie McKnight's earlier effort sealed the day.

The pair showdown on April 26 with UCD enjoying home advantage at the National Hockey Stadium.

On the men's side, Cookstown are the side that stand in Pembroke's way of retaining their ISC crown. The Tyrone club beat Annadale 3-1 with goals from Ivan Steen, Thomas Hutchinson and Andy Barbour among the goals.

Their luck did not hold, though, for the Junior Cup as Cork C of I edged a cracker with the odd goal in seven - Richie Dorman scoring a last minute corner.

Once again, Pembroke are in the final pairing, thanks to Stu Loughrey's double to put the possibility of a Senior/Junior double on the cards for a second successive season.

In the women's IJC, Karen Clarke scored Railway Union's winner against Loreto while Hermes II edged out Old Alex - Alex schoolgirl Deirdre Duke scoring the vital goal for the Booterstown club.

ESB Irish Senior Cup - semi-finals
UCD 2 (Lisa Jacob, Rachel Burke) Ulster Elks 1 (Lyndsay Neish); Pegasus 2 (Julie McKnight, Claire McMahon) Ballymoney 1 (Lynsey McVicker)
Men's Irish Senior Cup - semi-final
Cookstown 3 (Ivan Steen, Thomas Hutchinson, Andy Barbour) Annadale 1 (Ian Hamilton)
ESB Irish Junior Cup - semi-finals
Railway Union II 1 (Karen Clarke) Loreto II 0; Hermes II 2 (Carol Devine, Deirdre Duke) Old Alex II 1 (Hazel Agar)
Men's Irish Junior Cup - semi-final
Pembroke II 2 (Stu Loughrey 2) YMCA 1 (Marcus Miller); Cookstown 3 Cork C of I 4 (Roger Gray 2, Nick Burns, Richie Dorman)

* Adrian Boehm's pictures from UCD and Ulster Elks can be seen here while Deryck Vincent's pics of Hermes II and Old Alex II can be seen here.

YMCA take inaugural IHC: Irish Hockey finals

YMCA were Leinster's big winners from the four Irish Hockey finals taking place at Belfield this weekend, winning their first ever national title in dramatic style.

They ousted Fermoy in the weekend's opening fixture - the ESB Irish Hockey Challenge - on penalty strokes, Aimee Powderly netting the crucial flick in a 2-1 win.

Early on, Fermoy raced out of the blocks Maria Daly going close before Trish Fitzpatrick swept in from the top of the circle. There was initial confusion whether the ball had gone in but, after an umpires consultation, the goal rightfully stood.

But, inspired by the trickery of Bradshaw and Susie Hayes, YM got a foothold in the game and leveled in the 31st minute when Joanne Kirby reached a through-ball just before Elaine O'Flynn. Helen Keane netted the ensuing penalty stroke.

Both sides went close in the second half but no goals accrued, with a similar pattern emerging in extra-time. Tara Cronin went closest three minutes from the end of the second period of time added but Liz Barry saved brilliantly off the line for the winner to be decided on strokes.

YM held their nerve slightly better to win 2-1.

Next on pitch was Leinster's only other representative of the finals weekend, Mullingar taking on Ulster newcomers Campbellians in the men's Challenge final.

The Westmeath side fell behind early in the game as Andy Burnside latched onto a loose ball in the circle - though their was more than a hint of a foot amid the melee. And former English international Chris Maskery bagged the second to also give the Ulster side their first national title.

On Sunday, Ulster Elks gained some return for their double-weekend at Belfield, claiming the inaugural ESB Irish Hockey Trophy with a 2-1 win over Limerick's finest Catholic Institute.

Jenny McVeigh and Irish international Emma Clarke netted the goals in a 2-1 win, Aoife Kenny getting the response for Institute.

The most entertaining game, though, was reserved for the men's Irish Hockey Trophy, Ulster Podium Senior One second placed side North Down edging an 11-goal thriller, beating Antrim 6-5 in an incredible end-to-end battle.

ESB Irish Hockey Challenge final: YMCA 1 (Helen Keane) Fermoy 1 (Trish Fitzpatrick) YM win 2-1 on strokes
Men's Irish Hockey Challenge final: Campbellians 2 (Andy Burnside, Chris Maskery) Mullingar 0
ESB Irish Hockey Trophy final: Ulster Elks 2 (Jenny McVeigh, Emma Clarke) Catholic Institute 1 (Aoife Kenny)
Men's Irish Hockey Trophy Final: Antrim 5 (Ian Brownless, Ian Creighton, Richard Maybin, Stuart McIlroy, Neil McCullough) North Down 6 (Mark Forest, Andy Forest 3, Gareth Bailie, Chris Speers)

* For more pictures from the YMCA-Fermoy match, click
here, for a a couple from the Campbellians-Mullingar game, click here. Adrian Boehm's pictures of the Catholic Institute-Ulster Elks game, can be seen here.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Skerries close in on playoff place

The ever-shifting ebb and flow of the division two play-off race swung back into Skerries favour last night as they scored twice in the second half to end Suttonians outside hopes. After an even first half, the seasiders picked up their third successive win as Felix Nacken and Ali McMahon notched up the necessary goals.

They retake the second place they lost to Bray five weeks ago, taking the psychological advantage into Saturday's game between the rivals. A win for Skerries, followed by three points at home against Naas on Sunday, would confirm them as second placed finishers.

Anything else and Bray could be back in the game while Avoca will need four wins from four. They start with much improved Trinity.

Clontarf's victory parade begins against Weston, though they do so with their first injury crisis of the season. Stephen Ludgate, Nick Burke, Andrew Poynter, Gordy Lindsay and Gareth Borland are all likely to be on the absentee list. Poynter misses out due to his involvement with the Irish cricket team, currently warming up for their world cup qualifiers.

Suttonians against Naas is the other Saturday game.

Division 2 (Saturday) Avoca vs Dublin University, TBC, Newpark; Naas vs Suttonians, TBC, Caragh Road; Clontarf vs Weston, 3.30pm, Mount Temple; Bray vs Skerries, 2.15pm, Loreto Bray
Sunday: Skerries vs Naas, 2.30pm, Skerries

Women's Division One Preview

The title race, so long seen as a one-horse race, could see a major twist once again this week. Railway could have their first ever title wrapped up within six days with Saturday's game in Bray beginning a possible run of three games in quick succession with UCD visiting on Monday and a trip to Trinity in the offing for next Thursday.

Bray will prove no pushover as they look to complete their first division one programme on a high, especially as Linda O'Neill and Catherine Murray will be looking to get one over on former Loreto schoolmates Isobel and Cecelia Joyce. The latter is looking to return after missing last week's cup defeat to Ballymoney, due to concussion sustained in the Jacqui Potter final.

Loreto's Tuesday night win means they can stay top with a win over Hermes but the Booterstown club have proved feistier in front of goal on their travels and will relish the challenge at Beaufort. Gillian Pinder's knee injury will probably keep her out of action.

Like the men's competition, a relegation six-pointer takes place. A loss for either Corinthian or Trinity would not prove instantly fatal for either side, however, as a Branch bye-law means tenth place this year will play Genesis in a one-off promotion/relegation battle. It comes after the Dun Laoghaire side finished highest of the first teams in division two but not close enough to the top to take an automatic promotion.

Glenanne's match with Pembroke only has significance for the latter as they hope to keep up their IHL push, needing to keep clear of UCD who face a busy close to the season, with six league fixtures still up for decision.

Division One schedule:
Bray v Railway Union, 12.30pm, Loreto Convent Bray; Corinthian v Trinity, 2pm, Whitechurch; Loreto v Hermes, 12.45pm, Beaufort; Glenanne v Pembroke Wanderers, 12pm, St Mark's

Leinster Men's weekend preview

Pembroke's title bid faces a tough battle as they look to overturn their Mills Cup final defeat at the hands of Corinthian last week. Three Rock's recent draws with YMCA mean that Pembroke's destiny is back in their own hands, though any slip up and Glenanne are likely to pounce.

They face the terminally injury-ravaged Fingal who have Glen Shekleton, Mick McGuinness and Conor Connolly on the sidelines while David Bane is likely to be limited to ten-minute bursts. The overturning of the three-point penalty for the reds means Fingal are in desperate need of points to retain IHL status.

Monkstown face Rovers at virtually full strength with just Stephen Cole missing out again due to his broken toe. Three Rock's double weekend may see the squad rotated as their title shot looks threadbare. With IHL and EHL concerns coming up, keeping players in the best shape may be a more pressing concern.

Mitch Darling was sick mid-week but may return while Charlie Henderson will possibly come in for one of the weekend's games while it will be Phelie Maguire's last appearances of the season as he embarks on a second trip to Palestine on March 31.

The most vital match in terms of league placings comes late on Saturday afternoon as UCD and Kilkenny's season-defining game is last on the bill of a bumper day at Belfield. Ben Grogan's team showed decent heart last week against Railway to pick up a first home point. The cats, meanwhile, have no away points so the form may be with UCD.

Kilkenny's ability to score, however, could prove the decisive factor having double the students tally this year and while Tom Manning (pictured) has not hit the heights of 2007/08, he remains a threat to be feared.

Division 1 (Saturday)
Monkstown vs Three Rock Rovers, 1pm, Rathdown; Pembroke Wanderers vs Corinthian, 12pm, Serpentine Ave; UCD vs Kilkenny, 4.45pm, Belfield; Fingal vs Glenanne, 1.30pm, ALSAA
Sunday: Corinthian vs Three Rock Rovers, 1.15pm, Whitechurch Park

Tuesday: Fingal vs UCD, 8pm, ALSAA

Seven national cup final places on offer

A busy weekend of Irish Senior and Junior Cup action as the glut of refixes, primarily due to the weather sees seven final places up for grabs.

In the ESB senior, UCD's hosting of the Ulster Elks is particularly eye-catching as the two sets of students lock horns. Both bring a pair of Irish internationals to the table - Roisin Flinn and Lisa Jacob for the Belfielders, Shirley McCay and Emma Clarke for the Ulster side - making for a high quality encounter.

The Elks are without French woman Philippine Berly, though, and struggled last round to put away Leinster's current bottom-placed side Corinthian. However, with a Winemark Shield final placing to their name, they could be a potential bogey side.

On the other half of the draw, Pegasus will hope to keep their three-in-a-row dream alive and have the benefit of home comforts against Ballymoney.

In the men's senior, Cookstown will aim to reach their first ISC final since 1988. They are facing a side who know the pressures all too well of performing on the domestic circuit only to come unstuck at national level. Annadale won five consecutive titles in Ulster but no national trophies. As the Dale rebuild, Cookstown have taken over the mantle with the last two Ulster crowns and will hope to translate that success into ISC and IHL medals.

And 'Dale coach Andy Smyth knows that pressure all too well, as he told Belfast Media this week: "They have been the best team by far this season in Ulster and to do back-to-back league wins is superb but there is a massive expectation there - I know, we had it for five years in a row.

“They need to transfer domestic success into national success where it really shows their calibre. We are happy that the weight of expectation has shifted to someone else."

In the Junior, YMCA and Pembroke serve up an enticing Sandymount derby. Reigning champs, the 'Broke have reserved their best form for this cup and will be looking for their eighth success since first taking the title after four periods of extra-time against Athlone in 1926.

YM have just a 1954 success to their name but have the league form, winning the sides last encounter in January 3-0. Richie Miles is their sharp-shooter while Marcus Miller, Warwick Armstrong, Graham Harris and Graham Woods provide the experience. Charlie Carroll, a Junior Cup winner with Three Rock in '98, may figure too.

On the women's side, the Junior Cup will stay in Leinster but with a new host after Glenanne stepped up to the senior ranks. All four sides have reached the final in the past four years with a win apeice for Alex, Hermes and Loreto while Railway were denied 5-1 in last year's final.

Schedule (all Saturday):
Men’s Irish Senior Cup
Cookstown v Annadale, 1pm, Coolnafranky

ESB Irish Senior Cup:
UCD v Ulster Elks, 3.15pm, Belfield; Pegasus v Ballymoney, 4pm, Queens

ESB Irish Junior Cup
Railway Union II v Loreto II, 3pm, Park Avenue; Hermes II v Old Alex II, 3.30pm, St Andrews

Men's Irish Junior Cup
Cookstown II v Cork C of I II, 2.30pm, Coolnafranky; Pembroke W II v YMCA II, 3pm, Serpentine Avenue

Mullingar and YMCA ready to rumble

This weekend sees the first national club titles handed out as the inaugural Irish Hockey Trophy and Challenge competitions come to the final stage. Saturday sees the major Leinster interest with YMCA ladies and the men from Mullingar gunning for their first national titles.

Mullingar are looking to make it a 25th anniversary to remember as they face a complete trip into the unknown as they take on Campbellians - a side formed in 2006, open only to past and present students and relatives of people who went to Campbell College.

En route to this stage, though, Mullingar have outdone three sides from the Ulster Podium Senior Two division, in which their opponents are currently fourth. PSNI were beaten on strokes before Omagh were dispatched 3-0 in Tyrone while the Westmeath men fought back to beat Saintfield 3-2.

The goals have come from the big man up front, player-coach Colin Watters, bashing in four so far in the cup run, while the midfield guile of Tom Bowers has left many division four sides floundering. At the back, former Westmeath minor footballer Daragh Ryan patrols the circle while the youthful Marl brothers and Stewart Synott give the side willing and fit runners.

For YMCA, the famous names in Dublin hockey circles of Powderly and Bradshaw abound. Since beginning life with a female section in 2006, YMCA have zipped through the divisions, recently completing the division nine title without dropping a point.

The side have yet to leave Dublin in their four rounds of competition and easily disposed of Newcastle (5-0), Monkstown (4-1) and Clonmel (4-1) to get to the finals day in Belfield. In terms of prior form guides, there is no background between the teams but Fermoy are unbeaten since November in the league and have shown an equally high appetite for goals as their Sandymount counterparts.

Sunday sees the inaugural Irish Hockey trophy finals with Ulster guaranteed to be the first home for the men's title as Antrim face North Down. The ladies provides an interesting battle as the Ulster Elks array of international talent faces their second game in two days at the National Stadium. They follow up their battle with UCD on Saturday with a game against a lively Catholic Institute who disposed of both Genesis and TRL.

ESB Irish Hockey Challenge Final (11am)
: Fermoy vs YMCA
Men’s Irish Hockey Challenge Final (1pm): Campbellians v Mullingar
Men’s Irish Hockey Trophy Final (1pm): Antrim v North Down
ESB Irish Hockey Trophy Final (3pm): Ulster Elks v Catholic Institute

B schoolboy and Meath and District League finals

There is still plenty of school’s action to take in if you find yourself free next Wednesday afternoon as many of the schoolboy’s ‘B’ and schoolgirl’s Meath and District finals reach their final stages.

The senior B title has already been decided with Dundalk Grammar – inspired by school’s international Andrew Shekleton (pictured) – taking the honours, dropping just two points all season. For the other three age groups, Grange Road is the venue on April 1 for the B finals.

Dundalk remain on for a triple as their juniors take on Wesley’s B team (11.45am) after the former overcame St Andrew’s while the latter ousted Newpark in the semi-finals. At minor level a strong St Killians –organised by Fingal stalwart Tommy Parsons – beat Mount Temple in the semis to set up a tie with Dundalk (1.45pm).

At U-13 level, Newpark, under Peter Muprhy’s tutelage, take on Killian’s (10.30am) for whom Parsons outdid one of his protégés David Bane, who is currently coaching Mount Temple.

ALSAA is the venue for the emerging Meath and District finals, also on April 1. The initiative was set up a couple of seasons ago and now comprises two leagues at each of senior, junior and minor level with nine schools - Loreto Balbriggan, Loreto Navan, Mercy Navan, Royal School Cavan, Skerries Comprehensive, Drogheda Grammar, Dundalk Grammar, Wilson's Hospital, and Dominincan Cabra – competing.

Match schedule:
Junior 1: (10am) Loreto Balbriggan v Cabra
Junior 2: (11am) Loreto Balbriggan v Drogheda
Minor 1: (12pm) Wilson's v Cabra

Senior 1: 1pm: The Senior 1 Final will be played as a mini tournament between Cabra, Wilsons, and Dundalk. All three teams were tied on points after the group matches.
Match 1: Wilsons v Dundalk; Match 2: Cabra v Loser of match one; Match 2: Cabra v Winner of match one

The Senior 2 and Minor 2 Finals will be played after Easter. Mercy Navan have reached both of these finals but are not able to play on Finals Day as they have a school trip that week to Zimbabwe.

Senior 2: Mercy Navan v TBC
Minor 2: Mercy Navan v Drogheda

News in brief

With the season hitting its peak, there’s plenty of activities and information floating about. Sign up to the IHA’s Hockey Happenings – on http://www.hockey.ie/ – for more information on many of these snippets.

* Old Alexandra are joining up with Old Wesley Rugby Club to run a Fashion Show to fundraise for both clubs on April 4, 2009 in Elm Park golf club. Tickets cost €30 and include a wine and cheese reception before the fashion show gets underway. The event will be compered by Brent Pope. For more information or to purchase tickets, contact Babs Luke on 086 4011 787 or clubcaptainoahc@gmail.com.

* The ESB Irish hockey awards night is on May 23 this year and all club secretaries and branches have been contacted for nominations.

Each club and branch can nominate up until the closing date of April 14 and have been sent the link with the nomination form. Contact your club secretary now to ensure your club has nominated who you think deserves to be honoured on the night.

* There’s a second chance to see the lively encounter between Pembroke and Glenanne in the Irish Senior Cup as RTE 2 will broadcast highlights on April 4 as part of their OB Sports show. The show begins at 2.15pm.

* Newbridge HC became the first club to benefit from the Club Equipment Scheme Contract, launched recently by the IHA. The scheme is a way to reward clubs who submitted a Development Plan last year. Newbridge HC received approximately €800 worth of equipment to use for the development of their youth section. The club currently runs a youth programme in five local primary schools, catering for around 120 children.

* The EHF have announced they will discuss the feasibility of introducing a female version of the Euro Hockey League at the KO16 round in Hamburg. The direct implications that, should it be agreed for the competition to be hosted in the 2009/10 season, the number of qualification places per country will be decided based partly on results in this year’s EuroHockey Club Championships and Cup Winner’s Cup competitions.

* The Tricks 4 Sticks programme is set to spread to Arklow after success a little further south in Gorey. Three schools have been added to the list of schools to try hockey for the first time.

Tricks 4 Sticks was launched in November 2008 in Gorey and to date around 285 students from 4th to 6th class have tried hockey. It is expected that another 100 students will get involved from Arklow. The greatest achievement so far as a result of the programme has seen the creation of a Gorey junior section managed and organised completely by the Gorey HC players.

* The IHA is currently registering interest for a Tutor Training Course to run during Summer 2009 in Dublin (dates to follow) in conjunction with Coaching Ireland.

The course requires four classroom days (2 full weekends) plus a further 9 contact days as an Assistant Tutor (or attendance at 3 Level One courses) in order to fully qualify as a Level One Tutor. This initial process is to simply gauge interest in the tutor course and is not a confirmation of attendance. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact the IHA on fiona.mills@hockey.ie.

* The IHA recently contacted all club secretaries to advise of a review of all its club competitions. As part of this review, all clubs have been requested to submit proposals and suggestions regarding any aspect of our current competitions.

As such all Club Secretaries have been invited to submit in writing your club's opinion to joan.morgan@hockey.ie at the hockey office by Friday, April 3 2009. So please ensure that your club has the chance to submit their ideas by contacting your club secretary.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Paul Cooke names U-16 panel

Paul Cooke’s Irish U-16 panel has been reduced to 24 for the upcoming series with Belgium, to be played in UCD on April 7 to 9.

Seven of the players who took part in the recent Leinster U-16 cup final between Railway and Three Rock are included Corinthian’s attack-minded defender Robert Burke (pictured) also gets the nod. Monkstown pair David Cole and Stephen Nolan as is Fingal’s Mark Ryan and Kilkenny’s Jeremy Duncan.

The rest of the squad is characterised by its geographical spread with players from Limerick, Donegal, Down, Antrim, Tyrone and West Cork.

Matthew Bell (Banbridge), Robert Burke (Corinthian), Nicolas Burns (Cork C of I), Ross Canning (TRR), David Cole (Monkstown), Jeremy Duncan (Kilkenny), Mark Ingram (GK) (Railway Union), Matthew Lecky (Raphoe), Shane Madeley (TRR), Owen Magee (Banbridge), Fiachra Maher (Railway Union), David McCrea (TRR), Ben McMillan (Mossley), Josh Moffett (Banbridge), Dylan Murphy (GK) (Limerick), Stephen Nolan (Monkstown), Paul Ritchie (North Down), Mark Ryan (Fingal), Ian Sloan (Cookstown), Tom Samuel (TRR), Robin Smyrl (Banbridge), Jeffrey Spillane (Railway Union), Scott Sullivan (Bandon), Darren Sweetnam (Bandon)
Reserves: Neil Gilmore (Banbridge), Matthew Rollins (Cookstown), Kirk Shimmins (TRR), Conor Montgomery (Belfast Harlequins)

Coach: Paul Cooke
Manager: Fraser Mills
Asst Coach: Coen Van Putten
Support/video: Tim Weir

Women's Division One: Bray 0 Loreto 3

Bray 0 Loreto 3 (Cathy McKean, Nikki Keegan, Hannah Matthews)

Orla Bell's Loreto took the top spot for the first time this season to pile more pressure on a slightly misfiring Railway Union with a comfortable 3-0 win on Tuesday night in Bray.

Cathy McKean put the Beaufort side ahead inside five minutes before Nikki Keegan slotted home from the penalty spot to erase some of their bad memories from the Jacqui Potter Cup against the Wicklow side. Hannah Matthews scored from a penalty corner.

The win sees Loreto move two points clear of Railway, though they have played three extra games. A tricky fixture awaits this Saturday against Hermes - the only other side left with a mathematical chance of taking the title - while Railway could have three games next week which will go a long way to seeing if they can claim their first ever league title.

Corinthian three-point penalty overturned

In a statement released this afternoon, it has been confirmed that Corinthian have been cleared of any wrong-doing in relation to the registration of players for their match with Fingal on December 13.

The Leinster Branch Management Committee last night decided to allow Corinthian HC’s appeal against a decision of the Fixtures Committee to reverse the result of the league match between the sides, with the Management Committee deciding the original 5-3 result should stand.

In Corinthian's appeal, it was made clear that the IHA had confirmed that the player in question was registered with the IHA and raised no objection to the inclusion of any CHC player in competitions over which they held jurisdiction.

This was a key factor as players registered after November 1, 2008, under Branch rule 88a), needed clearance from the IHA to take part in competitions which were qualifiers to the IHL.

Commenting on the decision, club president Sean Murtagh said: "CHC was dismayed that a decision, as serious as reversing the result of a league match this late in the season, was taken by the Fixtures Committee without allowing or requesting any representation from the club.

"However, we are pleased that the Management Committee afforded us the opportunity to fully rebut the allegations on which the decision was based and we are grateful to the Management Committee for their careful and even-handed consideration of the matter.

"Decisions of the Fixtures Committee in relation to this particular issue have now twice been overturned on appeal by the Management Committee. CHC has not breached any rules or regulations and we are happy that the matter has now been brought to a conclusion.

"A lot of time and energy has been expended in dealing with these two appeals, not just by members of CHC but also by many others, including the members of the Management Committee and the IHA. We would like to express our thanks to all those concerned.

"We have held back from making any comment on this affair until now, in order to allow the process to take its course. While this may have given oxygen to rumour and misinformation, we believe it was the proper course of action. We will not be commenting further on this case which we now regard as closed."
* Speaking to the Hook on Thursday night, a spokesperson for the Fixtures Committee believes they took the right course of action and stand by their decision to initially dock Corinthian three points. They explained that their evidence suggests three breaches of registration rules occurred. They will meet on Monday night as a committee to discuss the matter further.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Men's International: Ireland 0 France 1

Ireland 0 France 1 (Mathieu Durchon)
After the heights of Tuesday night, the comedown was fast and sudden as Ireland's second test with France was an uninspiring affair, illuminated only in the 60th minute by Mathieu Durchon's sweet volley.

Understandably, Revington took the chance to shuffle his pack and see what options are available to him with Karl Burns stepping out while Mitch Darling was sick. It meant Conor Harte started, Keith Black was back into the squad while Michael Maguire got a first international call-up - coming on in the 17th minute.

The first period was particularly uneventful. Alan Sothern's reaching volley drew a save while Ronan Gormley's follow-up on the reverse was blocked by Maxime Wilson.

France won the half's only corner a minute before the interval, profiting from Graham Shaw's casual clearance but the corner did not come out straight and the subsequent Fredi Soyez sweep shot was tame.

Other than that, Ireland defended well with Gormley and Joe Brennan keeping Gareth Lennox unemployed. Brennan's overheads to the on-rushing Johnny Jackson provided decent go-forward ball but little in the way of goal-mouth action.

Gormley and Brennan were rotated for the second half, with Jackson and Harte taking the central roles. The game opened up marginally with Alan Sothern unlucky not to get more on a David Hobbs crash ball while Nicolas Martin Brisac caused a few problems down the right wing.

Lucas Sevestre hit a post after digging through two weak tackles on the left endline before Brisac out-ran Tim Lewis on the right. Off-balance, his pull back took a deflection off an Irish stick, bouncing up awkwardly for Durchon - recalled after resting on Tuesday - but he judged the bounce perfectly to net high.

Sothern had another goalward deflection blocked by a scrambling Phelie Maguire before Shaw won Ireland's first corner in the 69th minute. Sothern's radar was a couple of inches right of the target and the game was up before some final hooter shenanigans between Harte and Durchon in the technical delegate's booth.

* For a couple more pics from tonight's game, click here

Ireland A fall to two losses

Ireland A put in two decent performances but, ultimately fell to defeat at the hands of the mighty Germans twice, unable to repeat the excellent draw in their first game.

Anna O'Flanagan gave her full international hopes no harm in scoring a goal in the 2-1 and 4-1 defeats - the latter strike equalising early in the second half of the third fixture in three days.

Ireland U-18 squad announced for Belgium series

A 19-strong panel has been announced for the Irish u-18 squad ahead of their trip to Nivelles, Belgium on April 15 to 17 as their preparations for the summer's European competition continues.

Three Rock pair Stephen West and Kyle Good were not considered due to their potential involvement with Three Rock in the EHL while Ryan McCrea is taking a break and Stephen Cole has a major foot injury.

Ian Sloan, meanwhile, will join the travelling party on recommendation from Irish U-16 coach Paul Cooke following outstanding performances in the Burney Cup and the John Waring tournament.

Cooke has allowed Andy Smyth to take a look at Sloan in Belgium - after consultation with the High Performance Director and the player's parents. The decision has been made early in preparations for this summer's European competitions so that if the player is not yet ready for the rigours of Ireland U-18, he can go back to Cooke's U-16 squad with a minimum of disruption.

The squad will also meet up on March 29, for a four-hour get-together in Banbridge. The side includes three of Corinthian's recent Mills Cup panel: Daniel Gribben, Davy Carson (pictured) and Conor Motyer. St Andrew's skipper Cian Speers also gets the nod along with midfield running mate Stu Loughrey. Sharp-shooter Shane O'Donoghue completes the Leinster involvement.

Speaking about the squad, coach Andy Smyth was keen to stress that those not included for this panel will still have a large part to play in the squad:

"A big part of the role of the JAG coaches is the development of young players. It is for this reason I will be keeping a squad of around 24 players together until after the England series in May.

"Those players who missed out on the Belgium trip WILL get a chance to be seen on the International stage prior to the squad being cut to the final 18 for the Europeans in Vienna.

"Development is about developing skills and techniques but it is also about developing players capable of performing in international matches and the added pressures that this brings."

Squad for Belgium: Alistair Thom (GK) (Cookstown), Daniel Gribben (GK)(Corinthian), Philip Brown (Banbridge), Scott Forbes (Banbridge), Steven Hunter (Lisnagarvey), Stuart Loughrey (Pembroke Wanderers), Richard Arneill (Lisnagarvey), Karl Lynch (Cork C of I), David Carson (Corinthian), Peter MacDonnell (Lisnagarvey), Cian Speers (Monkstown), Peter Purcell (Annadale), Shane O'Donoghue (Glenanne), Jonathan Ames (Cookstown), Conor Moyter (Corinthian), Andrew Scannell (Cork C of I), Stephen Dowds (Banbridge), Mark Crooks (Cookstown), Andrew Daunt (Cork C of I),

Coach: Andy Smyth
Manager: Chris McCandless
Asst Coach: Miles Warren
GK Coach: Paddy Grimes

Women's A International: Germany 1 Ireland 1

In a two-part saga, Ireland picked up a creditable draw against Germany over the past two days. Michelle Harvey gave Ireland the lead from the stroke-spot before Germany equalised ten seconds before half-time.

Driving sleet, though, caused the match's completion to be delayed until Tuesday morning. The second half remained scoreless to leave the final score 1-1.

Men's International: Ireland 8 France 2

Ireland 8 (Alan Sothern 3, Peter Caruth 2, Graham Shaw, Eugene Magee, Ronan Gormley) France 2 (Thomas Becuwe, Fredi Soyez)
Paul Revington's first match in charge got off to a lively start as the players endeavoured to show off their skills in front of the new man, warming up a wind-swept crowd at Serpentine Avenue.
"A new coach, a lot of positive energy in the team, enthusiasm and anticipation. You’re always going to go and put a good performance in," was newly confirmed skipper Ronan Gormley's (pictured, left) take on the game.
But he was quick to add a note of caution: “We can’t get too carried away. France started off well, but once we got on top they lost a bit of interest. They’re an international team, they’ve got some good players so they’ll be a new challenge tomorrow who’ll forget about today.”

Indeed, France went into a 20th minute lead, responding to Alan Sothern's early drag-flick with a nice diving goal from Thomas Becuwe and Fredi Soyez deflected reverse. In truth, they were France's sole efforts of note.

From there on, Ireland hit seven unanswered and could have had a couple more. Sothern levelled at 2-2 before Graham Shaw rocketed in an aerial from the right edge of the circle to make it 3-2 at half-time.

And the second half showed a real sharpness in the circle which Ireland have sometimes lacked. Eugene Magee took over corner duties to extend the lead before Peter Caruth scored two superb efforts - the first a rising reverse from near the endline, the second a beautiful move in tandem with Mitch Darling before Caruth used his 3D skills to take and finish in one airborne movement.

In between, Sothern made it six with his hat-trick from corners while Gormley rounded out the magic eight from the flick spot.

And Gormley was delighted to mark Revington's decision to hand him the captaincy in a full-time capacity with a goal, especially at such an exciting time for Ireland: “To be given the privilege to, one, captain your country and then, two, to captain your country when there’s the talent and friends in the team with a real opportunity to do something special. It’s awesome."

Gareth Watkins made his debut on the night while, at the other end of the spectrum, Karl Burns (pictured, right) appeared in green for the 99th time. He will have to wait, though, for his century as Conor Harte and Geoff McCabe replace Johnny Jackson and himself for tonight's second game.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Women's Division One: Trinity 0 Old Alex 2

Trinity 0 Old Alex 2 (Leanne Ryan, Aoife Budd)

Alex move into a strong position for the IHL placings with a second win in three days to move them into fourth spot. They benefit majorly from points on the board as the sides in pursuit, though they have games in hand, must all face each other in the end of season shoot-out.

Alex won by virtue of Leanne Ryan (pictured) and Aoife Budd's goals inside the first quarter, two well-taken goals from play. In an open encounter, both sides had plenty of chances to score but it was Alex who remained solid at the back to take the points.

For Trinity, they face their season-defining match with Corinthian on Saturday.

Gormley named as Irish captain

Ronan Gormley has been named skipper for the foreseeable future as part of a five-strong leadership team in a similar-style to the one employed under the previous management. Paddy Brown wore the armband in those days, supported by the likes of Mark Irwin and Jason Black.

Under Revington, Gormley heads up the quintet with David Hobbs and Graham Shaw sharing the vice captaincy role while John Jermyn and Stephen Butler are to provide support and leadership through their performances.

Timmy Cockram and Butler have joined Jermyn and Mikey Watt on the absentee list for the French two-game series, beginning tonight.

Speaking about their absence, new Irish coach Paul Revington explains “The Irish Team will miss these influential players in the upcoming games versus France, however the short term loss will be a long term gain as John is released to conclude another level of his studies, and Stephen is allowed some time off to refresh and re-energise before a busy schedule in the summer. Tim is still recovering from an injury and I look forward to his return in the coming weeks."

Watt and Jermyn had both already been allowed leave due to upcoming exams. It means Revington's squad is pared down to 19 for the visit of "les Bleus".

Monday, March 23, 2009

Sutton double-up

Sutton Park's junior section retained the Leinster Junior Schools A Final at Grange Road today, beating St Andrew's by a single goal in an intriguing battle.

In a high tempo game, St Andew's put Sutton Park under pressure from the start, drawing the best from goalkeeper Ben Phiefer - later to be named man of the match. But Sutton grew in stature as the game progressed and eventually worked a great goal, finished off by Evan Christian

It continued Colin Stewart's excellent run of coaching success - his third title with his various teams in the past fortnight.

Goodheart names French squad for Ireland series

French Coach Scott Goodheart has selected 18 players for the two match series with Ireland at Serpentine Avenue this week, using the games as an opportunity to try out a few squad variations.

“These matches are an important opportunity for the players to show their potential, and also for the coaching staff to finalise our focus for 2009,” he said.

Mathieu Durchon, pictured in action against Ireland in the Olympic qualifier is rested while Goodheart's panel includes two new players to the senior squad, U-21s Guillaume Samson and Lucas Sevestre. Both players impressed in recent matches against Scotland and have earned another opportunity for the France senior team.

The series also sees the return of Nicolas Monnier, the 30-year-old veteran playing in his first matches for France since the 2008 Olympic Qualifier tournament in March 2008.

"We are evolving as a team, and the emergence in confidence and skill of some of the younger players in the group has been very exciting. This is also motivating the more experienced players to keep improving. I hope this continues into and beyond these games,” Goodheart said.

France squad: Arnaud Becuwe, Thomas Becuwe, Martin Genestet, Thomas Gourdin, Willy Hoareau, Noud Jansen, Joost Jansen, Max Lanos, Henri Julien Lhomme, Nicolas Martin Brisac, Valentin Migneau, Nicolas Monnier, Guillaume Samson, Yannick Schambert, Francois Scheefer, Lucas Sevestre, Frederic Soyez, Max Wilson

Match schedule (both at Serpentine Avenue):
Tuesday (7pm) Ireland vs France
Wednesday (7pm) Ireland vs France

* To see the Ireland squad named earlier this month, click here

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Pembroke reach ISC final: Men's and women's results

Pembroke repeated their All-Ireland Club Championships penalty stroke victory over Glenanne from the 2008 in a bizarre match at Serpentine Avenue to advance to the ISC final, adding yet another chapter to the intense rivalry between the teams.

The sides cannot seem to produce a regular match and while the hockey, at times, may not have matched the heights of prior encounters, the intrigue level certainly did.

Indeed, seven yellow cards - including three for the Glens in a tetchy ten minute period - tells just part of the story of an incredible spectacle.

Maurice Elliott gave the hosts the lead in the opening quarter, scoring from close range at the third phase of a penalty corner after Steven Doran rebuffed both Alan Sothern and Gordon Elliott's efforts.

Much of the rest of the half was played in between the 25s but the temperature began to rise as a few niggly tackles entered the game. Alan Browne was the first to go into the bin, starting a domino effect as the umpires added Paul Fitzpatrick and Graham Shaw to the TD's bench - all receiving yellow for dissent.

The Glens played the period with eight well and limited Pembroke to just a trio of half-chances rather than anything more substantial. Getting the players back onto the pitch also proved problematic. Browne returned as per usual but confusion reigned as Warren McCully only intended Fitzpatrick to return but Shaw followed onto the pitch at the same time.

He was subsequently returned to the bin to serve the remainder of his suspension.

Into the second half, the cards continued to be dished out. Craig Fulton and Alan Sothern both received lengthy bans for bad tackles while Johnny Goulding became the fourth Glenane player to serve time for dissent.

Paddy Conlon (pictured right) had the game's best chance to seal the result, creating an exceptional opening after mugging Graham Shaw on his own 25. His exchange with Justin Sherriff saw the former Irish international create room down the endline before squaring for Conlon who inexplicably missed an open goal. In a tough affair, Sherriff would later take a break as he was left badly cut while Michael O'Connor was another injury victim with a hefty blow to his ankle confining him to the sidelines.

The Glens let three corner chances slip by, the pick of them gloved onto the bar by David Harte before Brendan Parsons was attributed with the equaliser, though Alan Giles' stick had a large part to play in re-directing an edge of the circle past David Harte.

Extra-time brought more cagey play but Pembroke looked the more likely to get the win when David Shaw was binned but a decisive goal was not forthcoming.

Sherriff handed the early initiative to Glenanne, hitting the post with the first stroke but Graham Shaw's effort was blocked by Harte to make things all-square by round four. Round five of penalties produced no winner so sudden death ensued.

Stephen Butler, changing his usual technique of starting side on to the ball, saw his effort kept out by Harte's boot leaving Fulton to complete a truly enthralling win and keep alive hopes of retaining the title.

The 'Broke's final opponents will be made known next Saturday when Cookstown play Annadale in the second semi-final. Cookstown made it a particularly sweet couple of days for the club as they ousted Banbridge at the quarter-final stage with goals from Greg Allen and Ivan Steen. Eugene Magee recovered from a foot injury to get the Bann response.

It makes for a big day at Coolnafranky next Saturday with Cookstown hosting an ISC/IJC double-header.

On the women's side, cup specialists UCD are the only Leinster side remaining in the competition as they added Belfast Harlequins to their list of high profile victims.

Goals from Irish internationals Roisin Flinn and Lisa Jacob augmented Catriona McGlip's effort in a handsome 3-1 win. It sets up an intriguing tie with fellow students, the Ulster Elks who beat Corinthian by a single goal. The pair have never met before in this competition and avoided each other in this year's Intervarsities, too, so both go into unknown territory.

Railway Union will now look to focus on the leagues as they dropped out of the running for a cup for the second time in four days as Ballymoney's home strength proved too much, taking the honours 5-2. A first Leinster league title now becomes the major focus.

Pegasus, meanwhile, were too strong for Lurgan and won 3-0 courtesy of Suzanne Beaney's hat-trick.

Men’s Irish Senior Cup
Semi Final:
Pembroke Wanderers 1 (Maurice Elliott) Glenanne 1 (Brendan Parsons) Pembroke win 5-4 on strokes
Quarter Final: Cookstown 2 (Greg Allen, Ivan Steen) Banbridge 1 (Eugene Magee)

ESB Irish Senior Cup - Quarter Finals
Lurgan 0 Pegasus 3 (Suzanne Beaney 3); Ballymoney 5 (Nikki Parke 2, Lyndsey McVicker, Bridget Cleland 2) Railway Union 2 (Kate Dillon, Jean McDonnell); Ulster Elks 1 (Caroline Smith) Corinthian 0; Belfast HQ 1 (Jenna Watt) UCD 3 (Catriona McGlip, Roisin Flinn, Lisa Jacob)
Semi Final draw: Pegasus v Ballymoney; UCD v Ulster Elks

* For some great pictures of the action taken by Adrian Boehm, click here and from Rob O'Connor, click here

Women's Division One results

Saturday: Loreto 2 (Nikki Keegan, Cathy McKean) Glenanne 0
Loreto move to within a point of Railway to up the ante on the long-time league leaders going into the league's closing stages. They did so with a hard-won three points against Glenanne at Beaufort with Nikki Keegan and Cathy McKean on target.

Old Alex 2 (Aoife Budd, Leanne Ryan) Bray 1 (Linda O'Neill)
Alex move right back into the frame for the IHL places, especially with next week's game at UCD and a battle with Pembroke to come on the last day of the season, as they beat Bray at Milltown.

Former international Linda O'Neill was on target for the Garden County side but goals from Aoife Budd and Leanne Ryan meant the points stayed on home turf.

Sunday: Hermes 7 (Anna O'Flanagan 2, Christine Quinlan, Jenny Burke, Sinead McDonnell, Aoife Harte, Shelley Sloan) Glenanne 0
Hermes completed a great week as they added a comfortable win over Glenanne to the Jacqui Potter Cup, lashing seven past Glenanne. They built up a 4-0 half-time lead, in spite of missing the St Andrew's trio of Chloe Watkins, Niamh Atcheler and Gillian Pinder while Aoife McCarthy was also an absentee.

Anna O'Flanagan netted twice in the first half while Sinead McDonnell scored a stroke in the second half.

Men's Division One results

UCD 1 (Robbie McFarlane) Railway Union 1 (Paul O'Brien)
UCD were denied a first win of the season by Paul O'Brien's second half strike in a sprightly encounter at Belfield though the point could prove crucial with Kilkenny visiting next weekend.

Railway had the best of the opening stages with one Peter English drag-flick taken off the line by Ben Grogan's head. To the naked eye it looked to have hit his stick but the lump that emerged on his head later suggested otherwise. Railway were dangerous throughout as the game flowed from counter-attack to counter-attack with Mark English a threat

But UCD rallied well with Rob Lynch impressing, and Robbie McFarlane gave the students the lead in the 50th minute when he foudn space, spun and flicked into the roof of the net. O'Brien responded for Railway ten minutes later from a corner rebound before both sides had chances to win the game.

David Quinn saw a glit-edged opportunity blocked while Stephen O'Keefe was called on to make a comfortable, but vital, late save.

Three Rock Rovers 3 (Garry Ringwood, Peter McConnell, Patrick Shanahan) Fingal 1 (David Bane)
Fingal's IHL hopes became more dependent on Corinthian's three point penalty being upheld after they fell 3-1 to a below par Three Rock at Grange Road. Rovers led 2-0, Garry Ringwood's stroke setting them on their way.

A third followed in the second half before Fingal pulled one back. The hosts, though, were left concerned about the performance after the game with EHL concerns coming rapidly to the fore.

Monkstown 3 (Gareth Watkins 2, Brian Groves) Corinthian 3 (Andrew Sutton, Darren Kimfley, Andrew Cronje)
Trailing 3-0 at the break Corinthian produced a thrilling fightback against a tiring Monkstown to pick up a point. Gareth Watkins bagged the first and the third from corners before half-time, sandwiching Brian Groves' counter-attack goal.

Watkins would later spend time in the sin-bin for kicking the ball away while the reds switched to four up front for the second half in their efforts to get something from a key match in terms of IHL places.

It opened the game out massively with chances coming thick and fast at both ends. Andrew Sutton got the first, with a left-handed cricket stroke - applying an upright reverse to a bouncing ball from the top of the D.

Monkstown had chances to move further clear but their forwards tired due to a lack of rotation possibilities. Their bench was light on forwards due to injury and the involvement of their young charges in the All-Ireland school's. Corinthian made the most of their chances to bring the game back to 3-3

YMCA 2 (Jacob Webber, Richie Pedreschi) TRR 2 (Peter McConnell, Lucas Piccioli)
In almost a mirror image of the pairs recent draw, YM placed another dent in Three Rock's hopes of retaining the Leinster senior league with a 2-2 draw at Claremont Road. Indeed, it could have been worse for Rovers as they had to face a late corner without a recognised goalkeeper.

Wendel Armstrong was sin-binned for playing the ball outisde his area with his pads, leading to Peter Blakeney donning the protective gear for the first time since his time at Trinity. He kept out Jacob Webber's corner which would have sealed the win.

Peter McConnell's drag-flick gave the visitors the lead before Webber scored a fine individual goal to level matters. Lucas Piccioli's rebound made it 2-1 before Richie Pedreschi tied the game up once more.

Clontarf crowned Division Two champions

Navan 0 Clontarf 3 (Rob Abbott, Luke Hayden, Dan Tracey)
Clontarf completed the division two title with three games remaining at Sportlink on Saturday, ousting a gritty Navan 3-0. There was no repeat of the double-figure win the last time the two sides met in the league as the Bulls came up against a side determined to spoil the party.

Clontarf, though, hit the front in the first half with Rob Abbott netting a penalty stroke. It came about after Gareth Borland intercepted and his long ball found Luke Hayden. He rounded the keeper but his shot hit a foot leading to the game-breaking stroke.

Hayden added the second after the break and Dan Tracey rounded out the scoring with his second in two games since joining the club. It proved the perfect day for the club and especially Gordon Lindsay who became a father for the second time on Friday.

He adds a second triumph in division two title - the previous one won with Trinity - to the division one title he won with Three Rock in 2003.

Avoca 4 (Stephen Day, Stephen Brownlow, Will Aylmer, Fergal McGuinness) Bray 3 (Jamie Crawford, Simon Cox, David Bronner)
Avoca produced a stunning comeback in the last six minutes at Newpark to throw the whole playoff situation wide open. Trailing 3-1 going into the game's latter stages, Stephen Brownlow, Will Aylmer and Fergal McGuinness all got on the scoresheet to give not just themselves but Skerries and Trinity a shot at taking second place.

Dublin University 6 (Daire Coady, Ben Hewitt, Andrew Beverland, Haldrick Sutherland 3) Naas 0
A comfortable win, based around Haldrick Sutherland's hat-trick, sees Trinity stay in with an outside chance of taking the playoff spot - something coming all the more attractive should UCD bounce ahead of Kilkenny into ninth place in division one in the coming week. Three wins over rivals Bray, Avoca and Suttonians could see them make a late season surge.

Weston 0 Skerries 2 (S O'Connor, Ali McMahon)

Not even the return of Ronan Walsh from retirement could inspire Weston to pick up a result against Skerries as the north Dubliners get right back into the playoff mix. They now lie a point off Bray with a game in hand despite once again missing first team regulars.

Neville Davin Cup:
Clontarf's double bid remains on track after they produced a stunning second half performance against Bray to set up a final with Trinity on April 19. Tying 2-2 at the interval, four second half goals saw the Bulls sail into the decider - Luke Hayden added two to his weekend tally while Rob Abbott, Derek Ledwidge, Ciaran McNamara and Ross McMullen were also on target.

On the other side of the draw, Barry Glavey's drag and Craig Moore's strike against Weston in a 2-0 win gave them a shot at lifting the Neville Davin for the first time.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Cookstown produce first-class performance

Cookstown HS 2 (Stephen Sloan, Stuart Smyth) St Andrew's College 0
An immaculate Cookstown performance at Grange Road saw the Tyrone side become the inaugural John Waring champions as they produced a complete performances to gain revenge over St Andrew's.

The Saints had dumped reigning champions Cookstown out of last October’s extended version of All-Ireland school’s competition.

But it was a different the story in the ‘super-sixes’ as the Tyrone school –inspired by Stuart Smyth and David Best – netted two first half goals and never looked back to record a handsome 2-0 victory.

The manner of victory, though, was something to behold. Town impressed in all areas, through the trickery of Ian Sloan, the direct and forceful running of player-of-the-match Stuart Smyth to the impenetrable defending of David Best, the performance had it all.

Both sides went into the tie missing big-hitters. Irish senior international David Ames missed out for Cookstown with an elbow injury sustained in the Ulster final against Banbridge two weeks ago while underage international Stephen Cole was marked absent due to an open fracture in his foot.

It meant a midfield reshuffle for Andrew’s and they never truly got to grips with the mix of aggression and guile supplied by Stephen Sloan – one of two sons of Irish legend Marty on show.

Town hit the front early on when Smyth’s audacious overhead from a long corner found Mark Wilson unmarked on the back post. His effort was blocked by Stephen West but the rebound was cleared deliberately over the end line, resulting in the game’s first penalty corner.

Ian Sloan set up his brother Stephen to slam home, via a slight deflection. Smyth was delivering a master class by the time he netted the second. His disguised reverse pass fed Mark Crooks and the flying winger beat two defenders on the end line, returned the favour to Smyth and he swept home forcefully from just six yards out.

Davy Carson - depsite suffering from illness during the week - was showing plenty of menace at the other end, latching onto Richard Sykes' long clearances out of the Andrew's defence and Alister Thom was called on a couple of times to deny the danger but as the game wore on, such chances proved more and more sporadic.

And after the break Cookstown were never truly threatened, using their tight-knit passing game to camp in the Andrew's half while Best gave a sweeping master-class to mop up any loose balls.

It means the inaugural title heads north - the 2007 All-Ireland school's champions adding yet another to the town's recent list of accolades.

* For more pictures from today's game from Inpho, click here. For Lindie Naughton's pictures from the John Waring, click here.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Colaiste Iognaid send Kate Russell into the West

Colaiste Iognaid 3 (Katie Codyre, Elaine Carey, Isabelle Mortimer) Foyle and Londonderry 2 (Megan Frazer, Olivia Jones)
Colaiste Iognaid became just the second Connacht winners of the Kate Russell Cup as Isabelle Mortimer found the backboard four minutes into golden goal extra-time to break the hearts of Foyle and Londonderry.

In doing so, they emulated the triumph in 1988 of Galway’s Taylor’s Hill and continue the resurgence of hockey in the Western province.

In a thrilling battle, Mortimer pounced on a stray ball on the flick spot to scramble past Holly Lynch and spark wild celebrations from the large visiting contingent to Grange Road.

In truth, Jesuits did it the hard way. Despite showing the more fluid hockey, Foyle stung the Galway girls in the 27th minute when the tournament’s outstanding player, Megan Frazer, produced a virtuoso turn from a corner to place her shot past Emilie Molloy.

It was a truly unique corner. The stick-stopper dummied a reverse stop, took it on her open and pulled under her arm to Frazer who swiveled past two and slapped into the corner.

The Foyle midfielder was later named player of the tournament in her last school’s appearance before she takes up a sports scholarship in the US, most likely to be in Maryland in the autumn of 2009

Prior to that, Frazer and Brenda Flannery were enjoying a high quality tussle in midfield, both showing top quality skills. Lynsey Trainor down the right was also making good use of her tricks and won a corner from which Tara Melvin struck just wide.

The score stayed in the Ulster school’s favour deep into the second half until Irish under-18 panellist Katie Codyre slammed home from around the flick spot following a direct long corner.

And with four minutes remaining, Jesuits thought they had the game won when 14-year-old Elaine Carey slapped in a back-post effort after Lynsey Trainor burst down the right channel.

But, in a stunning endgame, Foyle bounced back immediately as Olivia Jones’corner took a wicked ricochet into the roof of the net to force extra-time.

Iognaid were not to be denied and Mortimer duly helped her side take the win their progressive attitude deserved. It led to an eventful journey with word reaching The Hook this evening that the Colaiste Iognaid bus received a garda escort on its way back to Galway.

* For more pictures from the final from Inpho, click here while a couple of pics from the final, among other tournament pics, can be found here and here. Lindie Naughton's excellent pics from the Kate Russell can be found here