Sunday, May 31, 2009

Hermes through to Euro final

Hermes reached the final of the EuroHockey Club Champions Trophy courtesy of a 1-1 draw with Belarussian side Ritm Grodno in Wettingen, Switzerland this afternoon.

Alexandra schoolgirl Deirdre Duke (pictured) proved the heroine, levelling two minutes into the second half with a superb diving touch to Shelley Sloan’s cross.

Grodno took the lead in the eighth minute through skipper Volka Shyntar as they enjoyed the lion’s share of possession in a tough, physical battle.

Indeed, Hermes – needing just a point to progress – were made to live on their nerves as they held out nine penalty corners as well as surviving the sin-binning of Jenny Kinch in the 50th minute unscathed.

Grodno also had a goal disallowed with just five minutes to go, chalked off after a lengthy Hermes appeal. For their part, the Belarussians picked up their seventh and eighth yellow cards from their three games in the tournament, the first coinciding with Duke's all-important goal.

It means, in combination with Saturday’s 9-0 win over host Club Rottweiss, the point was enough to see the Dubliners head their group on goal difference with Scottish champions Glasgow Western in second.

By virtue of heading the group, Hermes draw the potentially easier of the two final playoff games, facing Italy’s Mori Villafranca in tomorrow’s final.

Promotion to next season’s Club Champion’s Cup up for grabs for Loreto to take on though there have been some specualtion that a women's EHL could be inaugurated in the near future.

EuroHockey Club Champion’s Trophy schedule:
Hermes vs Mori Villafranca, 12pm

Final Group B standings (points/goal difference):
1. Hermes 5pts (+9) 2. Glasgow Western 5pts (+5) 3. Ritm Grodno 5pts (+4) 4. Rottweiss Wettingen 0pts (-18)

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Nine goal hammering puts Hermes in pole position

Hermes’ destiny is in their own hands as they smashed host club Rottweis Wettingen 9-0 in Switzerland today to head their EuroHockey Champion’s Trophy group on goal difference after two games.

Former Irish international Linda Caulfield started the rout in the ninth minute with her first of four goals on the day and, from there, the Dubliners never looked back.

Aoife Harte deflected home a penalty corner before teenage sensation Chloe Watkins’ spectacular first time volley made it three on the 20 minute mark.

Caulfield and Christine Quinlan added corner goals to build up a 5-0 lead by the interval. Jenny Burke added a pair after the break with Caulfield completed her personal tally, once again from two switched corner moves.

Glasgow Western’s 2-2 draw with Belarus’ Ritm Grodno means Hermes need just a point from their game to advance to the final.

They lie top of their group ahead of Grodno – who they play in the final game of the group stages – by virtue of a vastly superior goal difference.

The Belarusian’s, though, will be no pushovers, showing a zest for the physical side of the game, picking up multiple sin-binnings in both their group games to date.

Group B Results:
Hermes 9 (Linda Caulfield 4, Jenny Burke 2, Christine Quinlan, Chloe Watkins, Aoife Harte) Rottweiss Wettingen 0; Ritm Grodno 2 Glasgow Western 2

Group B Standings (points/goal difference):
1. Hermes 4pts (+9) 2. Ritm Grodno 4pts (+4) 3. Glasgow Western 2pts (0) 4. Rottweiss Wettingen (-13)

Glasgow Western vs Rottweiss Wettingen, 1pm; Hermes vs Ritm Grodno, 3pm

Friday, May 29, 2009

Hermes stung by late equaliser.

Despite leading three times, Hermes were forced to settle for just a point in their opening EuroHockey Club Champions Trophy group match against Glasgow Western in Wettingen, Switzerland, drawing 3-3.

The Booterstown club conceded with just three minutes to go, denying them a shock win against the pre-tournament favourites.

In the face of a huge volume of early pressure, Hermes took the lead in the 16th minute from the penalty spot, Sinead McDonnell netting after Anna O’Flanagan was stick-fouled.

Glasgow were level within two minutes, again from the penalty spot before Jenny Burke – playing in her sixth European club tournament – nailed Hermes only corner of the match to restore the advantage.

By contrast, the Scots won 11 corners but failed to convert any with stand-in goalkeeper Yvonne Kenny in inspired form.

She is likely to be replaced by Irish international Emma Gray for today’s game who was unavailable yesterday due to exam pressure,

Scotland striker Holly Cram did equalise just before the break for 2-2 but a superb move down the right-flank between Burke and Niamh Atcheler set up Chloe Watkins for what looked to be the decisive goal in the 54th minute.

But Glasgow pounced with 180 seconds to go to leave honours shared.

Irish umpires abound: Euro news in brief

* Continuing Ireland's recent trend of supplying top umpires and officials to major competitions, a wealth of Irish whistle-blowers are involved in the various European competitions in action this weekend.

Carol Metchette is in Den Bosch for the Women's EuroHockey Club Champions Cup - and will also be involved at the Europeans in August - while Julie Beamish travels with Hermes to Wettingen. Zenia Howe will be in Vienna for the Club Champions Challenge. On the men's side, Nigel McCullough will be a judge for the Club Challenge I event in Prague.

On the international scene later this summer, Kieran Bolger and Gail Taylor have been appointed to umpire the Celtic Cup in Edinburgh in June. Robert Johnston will be in Vienna for the Boy's Youth Nations Trophy; Crawford Tipping is the TD at the Youth Nations Challenge in Prague; Catriona Hassey umpires as the Girl's Youth Nations Championships in Nivelles.

Martin Canniffe and Colin Hutchinson will be involved in the senior Europeans in Amsterdam with David Stewart going to Wrexham for the Nations Trophy. Douglas Grey (TD), Geoff Conn (umpire) and Gavin Cullen (umpire's manager) make their way to Zagreb for the Nations Challenge I.

Chris McConkey will be in Bratislava for the Challenge II while Paula Jenkins goes to Rome as a Technical Official for the women's Nation's trophy.

* Ireland's U-16 boys and girls teams will travel to Barcelona in July 2010 for their respective European Championships.

The boys have been drawn in a group to face Holland, Russia and Austria wh
ile the girls will play Russia, Spain and Ukraine between July 12 and 20 of next year.

* Should you be chained to a computer all weekend, there is still plenty of hockey action available to you this weekend with the final's weekend of the EuroHockey League going on all weekend. The EHL website will have live streaming of every game. Uhlenhorst get the action underway against Three Rock's conquerors Leuven on Saturday at 11am with the all-Dutch semi-final between Bloemendaal and hosts Rotterdam tipping off at 1.30pm Irish time.

* To see if your question for world player-of-the-year Pol Amat (left) made the cut, you can read about his thoughts now on the EHF website.

Stewart aims to go out with a bang

Colin Stewart leads his Hermes’ side into action for the last time this weekend as he looks to cap a glittering four year spell with a tenth trophy.

His team gets their EuroHockey Club Champion’s Trophy campaign underway this afternoon against Glasgow Western in Wettingen, Switzerland looking to maintain an incredible record in European competition for the Booterstown club.

In six European adventures, Hermes only finished outside the medals in their first attempt back in 1998.

Since then, victories in the B-division in Dublin (2005 Club Champions), Villafranca (2006 Cup Winner’s Cup) and Swansea (2007, Club Champions) have been achieved.

The highlight, though, came in 2000 when the club achieved Irish club hockey’s best ever finish – third place in the Cup Winner’s Cup A division, trailing only German and Dutch opposition.

And Stewart expects that pedigree to transmit itself to the new generation of players rising through the Hermes’ ranks.

Five schoolgirls make the trip but will be guided by the experience of Jenny Burke, Linda Caulfield, Jill Hodgins and Jenny Kinch; all of whom have plenty of prior knowledge of these events.

Indeed, Burke has been part of the panel for every one of the club’s European adventures though missed out in ’98 due to injury.

His side goes into the tournament, though, without their IHL semi-final game-breaker Nikki Evans (pictured, left) due to exams while Emma Gray misses the Friday game for the same reason. Fiona Connery joins the squad in Evans' stead, the international returning 12 weeks after giving birth to add her wealth of class and experience, too.

The scheduling, as such, is something Stewart is none too pleased about. “I have to say one thing about this tournament. I don’t how it affects other countries but it is too late in the year very late, a really awkward time for anyone who studies. I can’t speak for other teams, some teams might have broken up for indoor but, for us, it’s certainly not great.”

Hermes will need to negotiate a group including Belarus and Switzerland’s national champions as well as Glasgow, needing a top two finish to reach Monday’s crossover finals.

Stewart says of the opposition: “The Scottish team will probably be the rivals but that’s not to degrade any of the other teams. I don’t really know much about them to be honest. Realistically, if we play well enough we should do well. We’ll look after ourselves rather than worrying too much about what they play like until we’re over there.”

The tournament will be the Tasmanian’s swansong with the club and while he remains coy over his future, he says the memories from his time will be cherished for a long time.

“People have asked me why I’m leaving. Well, it’s time to move on.

“I think you can have a voice for four years, it’s time to move on. You don’t want to be stale and boring the players.”

The initial plan was to step down at the end of last season but the team’s progression convinced Stewart to stay for an extra year. The whole club knew quite early [that I would be moving on] but because of the success last year, I wanted to finish off going to Europe.

“Initially, I was a bit sceptical going to women’s hockey just for a change because, originally, I was either going to have three years out of hockey or find a new challenge but it’s just been fantastic.

“I’d like to just have a public forum to say the club has been, the word I had in my head was ‘fortunate’, fortunate to be with a team for four years – this sounds a bit braggy but… - a side that has won nine trophies and we hope to finish off with ten.

“But also our seconds and thirds both won cups this year so the club has been really progressive. The coaching and organisation in the background has been superb and you look at the fillies… any club would be so envious to have kids like that coming through.

“Joan Morgan, Joan Moran and Susan Spence… they are just outstanding, absolutely brilliant. Those three ladies and all the other people in Hermes have made my life really good. I’ve really enjoyed it.”

Inevitably many will ask whether he has anything lined up in the near future but he says he won’t be making any snap decisions.

“I want to enjoy this weekend and then go as far away from a hockey field as I can for three or four weeks because I’m knackered, mate, it’s been a long season.”

Squad: Emma Gray, Yvonne Kenny, Linda Caulfield, Jenny Kinch, Jenny Burke, Sinead McDonnell, Aoife McCarthy, Jill Hodgins, Aoife Harte, Christine Quinlan, Anna O’Flanagan, Fiona Connery, Shelly Sloan, Gillian Pinder, Niamh Atcheler, Chloe Watkins, Sarah Greene, Deirdre Duke.

Pool A: Siauliai Gintra Universitetas (LTU), HC Mori Villafranca (ITA), SK Slavia Praha (CZE), Swansea LHC (WAL)
Pool B: HC Ritm Grodno(BLR), Hermes HC (IRL), Glasgow Western (SCO), HC Rotweiss Wettingen (SUI)

Match Schedule
Friday, May 29 (3pm, GMT) Hermes v Glasgow Western
Saturday, May 30 (4pm, GMT) Hermes v HC Rotweiss Wettingen
Sunday, May 31 (3pm, GMT) HC Ritm Grodno v Hermes
Monday, June 1 Crossover finals

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Smyth names Irish U-18 boys panel

Andy Smyth has named his 18-strong panel for this Summer's EuroHockey Youth Nation's Trophy to be held in Austria in July. Eleven players remain from the U-18 side that claimed Four-Nations' success in early August last year in Cardiff, while the side will continue to be captained by Stuart Loughrey (right).

In making his selection, Smyth praised the players for their dedication in spite of mounting academic concerns at this time of year.

"This has been an incredible group to work with so far. The attitude and commitment they have shown in the face of exam pressures has been superb. It was a real challenge for the coaching staff to cut to 18 players as the quality throughout the training squad was so high.

"Those players who have missed out will have an opportunity to train with the squad right up to the tournament such was the close margin for selection."

Six Leinster players make the tournament panel but St Andrews' skipper Cian Speers (pictured, left) is unable to travel with the team due to injury.

Smyth added: "My heart goes out to Cian who had a excellent tour of Belgium but has unfortunately broken his arm. These things happen in sport and Cian will react well to this setback and will come back stronger for it next year.

"Currently the most important things for those selected is to focus on their exams and keep a good level of physical conditioning. We have gone to regional sessions for the next month in order to minimise travel and maximise study time before coming together again at the end of June for matches vs Scotland ."

Ireland get their campaign underway on July 6 against Ukraine before facing the hosts and Switzerland in the group stages. France, Wales, Italy and the emerging Croatia - for whom former Genesis, Dublin University and Leinster U-21 girl's coach Gilles van Hesteren is now working with - lie in wait in the playoff stages.

Squad: Alistair Thom (GK, Cookstown/Cookstown HS), Stephen West (GK, Three Rock Rovers/St Andrews), Phillip Brown (Banbridge/Banbridge Academy), Scott Forbes (Banbridge/Banbridge Academy), Stephen Cole (Monkstown/St Andrews), Karl Lynch (Cork C of I/Bandon GS), Stephen Hunter (Lisnagarvey/Wallace HS), David Carson (Corinthian/St Andrews), Stuart Loughrey (capt, Pembroke Wanderers/St Andrews), Peter MacDonnell (Lisnagarvey/Wallace HS), Peter Purcell (Annadale/Sullivan Upper), Mark Crooks (Cookstown/Cookstown HS), Ian Sloan (Cookstown/Cookstown HS), Kyle Good (Three Rock Rovers/Wesley College), Stephen Dowds (Banbridge/Banbridge Academy), Shane O’Donoghue (Glennane/High School), Jonathan Ames (Cookstown/Cookstown HS), Stuart O’Grady (Cork C of I/Ashton)

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

Monday, July 6 (3pm): Ireland v Ukraine
Tuesday, July 7 (3pm): Ireland v Austria
Wednesday, July 8 (5pm): Ireland v Switzerland
Friday, July 10/Saturday, July 11 – Classification & Finals

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Ireland squad for Wales' series revealed

Ireland's will get a feel for the conditions they will encounter in Wrexham in the Europeans as Paul Revington named his panel for a double-header at the venue next week.

Speaking about the squad selected today, he said: “These games against Wales will provide our squad with another good opportunity to put training hours into test match situations.

"Michael Watt (pictured) returns to action after several months completing his studies in Scotland, while the likes of John Jermyn, Stephen Butler, Timmy Cockram and Geoff McCabe will also play their first international games in 2009 having missed the games against France in March.

"The squad has been working well together and this team will be well tested by a skilful Wales outfit playing on home turf and at the venue of the upcoming Euro Nations Trophy in August.”

Ireland squad: David Harte (Pembroke Wanderers), Iain Walker (YMCA), Ronan Gormley (Capt) (Pembroke Wanderers), Tim Lewis (Pembroke Wanderers), Joe Brennan (Glenanne), Conor Harte (Pembroke Wanderers), John Jackson (Loughborough), Graham Shaw (V/Capt) (Glenanne), Stephen Butler (Glenanne), David Hobbs (V/Capt) (Cork C of I), John Jermyn (Cork C of I), Andy McConnell (Three Rock Rovers), Geoff McCabe (Banbridge), Eugene Magee (Banbridge), Timmy Cockram (Lisnagarvey), Mitch Darling (Three Rock Rovers), Alan Sothern (Pembroke Wanderers), Michael Watt (Grange),

Saturday, June 6 (2.30pm) Ireland v Wales
Sunday, June 7 (1pm) Ireland v Wales

Monday, May 25, 2009

Logue names U-18 squad for Europeans

Irish U-18 coach Mary Logue announced her 18-player panel to travel to Nivelles in Belgium for the European Youth Nations Championships 2009 in early July.

Speaking about the squad, Logue said: “Following difficult decisions, given the quality of players in the training panel, I am very pleased to announce the squad of 18.

"The commitment shown by the players has been fantastic to date, especially given that a number of the training panel are currently preparing for exams. I look forward to fine-tuning our preparation over the next five weeks which will be helped by our international games against England in Manchester and against Scotland in Dublin in late June."

Ireland will compete in an initial group phase against England, France and Belgium before entering the crossover phases with Holland, Germany, Lithuania and Russia.

Ireland U-18: Sammy Jo Greer (GK) (Coleraine/Ballymoney), Emilie Molloy (GK) (Colaiste Iognaid/Galway), Niamh Atcheler (St Andrews/Hermes), Natalie Barr (Lurgan/Lurgan), Naomi Carroll (St Patricks Comprehensive/Catholic Institute), Katie Codyre (Colaiste Iognaid/Greenfields), Deirdre Duke (Alexandra College/Hermes), Brenda Flannery (Captain) (Colaiste Iognaid/Greenfields), Orla Fox (Mount Sackville/Pembroke Wanderers), Sarah Greene (Loreto Foxrock/Hermes), Hannah Matthews (Loreto Beaufort/Loreto), Ali Meeke (High School/Loreto ), Anna Mae Morton (Royal School Armagh/Armagh), Dora Gorman (Taylors Hill/Greenfields), Gillian Pinder (St Andrews and Hermes), Vanessa Surgeoner (Ballyclare/Randalstown), Lynsey Trainor (Colaiste Iognaid/Galway), Chloe Watkins (St Andrews/Hermes)

Coach: Mary Logue
Asst Coach: Richie Malone
Manager: Sinead McDonnell


July 6 (4.30pm): Ireland v Belgium
July 7 (4.30pm): Ireland v France
July 8 (6.30pm): Ireland v England
July 10: Classification and Semis
July 11:Classification and Finals

Magee and Clarke honoured by their peers

Eugene Magee and Emma Clarke received the top honours last Saturday night at the ESB Irish Hockey Awards as they were named the Player’s Player of the Year by their respective international team-mates.

Leinster players won the rest of the individual awards with Rovers' pairing Neil Lyons and Kyle Good taking the men's Senior Club Player and U-18 player respectively while Railway's Jean McDonnell was honoured with the women's club player title. Hermes starlet Niamh Atcheler claimed the women's U-18 prize.

Pembroke's Craig Fulton was awarded Coach of the Year, adding yet another gong to the unprecedented four titles claimed in 21 days with his work in restructuring his club's 3rd to 7th teams training systems also cited.

Carol Metchette took title of Umpire of the Year, a deserved winner after her success at the Beijing Olympics.

Leinster and Loreto's Sally Ann Fanagan scooped Volunteer of the year, while Grace Redmond received the President's Award for her services to Irish Hockey.

Cookstown were awarded Club of the Year title for the first time while Munster's Cork C of I were announced as the 2009 Youth Club. Greenfields Fintan O'Flynn was awarded Development coach of the year.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Avoca seek new coach

Avoca's men's first team currently have coaching positions available for the upcoming 2009/10 Leinster division two campaign.

The ambitious Blackrock club has designs on gaining promotion back up to division one and to build on the "development of the first team over the last few seasons with continued strengthening throughout the squad".

Attractive package and support available for the right candidate. All enquires to Carl Breaden (086-8432789/ or Ian Wilkie (087-6393213/mailto:087-6393213/

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Robinson set for Argentinean league: News in Brief

* YMCA's David Robinson will spend his summer playing hockey with the San Fernando club in Buenos Aires, Argentina. He will be in action twice this weekend, taking on the brilliantly named Popeye on Saturday afternoon, following up with a home match against San Martin on Sunday in the Forbex Liga Nacional.

* UCD goalkeeper Pamela Smithwick has been included in Ireland's lacrosse squad for next month's Women's World Cup. The Irish senior cup winner continues the build-up for the competition at the Amsterdam Lowlands competition this weekend ahead of the tournament which gets underway in Prague in June.

* Former Three Rock Rovers' coach Turloch O'Siochain has taken on the head of coaching role at Bristol University for the 2009/10 season. O'Siochain is also in negotiations to potentially take on a further coaching position with a top English club side should the situation suit.

* Grange Road plays host to a pair of festivals over the coming fortnight. First up, this Friday sees the beginning of the annual veteran's festival before the younger crowd take over the venue when the MayFest kicks into gear for the weekend of May 29 to 31.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Murphy claims Belgian national title

Former Trinity, Old Alex and Galway star Ciara Murphy (pictured on far right) added a Belgian national title to her list of achievements as her club, La Gantoise, claimed the Selexion Hockey League - Dames Ere Afdeling (Premier league).

Her side finished the regular season in first position and used their first seeding to beat fourth seeds Wellington in the semi-final, drawing 1-1 and winning 3-2 in a two-legged affair to reach the final.

They followed up with an impressive 4-2 victory over Uccle, recovering from an early one goal deficit and 2-2 half-time scoreline (see video highlights below). And the final victory - in a potentially three-legged affair - was secured with a 2-0 win in the second leg to give Gantoise an unassailable lead, needing no recourse for a deciding third match.

Ask Ray... about the IHL's first season

In a slight variation on the regular ‘Ask Ray…’ feature, this time The Hook sought out Ray O’Connor's thoughts on the IHL finals weekend due to his duel-capacity as the tournament's technical advisor as well as being part of the IHL’s organising committee.

Speaking about the event as a whole, Ray felt the tournament provided a memorable send-off to a ground-breaking year.

“We came here looking to put on a show that sold the year off greatly which I think we did personally. Everyone else did too, by and large. We had gripes about little things but people got value for money.”

Speaking about the decision to use of a club's ground like Grange Road rather than the National Hockey Stadium in UCD, O’Connor felt the ground lends itself better to Family type atmosphere:

"It is definitely the venue. At Rovers, I’d say there’s no spectator further than ten metres from the sideline. If you go to the top of the concrete stand at UCD behind the goal you have to be 35 to 50 metres away. That’s where it falls out. It’s for that reason because it’s a relatively small venue but the spectators are totally involved.”

The bonus was also felt from a television perspective due to the availability of the TV tower and Setanta’s experience of the venue from the All-Ireland school’s competitions.

As for running the men’s and women’s tournaments in tandem, the quality of hockey on show helped make this a much smoother proposition than can be the case.

“It can often be difficult to put a ladies and men’s competition on together because of the pace but the ladies final stood up to any competition from the men. Having just come back from the Olympic Games with men and women’s games going on, we’ve had world cups in the past and the Europeans last year.

“Very often both sides don’t match each other from a spectator’s perspective. The ladies final stayed with the spectator level of the men. The game flowed, that’s a compliment to the players and the umpires. It was a great spectacle. If you were a partisan supporter, you got great value as it was kept exciting to the end.

“The penalty shoot-out was good, it was the first time in the world of hockey that women had ever played this before so obviously teams had put their homework in to doing it.

“Certainly on the ladies side, there was some of the best umpiring I have seen. During the goal/no goal situtation there was some good, old-fashioned umpiring where the two worked together for the betterment of the game and came out with right result.”

Reflecting on the men’s competition, O’Connor believes the standard of hockey was some of the highest seen in Ireland.

“It was absolutely superb for anybody who loves hockey. I thought the umpiring over the weekend was very good. In the Glenanne-Banbridge match, the concentration of the umpires was excellent because there was so much going on of which they were not in control of.

“If you watch the game closely, there was no controversy between the players with everything that was going on around them. They kept the game going despite all the distractions of the clock working and not working in sequence and not in sequence.

“My opinion of the Rovers-Pembroke game was it was a little too tactical. It appeared to be like two coaches having a go rather than the players having a go. It reminded me of a Germany-Holland game, a technical game.

“The final was one of the highest quality games of hockey I’ve seen in Ireland for a long, long time; certainly at club level. The skill levels on display were excellent and, right to the final whistle; the umpires felt the atmosphere of the game.

“I think the green card contributed greatly to the management of the game which really added a punishment but not a huge punishment.

“The disappointing thing for me was how the penalty shoot-out on the men’s side worked out. I think the pitch should have been kept clear so the spectators could still enjoy the shoot-out. That was disappointing for presentation purposes. From the technical point of view, the officials got it right in the end even though they didn’t get there the right way. It all looked too controversial but technically they got it right as per the rules.

“But we had a feast of hockey, the weather absolutely contributed but it just goes to show what we can do in Ireland with a lot of people working together and with the right frame of mind.

"Roll on next year and let's make it bigger and better!"

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Three Rock off to Italy as Galway set to host indoors

Three Rock Rovers will travel to Bologna for the men's indoor EuroHockey Club Challenge I com-petition next February 19-21, 2009 while Galway will host the women's challenge event a week later, the EHF confirmed today.

Rovers represent Ireland for the second time having retained their indoor crown and will hope to use the knowledge garnered from their trip to Lille to good effect next time around.

Focus may also work in their favour as, in a similar manner to Pembroke the year before, the European indoor competition proved tricky to fit in around EHL concerns.

They are drawn in a group with Croatia's HK Jedinstovo, Belarus' Stroitel Brest - who played Pembroke encountered in outdoor competition this year - and Turkey's Kecioren Bld SC.

The only side they have encountered in either group is Slovenia's Pliva Lipovci who contest the other pool with Hungarian, Italian and Serbian opposition.

Galway, meanwhile, will host their very first EHF competition as they welcome an enlarged women's challenge event to town. Having improved with every match on their European debut in a single group, six-team format, the Challenge is set to have eight entrants divided into two groups of four this time around.

Czech Republic side Slavia Praha, Wales' Howardian and Bulgaria's FHC Akademik provide the initial opposition.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Gregg named in England JWC squad

Former Lisnagarvey player of the year Chris Gregg (pictured) looks set to appear at the Junior World Cup as he was this week named in the 18-man English squad to travel to Malaysia in June.

The 20-year-old, who competed for Ireland up until U-18 level, is one of eight Loughborough students to make the English panel having impressed in the two years since he has been eligible to play for his adopted country.

Indeed, he has already tasted international success in 2009 as part of the bronze-medal winning Great Britain team at the recent Youth Olympic Festival in January in Australia.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Ireland produce improved performance

Gene Muller was left with much more to build on after the second of Ireland's two-match series with Germany in Nurnberg.

His side lost 4-2 but he was happier with the outcome, saying afterwards:

“I am very pleased with our play today. We played with real conviction and it showed on the pitch. The German's scored to make it 3-2 with five left on the clock and we conceded again in the last minute when we were chasing the draw. We had some very strong individual performances today.”

The sides went in at half-time at 1-1 Natascha Keller’s opening goal was cancelled out by Eimear Cregan’s 25th international strike – squeezing in a cracking shot from a tight angle after Emma Smyth stole to set up the Irish skipper.

They continued to contest well, winning the only corner of the half just before the break but it flashed wide.

After the interval, though, Ireland were forced to soak up serious pressure, holding out three corners while Nikki Symmons (pictured) and Niamh Small were both green carded and Bridget Cleland sin-binned.

On her return, however, Janine Beerman pushed her side 2-1 ahead but Ireland responded instantly, Small going on a trademark run, eventually ended illegally to give Loreto club mate Symmons the penalty stroke to level.

It put Ireland in position to pull off a famous result with the game opening out. Germany finished stronger, though, Beerman netting a quick breakaway before Keller grabbed her brace with two minutes on the clock.

Irish U-18s share honours with Scotland

Ireland's U-18 girls produced an incredible reversal of form to turn a 2-0 defeat on Friday into a 6-0 win over Scotland to share the two-match series with a win apiece.

In the first game, Scotland, who will be aiming for promotion to division one of European competition in July, scored twice in a five minute spell just after half-time to take the win.

Saturday's second game, however, showed a massive turnaround in form to thump the Scots. Hermes' starlets Chloe Watkins (two), Gillian Pinder and Deirdre Duke accounted for four of the goals while Pembroke's Orla Fox and Greenfields' midfielder Dora Gorman completed the six-goal rout.

Ireland get measure of Euro challenge

Gene Muller's Irish women's team got a marker of what to expect from Germany ahead of their EuroHockey Nations Championships meeting in the group stages next August.

Ireland fell to a 3-0 loss on Saturday to the Germans in Nurnberg as part of the country's hockey federation's centenary celebrations, a side they have been drawn against in Pool B of this year's most important international competition for the ladies.

Louisa Healy (pictured) provided the resistance in the first half, keeping six corners out but the deadlock was broken in the 39th minute by Fanny Rinne. Natascha Keller and Len Jacobi added the other goals in quick succession from play.

Speaking afterwards, Muller said of the performance: “We lacked concentration for periods in this match and conceded goals in a short spell in the second half.  We have made progress in possession over the last few months but we were not sharp enough in defending and at using the self pass.”

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Cole to be inducted into Hall of Fame

Former Avoca and Trinity player Johnny Cole (pictured with the Dublin University side that won the Mauritius and Avoca cups in 1977) has been included among a group of four to be inducted into the Hall of Fame by the IHA at the ESB Hockey Awards to be held later his month.

As one of the most skillful players of his era, Cole made his international debut in 1977 in Glasgow in a 6-1 win over Poland before representing the country 58 consecutive times, captaining the side on 28 occasions – including playing in two European Cups, the Buenos Aires World Cup and an Intercontinental Cup as well as touring Australia.

On the club scene, he won multiple league titles during Avoca’s golden period during the 1980s when they dominated the Leinster circuit outdoor as well as the national indoor scene.

He subsequently enjoyed successful coaching stints at Pembroke, Glenanne, Corinthian and Avoca as well as leading Genesis to the All-Ireland indoor championship in 1984.

The other three inductees are Catholic Institute’s Marie Bartlett, Pegasus’ Jenny Given (nee Redpath) and Belfast YMCA and Lisnagarvey man John Clarke.

Bartlett became Ireland’s most capped player on reaching her 60th cap in 1982 – playing in two world cups.

Given’s international career spanned ten years and an Olympics during which she was selected to play on a World XI to mark the Golden Jubilee of the IFWHA in 1981, playing against the reigning world champions, Netherlands , an Asian selection and a Caribbean XI.

Clarke, meanwhile, gained 56 Caps playing notably in the 1978 World Cup in Argentina, the third European Cup in Hanover 1978 and the Intercontinental Cup 1977 in Rome where Ireland finished in the silver medal position.

Month of talent identification gets underway

The IHA’s Olympic Talent Search 2009 begins this weekend as the national association goes in search of stars of the future at a series of venues around the country.

Irish Hockey is looking for girls and boys aged between 11 and 14 – born in 1995, 1996, 1997 or 1998 with any of the following attributes: athleticism (speed, balance and agility/mobility); games awareness (good at other sport such as soccer, hurling, basketball, rugby); hand-eye co-ordination (good at hurling, tennis etc); a desire to be involved at sport at a high level and to represent your country at an Olympic games.

Prior experience of hockey is not essential as much of the sessions will take place without a stick and ball. A statement from the IHA concerning the talent search states: “With the 2012/2016 Olympics fast aproaching, Irish Hockey has developed a robust infrastructure to nurture talent.

“The Olympic Talent Search is an exciting part of this structure and will add to Ireland’s realistic chance of competing in the Olympics in the future.

“In the first year of the scheme (08/09), 11 girls and 3 boys progressed from the TID process into the Ireland U-16 squads.”

The ‘screening’ dates will run on the following dates (all €17 or sterling equivalent)

Screening Dates (all sessions cost E17 or sterling equivalent):
Sunday, May 10, Grange Road 930am-1pm (Girls), 230pm-6pm (Boys)
Monday, May 11, Garryduff, 530pm-9pm
Wednesday, May 13, Garryduff, 530pm-9pm (Girls)
Thursday, May 14, Galway, 530pm-9pm (Girls)
Saturday, May 16, Limerick – Catholic Institute H.C, Rosbrien, 2.30pm-5.30pm (girls and boys)
Sunday, May 17, Pembroke Wanderers, 930am-1pm (Girls), 230pm-6pm (Boys)
Tuesday, May 19, Dublin – TBC, 5.30pm-9pm (Boys)
Wednesday, May 20, Dublin – TBC, 5.30pm-9pm (Girls)
Thursday, May 21, Naas, 6pm-9.30pm (boys and girls)
Tuesday, May 26, Kilkenny, 5.30pm-9pm (Boys and Girls)
Wednesday, May 27, Enniscorthy 530pm-9pm (girls)
Saturday, May 30 Banbridge (RDS only) 930am-1pm (Girls), 230pm-6pm (Boys)
Sunday May 31 Mossley H.C (RDS only) 930am-1pm (Girls), 230pm-6pm (Boys)
Monday, June 1 Lisnagarvey H.C (open) 5.30pm-9pm (boys and girls)

Players selected from these screening dates will then progress to further regional development sessions with a subsequent national U-15 talent identification group screening in Dublin over the weekend of June 27 and 28.

Registration for the Talent ID screening days can be made via the Irish Hockey website, Click on the Talent ID link on the home page and complete the online form.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

FIH announce Champions Challenge II schedule

The FIH today released the match schedule for the Men’s Champions Challenge II, to be played in Dublin from July 6-12.

Ireland will be in the showcase evening slot for their three group games against Chile, Japan and Poland on the Monday (7.45pm), Tuesday (8pm) and Thursday (7.45pm) respectively before going into the playoff series on the weekend.

Eight teams are participating in total with Pool B composed of Malaysia, France, Austria and Russia.

Saturday, July 11 sees the crossed semi-finals while the final will be played on Sunday, July 12.

The Women’s Champions Challenge II will take place in Kazan, Russia from June 21-27, 2009.

Click here for the match schedule of the Men’s Champions Challenge II.

Monday, May 4, 2009

IHL television schedule

Monday, May 4: 7pm, Glenanne vs Banbridge; 8pm, TRR vs Pembroke

Tuesday, May 5: 3pm, TRR vs Pembroke; 7pm, Loreto vs Cork Harlequins; 8pm, Hermes vs Pegasus
Wednesday, May 6: 9am, Glenanne vs Banbridge; 3pm, Hermes vs Pegasus; 7pm, Hermes vs Loreto; 8pm, Pembroke vs Glenanne
Thursday, May 7: 9am, Loreto vs Hermes; 10am, Pembroke vs Glenanne; 3pm, Loreto vs Hermes; 4pm, Pembroke vs Glenanne

* All on Setanta Ireland

Alex complete IHL line-up

Old Alex took the twelfth IHL qualification place as the rout needed by Greenfields failed to materialise despite a lively opening to the last wildcard game of the weekend, following Cork C of I into next season's showpiece event.

The Galway side raced out of the blocks with Katie Codyre going close, rounding the Alex goalkeeper after Brenda Flannery's through-ball, but only found the side-board.

Leanne Ryan bashed in an early corner for Alex to settle any nerves before Aoife Budd and Liane Costello took any sting out of the game before half-time for a 3-0 win in Arul Anthoni's final game in charge of the Milltown club.

It means Alex will make their tournament debut but were placed in an extremely tough group containing three of this year's semi-finalists - Pegasus, Hermes and Loreto - as well as Randalstown and UCC.

Pool A looks the easier of the two groups with Railway Union the top seeds and will fancy their chances in a group containing Ballymoney, Ards, Pembroke, Cork Harlequins and Cork C of I.

The men's and women's draw both took place on a semi-seeded basis to ensure regular inter-provincial matches. Leinster's first and fourth place were grouped with Ulster's second and third and vice versa for the guaranteed part of the draw.

The final two places in each group came from an open draw, the first round deciding which on Munster's top two made it into the competition; the second round deciding which group the wildcard sides would be in.

Ards, Old Alex, UCC come into the competition at the expense of Armagh, UCD and Belfast Harlequins.

Wildcard final standings: 1. Old Alex 9pts (+7) 2. Cork C of I 6pts (+4) 3. Greenfields 3pts (-5) 4. Belfast Harlequins 0pts (-6)

IHL 2009/10 Groups:
Pool A: Railway Union, Ballymoney, Ards, Pembroke, Cork Harlequins, Cork C of I
Pool B: Pegasus, Hermes, Loreto, Randalstown, UCC, Old Alex

* For more pictures from the Greenfields vs Old Alex game, click here

Munster claim three women's IHL places

A thumping 5-1 win for Cork C of I over Belfast Harlequins guaranteed a third IHL place for Munster at the IHL wildcard playoffs this afternoon at Grange Road with no combination of goal difference from the Greenfields/Old Alex capable of knocking them out.

Suzy Herbert's lucky opener in the third minute started the rout with Deirdre Casey doubling up and Julie O'Sullivan nailing a corner to make it 3-0 inside 20 minutes. Mel Ryan completed the first half scoring with Amy-Kate Trevor making it 5-0 early in the second half.

Judy Getty pulled one back for Harlequins late on but too late for it to make any impact on the group.

It means Greenfields need to win by seven clear goals in the final match of the competition to steal an IHL place from Old Alex.

* For more pictures from the game, click here

Men's IHL draw completed

The draw for the 2009 Irish Hockey League was concluded this afternoon at Grange Road with the Munster sides and the wildcard entrants completing the line-up.

Enticing ties appear throughout the competition with Pool B having some particularly eye-catching ties in the offing as Ulster and Munster champions Cookstown and Cork C of I joined by IHL finalists Glenanne and Three Rock Rovers.

Annadale and Lisnagarvey's development will be slightly further along.

To that end, Corinthian - as the only newcoming team - can look at their group as a decent opportunity to progress drawing the currently weaker Munster side, Cork Harlequins while they have produced a couple of decent results against Pembroke this season to suggest they will not face that match with the champions with as much trepidation.

Pool A: Pembroke Wanderers, Instonians, Banbridge, Monkstown, Corinthian, Cork Harlequins
Pool B: Cookstown, Glenanne, Three Rock Rovers, Annadale, Lisnagarvey, Cork C of I

Corinthian qualify for maiden IHL

Corinthian comfortably avoided the big blow out against Bandon that could have denied them an IHL place. In the end, the remote possibility eight-goal loss never looked likely from the moment Rowland Rixon-Fuller scored in the eighth minute.

A subsequent hat-trick of drag-flicks from Brian Doherty and one from Davy Carson rounded off a good weekend's work for the Whitechurch side as they added this 5-0 win over the West Cork side to their 4-2 win over Lisnagarvey on Saturday morning.

They qualify for the IHL for the first time along with Lisnagarvey who retain their place in the competition. Jason Lynch, meanwhile, was released from hospital on Sunday and was able to take his place in the stands to watch his side beat Bandon 6-0.

Wildcard standings: 1. Corinthian 6pts (+7) 2. Lisnagarvey 3pts (+5) 3. Bandon 0pts (-11)

* For more pictures from the Corinthian vs Bandon game, click here

Pembroke complete incredible year

A controversial first Irish Hockey league season drew to a close at Grange Road as Pembroke completed a near perfect year with their fourth title in a month.

The competition, itself, drew largely positive feedback at a meeting with club representatives prior to the main action of the day.

Finals’ weekend proved a well-run success off field while the on-field fare hit some exceptional highs, fulfilling the brief to ‘entertain, entertain, and entertain’.

However, a couple of teething problems have been generated in the competition’s inaugural year as players, technical officials and administrators came to terms with a new set of rules and a new, higher set of standards of hockey and how it is governed.

In the wake of the refixture issue concerning Cookstown and Annadale and the semi-final timing glitch, the final almost inevitably would have a few major talking points unto itself.

Pembroke took the title by ousting their keenest rivals, Glenanne, in a similar vein to the women’s final – by virtue of the new penalty one-on-one shoot-out**.

But while the women’s shoot-out was run off without major incident, the men’s version produced enough intrigue to fill an entire blog.

Pembroke’s player-coach Craig Fulton netted the crucial, sudden death goal before the game’s key player, David Harte, stood tall to deny 16-year-old Shane O’Donoghue’s effort and a 2-1 win.

Serious questions were raised at numerous points during the shoot-out as to the decider’s rules and format, specifically when technical delegate Nigel McCullough was called to adjudicate on Graham Shaw’s penalty.

Harte saved the effort but a concerted appeal by the Glenanne bench that the goalkeeper had left his line too early left McCullough declaring a retake though the Glens claimed a penalty goal was warranted.

Harte saved again as both sides struggled to score from the one-on-one situation where players have eight seconds to score.

Stephen Butler’s blasted effort was easily dealt with by the Pembroke keeper but the ball rebounded into an area the attacker could easily have retrieved. He did not collect the ball again, allowing the clock to time out.

Fulton then missed in cruel circumstances, rounding Steven Doran successfully only to slip with the goal-gaping from three yards out, managing only to push the ball into the sideboard as he fell.

Shaw’s effort came and went while Justin Sherriff also failed leaving the last round of three in the hands of young O’Donoghue.

He showed immense composure to net but Alan Sothern was fouled by Doran, a penalty goal awarded to bring on Fulton’s sudden death strike.

The Glens had further concerns that Pembroke players had encroached too early on the circle to celebrate when Harte made his fourth save from five one-on-one charges but it was to prove just a footnote in a fascinating battle.

David Keogh had given Glenanne the early impetus but Wanderers’ hitman Alan
Sothern struck his 57th goal of the club season to make matters level by half-time.

As the temperature rose in the second half, Paddy Conlon produced a breath-taking steal to deny Graham Shaw a shot on an empty target before both Stephen Butler and Conor Harte were sin-binned to make it ten-a-side.

Justin Sherriff’s off-ball skirmish with Joe Brennan also saw him sit out five minutes for a yellow but the score remained 1-1 going into the fourth quarter.

Stu Loughrey broke that deadlock with a wonderful strike, taking Tim Lewis’ overhead in his stride to take Richie Shaw out of the game before battering low under the advancing Steven Doran.

Parity, though, was reconvened within three minutes with another beautiful goal as Butler’s drive was redirected high into the net by Eddie O’Malley with 11 minutes on the clock.

The Glens momentum was temporarily stalled as Gary Shaw was the fourth player to take an enforced rest for breaking down a quick free but his side finished regular time stronger.

Only for David Harte’s sheer brilliance would the title be now resting in Glenanne Park as O’Donoghue was denied from point blank range.

He could not have struck his reverse much sweeter but an outstretched stick batted away to safety. Harte followed up with a diving block from Butler’s drag-flick to ensure extra-time and ultimate glory.

It left Alan Giles – whose involvment in the semi-final or final was slightly curtailed due to injury – to pick up a fourth title of the year to confirm their status as the outstanding club side in Irish hockey this year.

Pembroke: David Harte, Conor Harte, Ronan Gormley, Colin Kelly, Tim Lewis, Paddy Conlon, Craig Fulton, Alan Sothern, Gordon Elliott, Justin Sherriff, Stu Loughrey Subs: Scott Lowrie, Michael O’Connor, Maurice Elliott, Alan Giles, Ken Treacy

Glenanne: Steven Doran, Joe Brennan, Alan Browne, Richie Shaw, Gary Shaw, Graham Shaw, Paul Fitzpatrick, Stephen Butler, John Goulding, Brendan Parsons, Shane O’Donoghue Subs: David Shaw, David Keogh, Jonathon Kane

* For Adrian Boehm's pictures from the game, click here and Tom Daly's pics are here; for Stephen West's pictures, click here and for Rob O'Connor's pics, click here

**On Monday, I spoke to a number of officials looking for clarification on the penalty shoot-out's rules as numerous 'rules' were proposed by the players. According to the officials, the eight-second timer starts at the time the whistle is blown and not when the player first touches the ball and so the goalkeeper is allowed leave his line.

Loreto take national honours

Loreto claimed the inaugural Irish Hockey League at Grange Road becoming the first side in the world to win a title on the new penalty one-on-one format.

Louisa Healy proved the heroine in the final reckoning, denying both Jenny Burke and Chloe Watkins in the shoot-out to win the best-of-three competition 2-1.

It meant a first ever victory in the countries top event after numerous near misses in the Club Championships – the forerunner to the IHL – notably overturning last season’s golden goal defeat to Hermes.

The result was hard won following a pulsating 80 minutes of action, full of goalmouth intrigue despite the lack of goals.

Indeed, Loreto twice thought they had a crucial opener – first when Nikki Symmons superb reverse-stick cross was adjudged to have been deflected in by Ali Meeke. Initially awarded, Meeke’s body language suggested she got no so such touch and the effort was chalked once the umpires conferred.

More dramatically, Cathy McKean smashed home in the first period of extra-time before play was pulled back for an earlier Nikki Keegan foot.

The chances, though, were not all confined to one end as Nikki Evans – a hat-trick heroine in Saturday’s semi-final against Cork Harlequins – flashed narrowly wide from Jenny Burke’s quickly taken long corner in the second quarter.

Indeed, Hermes had near total dominance of the second period following an even opening phase.

Gillian Pinder came off the bench to great effect, creating a series of chances and winning a couple of corners.

Indeed, numerous penalty corner chances came and went though the feeling was that Hermes were over-complicating the set-piece rather than taking the direct route which served them well for their fourth goal against Harlequins.

Jenny Kinch saw a pair of sweep shots slip wide while Clodagh Grealy and cohorts produced a series of well-timed blocks.

The third quarter, though, saw an about-turn in momentum as Nikki Symmons escaped the shackles of Linda Caulfield in midfield. Her first act of the second half was to fire that superlative cross which just evaded Meeke’s stick and her combination work with McKean and Niamh Small on the right wing proved a near constant threat.

McKean was twice denied by an out-rushing Emma Gray before almost nicking the win outright in the final 15 seconds of normal time with a reverse that clattered the sideboard.

Moments prior, Aisling Campion picked up a nasty arm injury that required a sling.

Extra-time again produced a series of corners but little more leading to the new penalty competition.

Loreto’s Nikki Keegan and Cathy McKean both scored to take the initiative while Anna O’Flanagan was awarded a penalty goal as Healy committed a stick-foul.

But Healy’s pair of saves from Burke and Watkins proved vital to give the Beaufort side the biggest title in the club’s history.

Zara Delany, meanwhile, picked up the top scorer of the competition to round off a double boon a week into her recovery from a cruciate injury.

Loreto: Louisa Healy, Clodagh Grealy, Nikki Symmons, Nikki Keegan, Cathy McKean, Sarah O’Meara, Rachel Keegan, Lizzie Colvin, Niamh Small, Hannah Matthews, Aisling Campion
Subs: Ali Meeke, Sinead McGirr

Hermes: Emma Gray, Jenny Kinch, Niamh Atcheler, Jenny Burke, Linda Caulfield, Aoife Harte, Christine Quinlan, Aoife McCarthy, Nicola Evans, Sinead McDonnell, Anna O’Flanagan
Subs: Gillian Pinder, Jill Hodgins, Shelley Sloan, Chloe Watkins

* For Adrian Boehm's pictures from the game, click here. For Deryck Vincent's pics, click here and Tom Daly's pics are here. For Stephen West's pictures, click here and Karl Burke's pictures from the game are here.

Alex and Corinthian on verge of IHL qualification

Old Alex and Corinthian moved a step closer to ensuring IHL places for the 2009/10 season after the second day of the wildcard competition at Grange Road.

Alex picked up their second win of the playoffs with a 4-1 win over Cork C of I to add to their 2-1 win over Belfast Harlequins. In combination with Greenfields 1-0 win over Quins, Alex can guarantee top of the group with a point while could still qualify with a narrow loss.

It proves to be quite a battle, though, for the second place in the group with the other three sides still in with a shout. Cork C of I are currently second with one win and a goal difference of zero. Greenfields' win had them third on minus two while the Ulster entrants are bottom without a win or draw to their name.

On the men's side, Lisnagarvey beat Bandon 6-0. It means that Corinthian will be in the IHL next year if they avoid defeat by eight goals.

* For more of Rachel McSharry's pictures from the Old Alex vs Cork C of I match, click here

Banbridge appeal not upheld

Following Banbridge's appeal over the circumstances surrounding Jonathon Kane's goal in the IHL semi-final with Glenanne, the IHL Administration Committee released the following statement concerning the sequence of events:

1. A goal was scored by Glenanne in the 53rd minute of the game.

2. At the end of the game, it was established that Banbridge wished to lodge a protest.

3. The protest indicated that there was an issue with the timing of the third quarter, which cast doubt on the goal scored by Glenanne in the time leading up to the clock being stopped /hooter sounding.

4. The Tournament Director, supported by two officials from the IHL Administration Committee reviewed the protest, the official Match Report and interviewed the Technical Official and two Assistants.

5. The Tournament Director established that:

a. the goal was scored in the 53rd minute

b. some time elapsed between the goal being scored and the hooter being sounded eventually being stopped to indicate the end of the 3rd Quarter

c. the official table clock and the spectators clock were out of sync during the 3rd quarter.

6. The decision of the Tournament Director was that the protest by Banbridge was not upheld.

The IHL Administration Committee accept that in this instance the management of the timing by the table officials during the game between Glenanne and Banbridge caused confusion and fell short of the expected standard.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Trinity take Neville Davin cup for first time

Dublin University claimed their first ever Neville Davin Cup in dramatic fashion as they got the best of a penalty stroke competition 3-1 and deny Clontarf the double.

Earlier, Trinity forced extra-time when Barry Glavey netted a last minute drag-flick to end what had been a fast and frantic 70 minutes.

It was Glavey's second of the game having earlier exchanged corner strikes with Rob Abbott in the first half. Tom Noonan's superb deflection, though, looked to have given the north Dublin side the title with less than ten minutes remaining.

However, a scoreless extra-time preceded strokes with Jack Hegarty saving twice to put Trinity in the box seat and eventual victory.

The game also marked Gordon Lindsay's retirement after an impressive career at Dublin Uni, Clontarf and Three Rock Rovers in which he claimed a couple of division two titles with Trinity and current club Clontarf and a division one title with Bert Vreeken's Rovers.

* Pic from Jessica Pakenham-Money

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Pembroke edge battle with Rovers

Pembroke 2 (Justin Sherriff, Alan Sothern) Three Rock Rovers 1 (Lucas Piccioli)
Pembroke ended Three Rock Rovers reign as national champions with an incredibly tight fought 2-1 win at Grange Road with Alan Sothern netting the winning goal with a ripping drag-flick in the third quarter.

The game followed a similar pattern to the previous meetings between the sides this term, both of which saw Rovers hold plenty of possession but Pembroke looked more dangerous on the counter-attack and had the firepower to do the damage.

Three Rock hit the front early on with a tidily worked corner, dragged home from a switch to Lucas Piccioli. But Pembroke stepped up a gear in the second quarter and hit the front with a spectacular Justin Sherriff shot.

Charlie Henderson had produced a double save at corner time but was slightly off his line for the rebound. Sherriff picked up the ball wide on the left, pulled the ball yet wider, and zinged in an incredible reverse from near the endline.

From there on, an intriguing battle emerged between the 25s with Pembroke's defence once more impenetrable. Conor Harte produced a collecter's set of tackles while Colin Kelly denied the advances of Mitch Darling, Kyle Good and Andy McConnell on numerous occasions.

McConnell, as always, was a guiding light for Rovers, creating plenty of go-forward ball for the overlapping Garry Ringwood.

The upshot was Rovers' best chances came from their two other corners but Peter McConnell's drag was well saved and the second was not stopped cleanly. Sothern had given his side the lead in the meantime and left Rovers chasing the game.

Lots of pressure but little end-product meant they were denied. Pembroke, meanwhile, add another notable scalp to their recent list and on course for a clean sweep while Glenanne qualify for the 2009/10 EHL.

* For more of Adrian Boehm's pictures from the game, click here

Old Alex and Cork C of I make wildcard headway

Anya Bowers second half goal gave them a crucial win in the IHL wildcard playoffs as Old Alex nicked an opening day win over Belfast Harlequins.

She opened the scoring but Judy Getty levelled the tie early in the second half. Bowers, though, popped up with the winner late on to give them the perfect start to the group. in which the top two claim IHL places.

Cork C of I lead the way in the group on goal difference, beating Greenfields 3-0 with a first half goal from Grace Young and strikes from Sinead Connery and Julie O'Sullivan.

Women's IHL results: Belfast Harlequins 1 (Judy Getty) Old Alex 2 (Anya Bowers 2); Cork C of I 3 (Grace Young, Sinead Connery, Julie O'Sullivan) Greenfields 0

Kane's timely intervention helps Glenanne through

Glenanne took the first IHL final place in a thrilling 5-4 win over Banbridge at Grange Road, though the main talking point is likely to be the incredible scenes surrounding Johnny Kane's goal which put the Glens 4-3 ahead.

He scored 26 seconds after the hooter, according to the public clock, should have gone for the end of the third quarter leading to chaotic scenes as rulebooks were checked and phonecalls made before the goal eventually stood.

Bann fought back for Ross McCandless to level the game for the fourth time in the game with his hat-trick from short corners but Stephen Butler's immense drag-flick gave the Glens the vital incision with approximately six and a half minutes to go as the game's stopwatch once again went haywire.

It brought to an end the scoring in one of the most entertaining games of the season with the ebb and flow fluctuating wildly throughout.

The Glens were ahead inside a minute, Johnny Goulding weaving some magic before sliding past Gareth Lennox. Ross McCandless levelled at the second time of asking - his first corner effort disallowed for an obstruction - nailing a drag-flick.

But Brendan Parsons had the Tallaght-side back in front inside the first quarter - the only player to get a touch to Stephen Butler's ball while surrounded by several defenders.

Bann, though, thoroughly bossed the second quarter, deservedly equalising when McCandless' drag his a post, Diarmuid Reay snapping up the rebound. Eugene Magee - showing little effect of just one training session in a month - was denied by Steven Doran before the striker's steal played in Dane Ward only for his effort to be chalked off, too.

A stunning Magee snap-shot drew the sixth penalty corner from which McCandless slotted his second for a 3-2 half-time lead. The drama did not stop, though, during the interval as Bann assistant coach Mark Evans got a dressing down from technical delegate Joe Connolly.

Stephen Butler's stroke made it 3-3 after Richie Shaw's pullback to Shane O'Donoghue was illegally impeded. And then came the game's major talking point. The public clock - not an official time-keeping measure - counted past 17 and a half minutes with no hooter forthcoming.

Bann were camped on their baseline, unable to escape a full press and the ball broke to Kane who slammed home from the top of the circle. The hooter followed as the Bann players remonstrated with the bench.

Three minutes of discussion finally saw the game restarted in the fourth quarter with 4-3 showing on the board. Butler could have made the game safe but his effort was spectacularly plucked off the line by Scott Forbes while Parsons had a glit-edged chance slip wide.

And Ross McCandless netted a neat switch move to tie the game for a fourth time. Magee lobbed over a shoulder-high volley before Butler got the final score.

Bann subsequently placed an appeal over the time-keeping situation but a tribunal decided that the result would stand and Glenanne take their place in the final.

Elsewhere, a partial draw for next year's IHL was made at Grange Road. The men's Pool A includes Pembroke, Instonians, Banbridge and Monkstown while Pool B has Cookstown, Glenanne, Three Rock Rovers and Annadale.

The women's competition has Railway Union, Ballymoney, Ards and Pembroke in Pool A and Pegsus, Loreto, Hermes and Randalstown in Pool B. The remainder of the draw will be made on completion of the wildcard competition.

* For more of Adrian Boehm's pics from the game, click here