Sunday, February 28, 2010

YM cause more problems for top sides

Men's Division One:
Glenanne 2 (Shane O'Donoghue 2) YMCA 2 (Simon Mills, Andy Walker)
Draw-masters YMCA threw another spanner in the works of the title race as they snatched a last-gasp point at St Mark's this afternoon, Andy Walker holding his nerve to convert a stroke in the final minute. They add the point to and earlier 3-3 tie with the Glens while they have also cancelled out Corinthian and Pembroke in recent weeks. In a fairly even game, both Iain Walker and Stephen Doran were called on to make a couple of decent saves but it was the Y who drew first blood when Simon Mills (pictured, right) scored an early corner.

Shane O'Donoghue (left), though, swapped the lead before half-time with a double which owed much to Stephen Butler's marauding runs out of the back four and down the right channel with Alan Lewis also a key factor in the creation process.

But YM stuck to their task and picked off a point in the closing stages when a hefty stick-tackle in the circle saw umpire Kieran Bolger point to the spot. And Walker kept his focus after some lengthy discussions to beat Doran high on his stick side and level matters.

The Glens still need to win all their remaining games to regain the title; a feat which will also do for Corinthian. However, the only discernible change in the state of play would be if the pair were to tie when they meet. Such an eventuality would open the door to Pembroke.

For YM, it strengthens their hand slightly in the chase for IHL places but Tuesday night's fixture at Grange Road is a pivotal moment for the fourth automatic spot.

Elsewhere, Railway Union and UCD's women's league fixture was cancelled due to a lack of a second umpire. Weston and Avoca advanced to the semi-finals of the Neville Davin Cup with wins over holders Trinity and Navan respectively.

Neville Davin, round one results:
Navan 3 (Davitt Meenaghan, Nicky Parkhill, Richie Bagnall) Avoca 9 (Ezra Handelman 4, Dan Grim 2, Stephen Day, Carl Breaden, Nicky Harris); Weston 2 (Simon Pearson, Phil Barron) Dublin University 0

Railway advance; Hermes, Loreto and Pembroke all stay in semi-final shake-up

Pool A:
Cork C of I 0 Railway Union 2 (Patricia O’Dwyer, Sinead Walsh)
First half goals from Patricia O’Dwyer and Sinead Walsh helped Railway Union become the first side to advance to the last four of the IHL, getting the better of Cork C of I, to make it through with a game to spare.

O’Dwyer netted inside two minutes and while the Garryduff hosts found some rhythm in the second period, Sinead Walsh finished off a breakaway goal a couple of minutes before the break.
Railway continued to apply the pressure while C of I had their fair share of possession but never carried the same measure of menace up front.

Pembroke 2 (Jill Collins, Sarah Clarke) Ards 1 (own goal)
Pembroke maintained their second place in Pool A after a hard-fought three points against Ards kept them a point clear of Cork Harlequins in the race for the second semi-final spot.

All the goals came in the second quarter as a cagey first period was replaced by a lively second stanza. Ards took the lead when a crash ball took the stick of Clara Chamberlayne for an own goal – one of the new innovations in this year’s competition.

But the lead was short-lived. In the 26th minute, from a quick switch of play, Jill Collins roofed a shot to bring the side back to level pegging.

Pembroke survived a Karen Hales’ two-minute suspension, during which time Ards had a corner strike deemed too high. And on the Cork woman’s return, Chamberlayne earned a corner for the hosts which Sarah Clarke snapped up on the rebound for a 2-1 half-time lead.

A green for Wendy Hobson and a Rachel McKeon yellow in the third quarter were both negotiated by Pembroke while Ards’ skipper Janice Vaughan and Hales – this time on a yellow – both sat out time in the final period but Pembroke stood firm to earn three points and all but end Ards’ maiden IHL campaign.

Ballymoney 1 (Aine Kearney) Cork Harlequins 2 (Rachel McSharry, Cliodhna Sargent)

Cork Harlequins broke their Ballymoney hoodoo to pick up a vital away victory and maintain their hopes of reaching back-to-back IHL semi-finals. They must outdo Pembroke's performance in the next round of matches to advance to the play-off weekend.

Quins recovered from a 1-0 deficit - courtesy of Aine Kearney's finish in the 30th minute - with Cliodhna Sargent responding instantly from a corner to tie the game up. And Rachel McSharry (pictured, left) popped up with the winner deep into the second half to keep a Munster interest in the semi-final shake-up very much alive.

Pool B
Saturday: Randalstown 1 (Amy Jones) Hermes 4 (Anna O’Flanagan, Aoife Harte, Gillian Pinder, Deirdre Duke)
Hermes took the overnight lead in the IHL Pool B standings as they took a bonus point win from Randalstown and now need just a draw from their final group game against Loreto to advance to the semi-finals.

A lively but scoreless first half saw Emma Teggerty save from Fiona Connery, Chloe Watkins Deirdre Duke and Gillian Pinder while Aine Connery also had a reverse-stick effort ruled out in the second quarter.

The Booterstown club rode out a two-minute suspension to Duke for dissent only for Aine Connery to supply a superb pass to Chloe Watkins to fire into the top right of the goal for 1-0.

Aoife Harte made it 2-0 in the 40th minute, diverting Christine Quinlan’s shot into the roof of the net once and Hermes were in bonus point territory when Duke slotted in at the back post from Fiona Connery’s assist – a third strike in eight minutes.

Gillian Pinder got the fourth strike, via the stick of Courtney Burns, to secure the extra point. 15 year-old Amy Jones pulled one back eight minutes from time from Emma Parker’s crash ball but it proved solely a consolation

UCC 1 (Ali O’Connor) Loreto 2 (Nicci Daly, own goal)
Loreto escaped from Cork with a fortuitous 2-1 win over UCC, which keeps their hopes of retaining the IHL alive, while all but ending the students' hopes of advancing to the last four.
College had a rip-roaring start, taking the lead inside 90 seconds from their first short corner as Ali O'Connor's straight hit found it's way to the backboard. The hosts forced three more corners in the first five minutes, Audrey O'Flynn seeing a drag flick well saved by Louisa Healy.

But Loreto survived seeing Nikki Keegan yellow carded to steadily get a foothold in the game, with Nikki Symmons, Cathy McKean and Aisling Campion beginning to dominate.

College should nonetheless have doubled their lead on 27 minutes, when Ali O'Regan found Fiona O'Connell all on her own in the circle, but her first time shot was brilliantly turned around the post by Healy.

Loreto made UCC pay for that miss just before half time, when Nicci Daly (pictured, right) turned the ball past Karen Olden off a fine cross from McKean.

Despite sharing 11 corners in the first half, neither side was able to take advantage, a trend which continued after the break as three more went begging for each side. Olivia Roycroft saw yellow for not retreating, but chances were at a premium from open play.

A superlative performance full of running from Miriam Crowley couldn't help College find a goal, and Loreto then won the game with a sucker punch with four minutes remaining. A speculative ball from the right hit a College stick and diverted past Olden, the new own goal ruling proving the hosts' undoing.

Sunday: Pegasus 3 (Suzanne Beaney 2, Michelle Harvey) Old Alex 1 (Hazel Agar)

Three first half Pegasus moved the Ulster standard-bearers to the brink of qualification to the IHL playoffs weekend, though Hazel Agar’s second half goal for Old Alex means they missed out on the bonus point which would have sealed their place.

Former international duo Claire McMahon and Suzanne Beaney combined to break the dead-lock in the ninth minute, the latter scoring the first of her double. Pegs continued to press forward while Alex existed on the counter-attack with Roisin Flinn and Emily Beatty the main outlets.

But when Jenny Kyle earned the northern side’s third corner, Michelle Harvey (left) flicked home for a strong lead which Beaney augmented four minutes before the break, rounding off Kyle’s pull-back.

Pegasus notched up a series of corner to no effect in the third quarter to make the bonus point safe and they were stung when another Flinn run fed Agar who fired a sharp shot from the top of the D into the backboard.

Despite another pair of corners, Pegs could not snatch back a three-goal margin but they need just a losing bonus point against bottom-placed Randalstown, in combination with a Hermes and Loreto draw, to make it through to the final four.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Rovers and Glens perform huge comebacks

Men's Irish Senior Cup, quarter-finals:
Two-nil proved a perilous lead this afternoon in the Irish Senior Cup quarter-finals as both Lisnagarvey and Corinthian built such a lead only to be miss out on a final four place at the hands of Three Rock and Glenanne respectively.

They will be joined there by Monkstown and Annadale who similarly tight wins over Kilkeel and Banbridge, both by just a single goal.

Glenanne left their comeback the latest as they needed a Gary Shaw double inside the last three minutes to finally secure their 4-2 win over the reds, having looked dead and buried with 19 minutes to go. Shaw continued his superb run of late, cracking home a trio of superb goals as he raised his side at St Mark's and keep hopes of a third Irish Senior title and a route into the EHL.

Lucas Piccioli goals on 18 and 49 minutes had Corinthian in command but the Glens' immense fighting spirit meant the tie was scarcely up and they were level within five minutes, Shaw and Mick McGuinness netting.

And, with extra-time looming, Graham Shaw laid on the most sublime of through balls to Gary Shaw and his finish was picture-perfect to hand Glenanne the lead for the first time with just two minutes left on the watch. He added the fourth for good measure in the final seconds to confirm their semi-final berth.

Rovers' comeback was complete before the first half was even up as they responded to a nightmare first 20 minutes with real venom. 'Garvey dominated the early proceedings at Grange Road, Timmy Cockram in fine form and earning a corner inside 45 seconds. He was to find a regular foe in Stephen West, though, who blocked all five of his corner drags while generally enjoying a brilliant day between the posts.

He was unlucky, though, to concede in the sixth minute as Cockram's gentle flick (right) first got caught in his pads and, while searching to find the ball, it bizarrely dropped out and rolled over the line. Mark Robinson volleyed home a brilliant rebound first time to make it 2-0 in the 18th minute as the Ulster side threatened to run riot, Johnny Gray a driving presence down the left flank.

But Rovers were galvanised by Ross Canning's opportunism as he dove in ahead of a couple of defenders to touch home Michael Maguire's smashed free from just outside the 25. Up to that point, Rovers were listless but with a lifeline offered, they duly grabbed hold.

Pierre de Voux ran around his backhand to thump home a forehand shot to finish off a long-corner move  before Sven Galjaardt - who had already served notice of his corner prowess, forcing an amazing save from David Williamson - winged in a drag-flick to make it 3-2 in the 33rd minute.

No goals followed but plenty of drama as the sides took it turns to miss easy chances. Cockram reversed wide from six yards with the Rovers' defence scattered while de Voux - playing his best hockey in a Rovers' jersey - laid up an excellent chance only for Canning to miss a touch from two yards.

David Storey sat out the last five minutes to raise the tension further but the hosts had the chances to kill the game. Peter McConnell pushed a corner switch inches wide from eight metres, Paddy Shanahan also went close but they held on squeak into the semi-finals.

Monkstown made it three Leinster sides into the semi-final, reaching this stage for the second time in three years when they scored the odd goal in nine to edge out Kilkeel.

They had to rely on a Stephen Cole reverse-stick save off the line in the game's last play, though, as they almost let a 5-2 lead be turned into an extra-time dog-fight. Kilkeel had led at 1-0 and 2-1 but, first, Ian Allen and then Runar O'Moore equalised before a Gareth Watkins' penalty stroke and a brilliant deflection from the same player to Brian Groves' ball had the Town cruising.

Andrew Ward added the fifth before Monkstown eased off the gas and conceded twice, setting up a grandstand finish. And they were almost caught but for the covering Cole to save the sky-blue blushes.

Annadale, meanwhile, fly the lone northern flag after Ian Hamilton's double disposed of Banbridge. He struck twice to put 'Dale in a strong position before Dermy Reay responded in the second half.

Irish Senior Cup, quarter-final results:
Three Rock Rovers 3 (Ross Canning, Pierre de Voux, Sven Galjaardt) Lisnagarvey 2 (Timmy Cockram, Mark Robinson); Glenanne 4 (Gary Shaw 3, Mick McGuinness) Corinthian 2 (Lucas Piccioli 2); Banbridge 1 (Dermy Reay) Annadale 2 (Ian Hamilton 2); Monkstown 5 (Gareth Watkins 2, Ian Allen, Runar O'Moore, Andrew Ward) Kilkeel 4 (William Annett, Craig Cunningham 2, Gareth Russell)

* For more of Adrian Boehm's photos from Three Rock Rovers vs Lisnagarvey, click here

Pembroke back on track as Fingal triumph

Men's Division One:
Railway Union 1 (Peter English) Pembroke 6 (Alan Sothern 4, Paddy Conlon 2)
Pembroke got back to winning ways as they came from a goal behind to ease clear of Railway Union in the second half of derby day at Park Avenue. Peter English's corner drag flick, following a quick break-out, handed Railway the lead and was only matched by Alan Sothern's drag-flick in the first half as the sides went in at 1-1 at the break.

Inspired by the impressive Maurice Elliott, Pembroke upped their game in the second period, earning a corner for Sothern to give the visitors the lead and he added another pair along with two goals from Paddy Conlon to build a comfortable win. They did so in spite of the absence of Conor Harte and Craig Fulton.

Fingal 6 (Tom Manning 3, David Bane, Chris Neville, Gary Sharman) Clontarf 2 (John Lennon, Tom Noonan)
Fingal picked up a vital three points to move clear of any potential play-off spot as Tom Manning's hat-trick hammered another nail into the Clontarf coffin at ALSAA. He and David Bane notched two very early goals to make sure the Fingallians were always in the ascendancy. Chris Neville and Manning made it 4-0 before John Lennon's corner strike gave the Bulls some hope. Gary Sharman restored the four goal cushion only for Tom Noonan to land the goal of the game with a superb base-line lob over the Fingal goalkeeper after a decent team move. Nonetheless, Manning completed his hat-trick from the penalty spot and copper-fasten Fingal's place four points clear of ninth placed Railway.

Avoca close in on top two

Men's Division Two:
Weston 1 (Phil Barron) Dublin University 1 (Sean Flynn)
Weston ground out a point at Griffeen Valley Park against a bouyant Trinity side who enjoyed plenty of possession and territorial advantage but were unable to break down the Lucan side's defences further than Sean Flynn's strike. Phil Barron's drag-flick had given Weston an early lead but Sean Flynn banged in an improvised corner move after a dodgy injection to get the students back on terms. Though they dominated the possession stakes, that was as good as it got for the visitors to leave both sides to settle for a point.

Avoca 8 (Stephen Brownlow 4, Will Aylmer, Jamie Crawford, Martin Naughton, AN Other) Navan 0
Avoca took advantage of Weston's slip to get within striking distance of the top sides in division two with a thumping 8-0 win over Navan at Newpark. They raced into a commanding five goal lead by the break and notched up another three in second half. Stephen Brownlow was once again the tormentor in chief, bagging another four goals to add to his sizable tally.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Reds' challenges faces Glenanne road-block

If Andrew Cronje’s Corinthian are to win a maiden Irish Senior or Leinster Senior league title, Glenanne are the foe they most need to dispose of in the wake of Pembroke’s faltering campaign.

Their re-fixed league tie will be pivotal on the domestic scene but of more pressing concern is Saturday’s cup tie at St Mark’s.

Both clubs have shown that a counter-attacking style can upset Pembroke’s rhythm but playing such a style against each other is an unlikely option.

The Glens eased past Corinthian prior to Christmas in the league with Graham Shaw in top form while Stephen Butler reverted for the first time back to a sweeper role that has become a regular resting place.

In tandem with Joe Brennan, it leaves a formidable rock to break down for the unique and unpredictable skills of Darren Kimfley, Davy Carson and Lucas Piccioli.

Gary Shaw has emerged as a superb raiding force in recent times and how the rejuvenated Colin Black or Alan Blennerhassett deal with that threat could also be key.

Also in the foothills of the Dublin mountains, two of the tournament’s most famous names go toe-to-toe with spectators hoping Three Rock and Lisnagarvey recreate the incredible 6-5 Irish Club Championships semi-final of 2008.

Mitch Darling’s five was the story of that game but he has since passed on to Belgian pastures. Rovers are now without fellow internationals Phelie Maguire, Charlie Henderson and Peter Blakeney from that team.

Neil Lyons continues to be absent due to work commitments making it a very new look Rovers side with Tom Samuel and Ross Canning leading the new breed.

Cricket international Greg Thompson is the visiting threat to go with Timmy Cockram’s corners. Between the clubs, they have notched up 32 Irish Senior Cup titles and 46 final appearances in total.

Monkstown, in search of their first Irish Senior win since before the first World War, will hope to use Rathdown advantage to full effect against a lively Kilkeel outfit who had been threatening to break the top five hegemony in Ulster prior to a 5-2 loss to North Down.

Shooting sticks were marked absent last Sunday in the Mills’ semi-finals but if the Town can rectify that issue, they are in with a shout of a second semi-final place in three years.
Banbridge play Annadale in the all-Ulster tie at Havelock Park.

In the Leinster league, the northside derby may have come too late for Clontarf to affect their league standing. Fingal, meanwhile, will hope to avoid the play-off spot and need three points from the tie to move back ahead of UCD.

Nothing less than victory for Pembroke across the Dart tracks at Railway Union will be acceptable if they are to keep their outside league chances alive.

On Sunday, YMCA will attempt to add further nuisance value to the top sides when they visit Glenanne.

In division two, Weston and Avoca need three points from their home ties against Trinity and Navan, respectively to take advantage of Suttonians’ mid-week lapse. The Neville Davin Cup gets underway on Sunday.

Men’s Irish Senior Cup Quarter Finals (Saturday):
Banbridge v Annadale, 2.45pm, Havelock Park; Monkstown v Kilkeel, 1.30pm, Rathdown; Three Rock Rovers v Lisnagarvey, 2.30pm, Grange Road; Glenanne v Corinthian, 1pm, Glenanne Park

Leinster Division One (Saturday):
Fingal v Clontarf, 2pm, ALSAA; Railway Union v Pembroke Wanderers, 2.30pm, Park Avenue
Sunday: Glenanne vs YMCA, 1pm, St Mark’s

Men’s Division Two (Saturday):
Weston vs Dublin University, 1.45pm,Griffeen Valley Park; Avoca vs Navan, 1.45pm, Newpark

Neville Davin Cup (Sunday):
Dublin University vs Weston, 1.30pm, Grange Road; Bray vs Suttonians, 4.30pm, Loreto Bray; Navan vs Avoca, 12.30pm, Kings Hospital

Loreto and Hermes destiny intertwined

Though they do not face off directly this weekend, 2009 finalists Hermes and Loreto remain at loggerheads in the IHL Pool B quest for a return to the play-off stages.

With their ultimate destiny intertwined and likely to be decided when they meet on March 14, both require away wins at Randalstown and UCC, respectively. Anything else, and the door could be opened up for either the students or Old Alex.

For Hermes, they travel north hoping for more of the first quarter sharpness that accounted for Loreto in midweek than the struggles they endured against Pembroke. Chloe Watkins and Jenny Burke could return to that midweek panel while Aine Connery has been an excellent addition since joining the squad in the autumn.

The tie will conclude an exceptionally busy week for Deirdre Duke who played three club games in addition to Alexandra College’s school’s semi-final. Throw in today’s FAI Leinster Senior school’s soccer final in Navan against Eureka, Kells and its a gruelling schedule.

Niamh Atcheler is also a doubt after a nasty injury in Wednesday’s school’s semi-final for St Andrew’s.

Loreto’s squad, by contrast, is added to significantly as their international quintet return to the fray for the trip to play UCC – the only unbeaten Munster league side.

They also welcome back Irish players with Julia O’Halloran and Audrey O’Flynn while camogie star Miriam Crowley is back in contention after competing last week in the Ashbourne Cup finals weekend.

Old Alex, meanwhile, have a tough task if they are to stay in contention. They need to get something from their tie at Pegasus if they are retain a chance of making the play-offs in their maiden IHL season.

In Pool A, Railway Union could become the first side to confirm their place in the finals weekend of the Irish Hockey League as they travel to Cork to face C of I in the fourth round of fixtures.

Indeed, whilst they concede home advantage, the Park Avenue outfit will fancy their chances against a side all but eliminated from the competition.

Former Railway skipper Cathy Kenefick lines out for the Munster women while Cork camogie star Emer Dillon is out for the Dublin 4 club. The real dog-fight in the group is for second place with four sides covered by just three points.

Those four sides all face off this weekend with current second place incumbents Pembroke hosting fourth placed Ards while Cork Harlequins make the long trip to Ballymoney.

Outside of the Leinster league, Pembroke have impressed this season, showing a bizarre duality that has seen them drop to ninth in division but remain clear contenders for an IHL semi-final berth to go with their Jacqui Potter final next month.

Sarah Clarke has returned to lend her experience and a terrific corner option to go with Karen Hales’ power while Kelly Scott stepped up admirably to the space vacated by Jayne Coyne in the 4-2 win over Hermes.

Aoife Sherriff is still out through injury but could appear before the end of the season. Ards arrive in Dublin with former UCD players Eimear Horan and Katy Fraser in tow but are coming off the back of a 4-0 home reverse at the hands of Pegasus.

Any win for the purples should retain their place in the top two ahead of a Sandymount derby against Railway in round five of matches.

Cork Harlequins, meanwhile, travel north to somewhat of a bogey ground at the Joey Dunlop Centre though they will be buoyed by impressive wins against UCC and Catholic Institute last weekend.
Saturday’s Leinster division one fixtures are all postponed by UCD will play Railway Union on Sunday in a back match.

ESB Irish Hockey League:
Pool A (Saturday): Cork C of I v Railway Union, 1pm, Garryduff; Ballymoney v Cork Harlequins, 2.30pm, Joey Dunlop Centre; Pembroke v Ards, 2.30pm, Serpentine Ave;
Pool B (Saturday): Randalstown v Hermes, 2.30pm, Antrim Forum; UCC v Loreto, 3pm, Garryduff
(Sunday): Pegasus v Old Alex, 1pm, Queens

Women’s Leinster Division One:
UCD vs Railway Union, 3.45pm, Belfield

West's awake for Euro indoor challenge

Galway, and indeed Connacht, will host a European level competition for the very first time this weekend as they welcome the women’s EuroHockey Indoor Club Champion’s Challenge to the brand new NUIG sports complex.

And while the host club will be gunning for glory and promotion up to the second tier of indoor hockey in the continent, and head coach Richie Malones believe the event represents a huge milestone for the sport in the province.

Malone said ahead of today’s tournament tip-off: “This event will be a momentous occasion for Galway hockey club and for Connacht hockey in general.

“From a club perspective it has enable the club to come together with a unique focus and an opportunity to show case what the west of Ireland has to offer from a hockey perspective and its ability to host a major European event.

“The fact that Galway has managed to secure such a prestigious tournament serves only to reinforce the major developments that have taken in the past few years.”

Galway produced a credible debut run in European competition last year, finishing fourth out of six at this level of competition, a starting point Malone hopes his side can progress from.

“We hope to build on that success and push teams a little closer this time round. The major difference for us this year is that national competition has been strengthened and restructured thanks mainly to indoor champion Paul O'Brien.

“The fact that we reached the national semi-final this year and lost to Railway whom we had beaten to become national champions previously has ensured that we are far better prepared for the European competition that is ahead of us this time.

“Naturally we have set our sights high and will be pushing for promotion, but the reality is that we are learning more about indoor every step of the way, but hopefully we can achieve something fantastic this coming weekend.”

They compete in a four-team tournament with two promotion places up for grabs. Sweden’s Valhalla and SK Slavia Praha have dropped down from the B division while Wales’ Howardian HC – a side Galway got the better of in 2009 – make up the group.

The ever-green, former outdoor international Tara Browne (pictured, left, at the launch of the competition with the Mayor of Galway) continues to guard the goal to great effect while former Pembroke player Emma Glanville usually works the boards from the back.

The rest of the panel features a number of Irish underage talent with Emily Molloy, Louise Fahy, Lynsey Trainor and Michelle Carey part of the Irish U-18 set-up while Elaine Carey, at 14, is one of the youngest players to compete in European competition. She is currently part of the Irish U-16 squad.

* To follow the tournament online, go to

EuroHockey Indoor Club Champion’s Challenge:
SK Slavia Praha (CZE); Valhalla LHC (SWE); Galway HC (IRL); Howardian LHC (WAL)

Fixture schedule:
Friday, February 26: 1pm, SK Slavia Praha v Galway HC; 2.15pm, Valhalla LHC v Howardian LHC; 4.45pm, Galway HC v Howardian LHC; 6pm, Valhalla LHC v SK Slavia Praha
Saturday, February 27: 12pm SK Slavia Praha v Howardian LHC; 1.15pm, Galway HC v Valhalla LHC; 3.45pm, Howardian LHC v Valhalla LHC; 5pm, Galway HC v SK Slavia Praha
Sunday, February 28: 9am, Valhalla LHC v Galway HC; 10.15am Howardian LHC v SK Slavia Praha; 1.15pm, SK Slavia Praha v Valhalla LHC; 2.30pm Howardian LHC v Galway HC

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Pembroke cocktails and Mayfest: News in brief

* Pembroke's ladies firsts will host their annual Cocktail Night in the Serpentine Avenue clubhouse on Saturday, February 27. The event gets underway at 7.30pm following their Irish Hockey League tie against Ards (2.30pm) and the Ireland vs England Six Nations rugby match. All welcome, music played until late.

* Entry for Mayfest 2010 is now open. The annual, mixed social hockey tournament will run from April 30 to May 2, 2010 at Grange Road and is open to allcomers.

If you are interested in entering a team this year, contact Donald Gray at and he can furnish you with all the details for the weekend.

YM put major dent in Pembroke plans

Men’s Division One:
Pembroke 0 YMCA 0

YMCA took Pembroke’s Leinster league destiny out of their own hands as Iain Walker produced a masterful performance between the posts, notably denying a 58th minute Craig Fulton stroke.

Perhaps struggling from the after effects of two tough games last weekend and an early morning Irish team gym session at 6am on the morning of the game, Pembroke started off in a sluggish manner. YM earned the only corner – comfortably saved by David Harte – of a first half played predominantly between the 25s.

Dave Robinson went off early in the second half with a very nasty looking shoulder injury as Pembroke began to pile on the pressure. Iain Walker stood up well to bat away Alan Sothern’s first corner – the first of six to go unconverted. Alan Giles’ delicate dink from five yards spun just wide of the post before Gordon Elliott shook the goal with a hammered volley as the YM goal lived a charmed life.

Richie Pedreschi charged down another Sothern corner before Patrick Good – in an effective six minute cameo – drew a full-length save from Walker. He also helped win the stroke, breaking into the circle and flipping the ball past Walker only for Paddy Conlon's push to hit the body of Stephen Walker (pictured, right) – who had an excellent game marshalling Sothern – on the line.

But Iain Walker read Fulton’s intentions to go high to his right, having faced off numerous times in Ireland training sessions, and deflect over the bar.

As Pembroke’s charge forward became more desperate, YM began to pick off a few chances at the far end with Will Powderly and Cliff Bailey showing some sublime touches. Powderly’s 40-metre jink led to a corner which drew a brilliant Harte stick-save from Scott Mills’ drag.

And Luke Chadwick’s run created a three-on-one with just Harte to beat. Seemingly beaten, the Irish international recovered astonishingly to block the chance at the second attempt. The point means Pembroke now need a favour from elsewhere while if either Corinthian or Glenanne win all their remaining games, the league will be theirs.

Men’s Division Two
Navan 0 Bray 1 (Simon Cox)
Simon Cox’s second half strike gave Bray a deserved 1-0 win to lift the Co Wicklow club off the bottom of the table for the first time this year with their second win on the bounce. They created four decent chances, dealt with excellently by Emmett Moore, before the former Monkstown hitman popped up ten minutes from time to seal the win.

UCD dampen Trinity IHL hopes

Women's Division One:
Trinity 0 UCD 1 (Rachel Burke)
UCD advanced their claims for an automatic IHL place while severely denting their varsity rivals Trinity as Rachel Burke struck seven minutes from time at Santry last night. The result moves UCD up to fourth in the rankings, two clear of Alex with a game in hand and six clear of Trinity who are in sixth place whose hopes of reaching a maiden IHL are rapidly fading. UCD bossed the first half to no avail while the hosts had the better of the second period only to be stung by Burke's from a corner rebound in the closing stages.

Alex and Andrew's to contest Senior final

Alexandra College and St Andrew’s will contest the Leinster School’s Senior Cup final next Tuesday following impressive wins at Grange Road yesterday over Mount Sackville and Mount Anville, respectively.

In the tighter of the two fixtures, Alex struck three times in the second half – twice in the last ten minutes – to eventually break the resolve of a tough Mount Sackville outfit, winning out 3-0.

There was little to separate the sides for long periods with Orla Fox and Emma Sweeney master-minding a solid defensive set-up for Sackville while Ireland underage soccer international Olivia Smartt provided an excellent outlet down the right flank to cause plenty of problems.

Deirdre Duke – off the back of Tuesday night double for Hermes against Loreto – was a clear and present danger in the Alex attack. Her pace and stealing skills combined to create three top chances, two on the open side and one on the reverse, which Alison Garrigan did well to keep at bay.

Alex took the lead in the game’s final quarter when Robyn Traynor bashed a loose ball home first time and, with Sackville chasing the game, the Milltown school notched up two late goals to reach the final.

First, Kate Lenehan’s powerful corner strike fell Aisling Burke’s way on the rebound to double the lead before the excellent Emily Beatty reached the end-line before supplying the perfect cross for Erica Hinkson to sweep home.

St Andrew’s hopes of retaining the title, meanwhile, were kept on track with an impressive 2-0 in spite of an injury early in the second half to Niamh Atcheler and a Chloe Watkins’ sin-binning.

Gillian Pinder was the creative force at the hub, setting free the runs of Sophie Marshall and Sarah Woodroofe while using her own skills to ghost past defenders.

Her pass set Marshall free down the right flank and she played a superb square ball to Watkins to roll home just ahead of the despairing dive of Ciara Walsh.

It was a deserved lead after a dominant first ten minutes which accrued three penalty corners. But Mount Anville, egged on by sizable supporter’s club, responded well, earning two corners of their own while Lisa McCarthy’s battle with Watkins was a high quality battle in the centre of the park.

Aisling Naughton’s indefatigable energy on the break and the work-rate of Ciara Noble meant it certainly was not one-way traffic.

But Andrew’s – with three players involved in the Irish senior set-up – always had the edge in quality and they reacted well in the second half after Atcheler was carried off with what looked to be a jarred knee injury.

A superb Pinder run eliminated three players and while her shot was brilliantly blocked by McCarthy, the bounce of the ball fell kindly for Shauna Kavanagh to tap into an empty net.

Watkins was binned soon after for a rash tackle during which time Naughton earned a corner and created a chance of her own, haring down the right but neither found the right side of the post.

And it was Marshall who went closest to adding a goal but, again played in by Pinder, her stinging aerial was brilliantly saved by Nicola Walsh with a diving glove, capping a fine personal game between the posts.

Alexandra College: L Porter, L Lenehan (capt), N Gray, D Duke, E Beatty, A Burke, L Gibney, R Evans, R Traynor, S Gibbons, S Mulkerrin, G Mulkerrin, E Hinkson, J McArdle, H McDermott, K Lenehan
Mount Sackville: Alison Garrigan, E Sweeney, O Fox, A McDiarmada, M Spillane, R Hinkson, A O’Brien, S Quinn, S McLoughlin, S O’Connell, P Cashin, O Smartt, D Gibney, S Hinkson

St Andrew’s: T Ellis, N Atcheler, L Stephens, V Taaffe, L Pinder, H Sarratt, C Watkins (capt), G Pinder, S Woodroofe, S Marshall, H Meredith, H Kinsman, S Kavanagh, A Spain, L Gray, J Lavery
Mount Anville: N Walsh, L McCarthy, A Naughton, C Walsh, J Maguire, K O’Connor, J Ryan, J Fennelly, C Noble, G Appleby, R Murphy, L Smith, A Crotty, N O’Connor, A O’Shea, A O’Connell, K O’Donovan

* For more of Adrian Boehm's photos from the Alexandra College vs Mount Sackville game, click here while photos of the Mount Anville vs St Andrew's game can be seen here (more to follow). For the Irish Times take on the games, click here while the Evening Herald will be carrying a page on both semi-finals with photos this afternoon.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

IHA Awards and Trinity alumni: News in brief

* The IHA has opened nominations for the 2010 ESB Irish Hockey Awards with 12 gongs to be awarded on May 29. The categories include this year a Hockey School of the Year title in addition to the 11 titles awarded in 2009.

Every school, club and branch secretary has been sent a link through which to make their nominations and, to make sure the right people are put forward for each award, the hockey public are encouraged to get in contact with their club or school representatives to make sure their voice is heard. Nominations close on April 19.

* The hockey clubs of Dublin University are hosting the 2010 Hockey Ball in Belvedere Rugby Club on March 6 for their third annual alumni celebration night.

Irish Senior Cup winning captain and Trinity legend JV Luce will be honoured on the night as will former club player and coach Mandy Holloway as well as the men’s varsity and U-21 Cup winning side of 2003/04 and the women’s varsity champions of 2002/03.

There will be a dinner and presentation starting at 8pm followed by music and dancing. Tickets are €50, contact to confirm your place.

* The Hook has been nominated on the long-list for the second successive year for an Irish Blog Award in the Best Sports and Recreation category. The list is compiled from nominations from the public so I would like to thank whoever put The Hook forward!

Senior Cup reaches semi-final stage

The Leinster Schoolgirl’s Senior Cup reaches the semi-final stages this afternoon at Grange Road with Mount Sackville playing Alexandra College at 1pm, followed up by Mount Anville vs St Andrew’s at 3pm.

In the Senior Plate, High School comfortably reached the last four with a 6-1 win over Rathdown, Aimee Jones O’Connor giving them an early lead before the Glenageary school pegged them back at 1-1.

But High School showed their strength as Susan McRann restored the lead before half-time and second half strikes from Jessie Meeke, Kate Barlow and Sarah McCoy completed the win. They will now play Loreto, Dalkey in the semi-finals.

On the boy’s side, Mount Temple reached the semi-finals of the Junior Cup yesterday when they beat Newpark 2-1 – Nathan Northcutt and Andrew Jamieson on target. They play Wesley in the semi-final on Thursday at 4pm in Mount Temple. Meanwhile, the northside school's U-13 side play Sutton Park, today, in the cup semi-finals.

Duke double gives Hermes impetus

Women's Division One:
Hermes 3 (Deirdre Duke 2, Anna O'Flanagan) Loreto 1 (Nikki Keegan)
Hermes returned to the top of division one as they sped into a rapid 3-0 lead inside the first 20 minutes and held off a game but heavily understrength Loreto. It meant what usually is a season-defining tie was turned into somewhat of a damp squib as Deirdre Duke (pictured) struck twice in the first quarter - the second with a high tap in to round off Aine Connery's steal and strike - as Hermes dominated the early phases.

But the game proved incredibly open and while Hermes were on top, Cathy McKean did clip the inside of Emma Gray's post before a defender was needed to sweep the ball off the line. Anna O'Flanagan rolled in amid a goal-mouth melee for 3-0 but Nikki Keegan pulled one back before the break with a sweet reaction on the rebound to Hannah Matthews original strike.

And the Beaufort side took that momentum into the second half to camp in the Hermes 25 for much of the third quarter, earning a couple of corners, and bossing play. A couple of wrong options on the approach to the circle and some confident Gray goalkeeping meant the margin stayed intact - Ali Meeke a particular thorn when introduced in bursts.

The excellent Connery and Elaine O'Neill were threats on the break but generally the chances died down in the latter stages though Christine Quinlan did need to slide to clear Sarah Barnwell's nudge off the line with six minutes to go.

The win lifts Hermes to first, a point clear of Railway with a game extra played while Loreto are three points further back. Both sides will hope to welcome back a number of players for the weekend's IHL ties with the Booterstown side hoping to have Jenny Burke and Chloe Watkins back while Loreto will hope their Irish quintet return unscathed from three matches in England.

Trin smash Suttonians for nine

Men's Division Two:
Dublin University 9 (Daire Coady 3, Tolly Humphreys 2, Andrew Beverland 2, Chris Tyrell 2) Suttonians 1 (Ed Hipwell)
Trinity enjoyed a Santry homecoming to savour as they battered league leaders Suttonians for nine to open up the race for the division two crown yet further. The students showed no ill effects from the return to sand-based hockey after spending much of the season on the Grange Road water, racing into a 5-1 half-time lead and scarcely letting up in the second half. Daire Coady scored a trio of penalty corners while Chris Tyrell scored a brace against his former club.

The loss means should Weston win their game in hand on Sutton - home against the students on Saturday - then they will take pole-position. Suttonians next chance to bounce back is on March 2 against Avoca though a defensive record which has leaked 17 goals in three games needs to be put straight in the interim.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Ireland defence improves in 1-0 British loss

In an improved performance, Ireland lost 1-0 to Great Britain in their second, uncapped training match this week in Bisham Abbey with the Brits scoring after 20 minutes from a penalty corner.

The Irish defended better this afternoon with Bridget Cleland standing out but goals still proved hard to come by. Ireland complete the trip on Wednesday with their third challenge game at 12pm.

Ireland panel: Emma Clarke (Leicester); Bridget Cleland (Ballymoney); Lizzie Colvin (Loreto); Eimear Cregan (Catholic Institute); Nicci Daly (Loreto); Roisin Flinn (Old Alex); Mary Goode (Bray); Michelle Harvey (Pegasus); Lisa Jacob (UCD); Rachel Mulligan (Armagh); Audrey O'Flynn (UCC); Shirley McCay (Dragons); Julia O'Halloran (UCC); Niamh Small (Loreto); Emma Smyth (Railway Union); Emma Stewart (Armagh); Nikki Symmons (Loreto)

Match Schedule:
Wednesday, March 24: Ireland vs Great Britain, 12pm

Midweek clashes provide vital challenges

Weather permitting, midweek could provide a couple of twists in the women's and men's division one title races as well as posing a tough tester for Suttonians in their pursuit of the division two crown.

Hermes and Loreto on Tuesday night (8.15pm, Belfield) is a vital fixture with a win for either side returning them to at least a share of first place in the rankings. The Beaufort side will be without Lizzie Colvin, Nicci Daly, Louisa Healy, Niamh Small and Nikki Symmons due to international commitments in England.

No such problems afflict Hermes as Emma Gray and Niamh Atcheler were not included for this away trip though Jenny Burke is a doubt due to illness while Chloe Watkins may be rested again as Leaving Cert pressures are factored in.

How they bounce back from the Pembroke cup defeat - relinquishing the title after a four-year reign - on Sunday is vital. Prior to that, Eric Fintelman had enjoyed a 100pc record in all competitions since taking over before Christmas with the side accruing nine straight league wins.

UCD are down to play Trinity in a reprise of last week's colours fixture on Wednesday night in Belfield with the visitors desperately needing goals if they are to challenge for fifth spot.

On the men's side, Pembroke can close the gap to two points on Corinthian, with a game in hand, should they get past the challenge of YMCA on Wednesday night (7.30pm, Serpentine Avenue). The toll of three games in five days may be a factor but the elite level training of much of the panel means they are used to such schedules in international tournaments.

Nonetheless, YM are fresh from a free weekend and gunning for points to secure an IHL berth and appear the form side in the mid-table wrangling. A recent 4-0, midweek cup defeat at the same venue provides Trevor Dagg with food for thought.

Suttonians and Dublin Uni will tussle on Tuesday night in a fixture reverted to Santry from the adopted home at Grange Road in an effort to beat the frost. Sutton, especially will hope to avoid a further back-log with five games in a 15 day period currently in store.

That glut of fixtures has led to them withdrawing from Leinster Junior trials with Saturday week's Irish Hockey Trophy tie against Belfast Harlequins a pressing concern. Bray travel to Navan on Wednesday night, too.

Fixture schedule:
Women's Division One: 
(Tuesday): Hermes vs Loreto, 8.15pm, Belfield
(Wednesday): UCD vs Trinity, TBC

Men's Division One:
(Wednesday): Pembroke vs YMCA, 7.30pm, Serpentine Avenue

Men's Division Two:
(Tuesday): Dublin Uni vs Suttonians, 7.30pm, Santry
(Wednesday):Navan vs Bray, 8pm, King's Hospital

Monday, February 22, 2010

Irish fall to 4-0 British training game loss

Ireland slipped to a 4-0 loss in the first of three uncapped, training matches this week against Great Britain in Bisham Abbey as a more composed host team took the laurels.

Britain ended with a 100pc record from their two penalty corners, roofing two high drag-flicks while capitalising on two defensive lapses to extend the lead to four by the 37th minute.

Nonetheless, the performance was a step up from the recent Belgian series against higher quality opposition with manager Sally-Ann Fanagan stating that her side got “a lesson in clinical finishing”.

Ireland worked hard throughout but were disappointed in giving up too much cheap ball but did carve out a couple of clear chances, Emma Smyth intercepting to play in Rachel Mulligan one-on-one but the British goalkeeper forced her wide of a shooting angle to close out the chance.

Ireland panel: Emma Clarke (Leicester); Bridget Cleland (Ballymoney); Lizzie Colvin (Loreto); Eimear Cregan (Catholic Institute); Nicci Daly (Loreto); Roisin Flinn (OldAlex); Louisa Healy (Loreto); Michelle Harvey (Pegasus); Lisa Jacob (UCD); Rachel Mulligan (Armagh); Audrey O'Flynn (UCC); Shirley McCay (Dragons); Julia O'Halloran (UCC); Niamh Small (Loreto); Emma Smyth (Railway Union); Emma Stewart (Armagh); Nikki Symmons (Loreto)

Match Schedule:
Tuesday: Ireland v Great Britain, 2.30pm
Wednesday: Ireland v Great Britain, 12pm

Rovers take Euro wooden spoon

EuroHockey Indoor Club Champion's Challenge I:
Three Rock ended their European adventure in sixth place out of six in Bologna last weekend as they struggled to convert decent positions into points earned, ending with just one point from their five games. They opened the weekend brightly, taking a 1-0 first half lead against hosts CUS Bologna through Peter McConnell.

But the class of Russian international Sergey Stasyuk eventually told and he netted a second half hat-trick to get the Italians off to the perfect start, a passage that ultimately led to promotion to the second tier of European indoor hockey.

Croatian side HK Jedinstovo, inspired by five goals from Rebic, ran up a 7-3 win though just one goal separated the sides at the 25 minute mark following Sven Galjaardt and Garry Ringwood goals. But four goals in quick succession left Rovers virtually dead and buried in the tournament and, with relegation not a factor, just pride was left to play for.

Peter Blakeney's double put the Dubliners on the brink of a point against eventual winners Stroitel Brest only for Siarhei Mishevich to pot a last minute field goal for a 3-2 win.

And a similar scenario occurred against Pliva Lipovci in Saturday's second game as no sooner had Pierre de Voux tied the game up at 3-3 in the game's dying stages than Robert Mesaric popped up with a winner for the Slovenians.

But they eventually got off the mark on Sunday morning, picking up an unlikely draw against Hungary's Epitok. Unlikely as they trailed 5-0 after 15 minutes only to roar back into contention with de Voux grabbing a pair, Galjaardt on target and Blakeney scoring his sixth and seventh goals of the competition.

EuroHockey Indoor Club Champion’s Challenge:
Friday: TRR 1 (Peter McConnell) CUS Bologna 4; TRR 3 (Peter Blakeney, Garry Ringwood, Sven Galjaardt) HK Jedinstovo 7
Saturday: TRR 2 (Peter Blakeney 2) SC Stroitel Brest 3; TRR 3 (Peter Blakeney, Sven Galjaardt, Pierre de Voux) Pliva Lipovci 4
Sunday: TRR 5 (Pierre de Voux 2, Peter Blakeney 2, Sven Galjaardt) Epitok 5

Final standings:
1. Stroitel Brest 13pts (+11) 2. CUS Bologna 13pts (+10) 3. Epitok 7pts (-6) 4. Pliva Lipovci 6pts (-3) 5. HK Jedinstovo 3pts (-3) 6. TRR 1pt (-9)

Pembroke and Alex to contest Potter final

Jacqui Potter Cup:
Pembroke and Old Alex will contest the Jacqui Potter Cup final on St Patrick's Day as the former produced their best performance to date this season to beat in-form Hermes while the Alex had too much in the tank for Corinthian.

Pembroke led from start to finish against Hermes in their 4-2 win at St Andrew's, powered forward by Natalie Fulton and taking their chances when they came, ending with an excellent corner record of three from four.

Rachel McKeon notched up the one from play with a neat finish after the ball broke to her near the top of the circle to make it 1-0, picking the right ball to hit home after a leftover ball from the warm-up had somehow remained on the pitch.

Karen Hales battered in a corner on the stroke of half-time to build a decent lead, starting a run of five goals from set plays. Christine Quinlan shot home to give Hermes a lifeline but Hales restored the advantage with yet another corner hit, this time taking a deflection en route to the roof of the net.

Elaine O'Neill touched home a switch move for 3-2 but Sarah Clarke had the final impact on the scoresheet with yet another piledriver from a short corner to complete the Ballsbridge club's biggest win of the season.

In between times, recently elevated goalkeeper Kelly Scott pulled off a string of fine saves for the visitors to keep their lead in tact and, on the final whistle, proved the focus of the raptured Pembroke celebrations.

Old Alex had a slightly more comfortable ride, scoring a goal in each in half to keep alive hopes of a first Leinster senior title since the late 1990s.

Influential American Roz Ellis opened the deadlock with a fine goal, beating a player at the circle's edge before scoring from a tight angle. Siobhan Burke had earlier pulled off an excellent diving stick-save but she was powerless to prevent Corinthian from falling behind.

The reds came out stronger in the second half, enjoying a ten-minute purple patch, testing Barbara Luke but when Jenny Heggie was sin-binned for a stick-tackle, the momentum abated and Alex took full advantage.

Nicola Gray saw a corner bash take a deflection into the goal's netting to make it 2-0 and confirm their place in a surprise final pairing.

Hermes 2 (Christine Quinlan, Elaine O'Neill) Pembroke 4 (Karen Hales 2, Rachel McKeon, Sarah Clarke); Old Alex 2 (Roz Ellis, Nicola Gray) Corinthian 0

* For more of Deryck Vincent's photos from the Hermes vs Pembroke game, click here.

Fingal and Pembroke overturn Saturday losses

Leinster Senior Mills Cup, semi-finals:
Both Pembroke and Fingal over-turned Saturday league defeats to Corinthian and Monkstown, respectively, to take their place in the Mills Cup final on St Patrick's Day after taking the spoils at Serpentine Avenue this afternoon.

For Pembroke, the result broke the hoodoo that has seen them fall at the hands of the reds three times in the last year as Alan Sothern, in spite of a relatively quiet afternoon, struck twice inside the opening 20 minutes.

From then on, Corinthian awoke from a slumbering first half to fire a barrage David Harte's way in the second period but found him equal to seven penalty corners and a number of open play chances to shut out the visitors.

Sothern had provided Pembroke with the perfect start, rolling home from close range after a high-speed move, started at right back by Adam Pritchard, found its way to Maurice Elliott. The trickster out-foxed a couple of defenders on the right endline and just as space opened for a shot, he picked out Sothern for a simple finish.

And the hitman doubled his record from the penalty spot after Chris Pelow was called for a shove on Ronan Gormley. It was a personal triumph for Sothern as he went powerfully high to beat Ross Murray who had won the duel a day previously, though the keeper guessed right and got his glove to the ball.

Pembroke were in complete control to this point, playing neat, designer hockey. The reds only penetrated the circle for the first time in the 23rd minute and only took one shot, the last touch of the half when Brian Doherty's corner was comfortably saved by Harte.

Darren Kimfley showed some delightful touches but the fact they occurred on halfway rather than in the danger-zone told much about the state of play.

The second half, though, proved a different matter. Lucas Piccioli's snap-shot 30 seconds after the break served notice and he had two further attempts in successive minutes. Andrew Cronje inexplicably deflected wide from a corner move on the slide from three yards.

And Pembroke were forced even deeper when Justin Sherriff was sin-binned for a barge on Alan Blennerhassett; the pair had tangled in the game's early throes...

Corinthian failed to capitalise as the 'Broke rode the punches, bouncing off the ropes to win their sole corner. In response, Kimfley was pulled back when primed to shoot and a sixth and seventh reds corner went a begging but chances from play were limited to crash balls as time wore on.

On the break, Pembroke had two chances in the last five minutes to secure the tie but neither were taken, nor needed, and yet another cup final beckons.

Earlier, Fingal managed to hold out the Monkstown second half charge in a similarly divided fixture with the Airport side making all the early running. They were 3-0 up by the break and while the league strugglers looked nervy in the face of a Town onslaught, they limited clear shooting opportunities despite spending vast periods of time inside their own 25 and held on for a 3-2 win.

Dicksboro man Tom Manning broke the deadlock when he finished off a neat move with Paddy Gahan and Gary Sharman influential. Chris Neville doubled the difference, getting the final touch to a corner move after David Bane and Derek O'Gorman had played a one-two at the top of the D.

These strikes, though, served as a mere appetiser for the game's defining act as Gahan robbed the ball to play in Sharman who smashed a superb reverse-stick shot late in the first half for 3-0.

Monkstown roared back to life in the second period, Andy Ewington whizzing a flick past Nigel Grothier's glove to awaken the vocal support and they spent the remainder of the half probing the Fingal circle.

Gareth Watkins fizzed an open side shot just past the post while a couple of others went close but the Fingal defence, typified by Andy Marshall's big tackles, managed to ride their luck and held firm despite a lack of ball.

Ian Allen did make it a nervy finish when he flicked home a rebound after Andy Ward's deflection bounced off Grothier straight to the experienced forward and he calmly finished. Dave and Eamon Bane both had rushes of blood to hand the Town possession deep in Fingal territory but it came to naught and Fingal were into their second Mills Cup final. For Monkstown, its a third semi-final defeat in the past five years.

Fingal 3 (Tom Manning, Chris Neville, Gary Sharman) Monkstown 2 (Andy Ewington, Ian Allen); Pembroke 2 (Alan Sothern 2) Corinthian 0

* For more of Adrian Boehm's photos of Fingal vs Monkstown, click here

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Reds blow title race wide open

Men's Division One:
Pembroke 1 (Justin Sherriff) Corinthian 2 (Andrew Cronje, Brian Doherty)
Corinthian completed an extremely rare league double over Pembroke as they came from a goal behind to add yet another twist to a fascinating Leinster league season. The Serpentine Avenue hosts occupied the box seat at half-time at 1-0, enjoying the majority of possession as Corinthian were content to hit the 'Broke on the break.

The one breach of a superbly marshalled defence - Andrew Cronje to the fore - came when Henry Micks was dispossessed at right-back and a quickly worked ball to Justin Sherriff who tried his utmost to break the backboard with a wonderfully thunderous reverse-stick shot from an acute angle.

That goal came right on the half-time whistle but the reds were back in the frame when Cronje netted a penalty stroke. The award owed much to Davy Carson's baseline foraging, using some unique skills to flip the ball off David Harte and the post before Lucas Piccioli's follow-up hit a foot on the line.

Pembroke had a stroke of their own to restore the lead when a corner shot was deemed to hit a Corinthian foot in line with the goal, originally being awarded as a long corner. But Alan Sothern's shot was blocked by the legs of Ross Murray.

And the reds capitalised on their fortune, Brian Doherty firing a low bullet with ten minutes to go to take the lead at 2-1 which they held to the end. Pembroke earned a last-minute corner but, despite some debate, only a long corner ensued and the title race was blown wide open again. Pembroke and Glenanne can both win the title if they win all their remaining games, making their tie on March 14 a vital one. Corinthian will need that result in combination with at least one other to go their way.

Clontarf 0 UCD 2 (John McInroy, Robbie McFarlane)
UCD jumped up two places, leap-frogging Fingal and Railway Union as two second-half strikes all but condemned Clontarf to the bottom-rung of the division one ladder. The Bulls held the balance of power but an ineffective corner-routine meant they went unrewarded for their efforts despite earning a number of set plays, which included having a goal chalked off. And they were punished when the returning John McInroy gave UCD the lead with a reverse rebound. The hosts piled forward to no avail and when the impressive Robbie McFarlane bagged the second with six minutes remaining the writing was on the wall. Stephen Cairns did pull off a number of good saves for Clontarf while John Brennan stood out for the students who took the spoils in this vital six-pointer.

Fingal 2 (Paddy Gahan, Gary Sharman) Monkstown 3 (Gareth Watkins 3)
Gareth Watkins pounced on three Fingal defensive errors to over-turn a 1-0 deficit and keep their charge for a third trip to the IHL alive. The ALSAA men had been in control for close on 45 minutes but lapses in concentration cost them dear and they drop down to eighth in the rankings while the Town move into a tie for fifth place with YMCA after 13 games a piece. Paddy Gahan had given the northsiders the lead from a short corner break-out, tapping in from Tom Manning's cross to round off a pitch-length move.

But Manning was robbed on his own 25 line by Watkins who rounded Andy Marshall before planting home an open side hit for 1-1. With Derek O'Gorman in the sin-bin for a deliberate foot in the second half, Watkins struck again when he caught out Eamon Bane and shot, this time on his reverse and he completed his hat-trick from the penalty spot, awarded courtesy of Lloyd Pearson's bizarre and dangerous attempt to clear an overhead in the circle. Gahan squared for Gary Sharman to pull one back but Monkstown held on for the three points.

Railway Union 1 (Mark English) Glenanne 5 (Stephen Butler 2, Brendan Parsons, Graham Shaw, Gary Shaw)
Glenanne produced a much more routine win over Railway Union this week after last Sunday's battle in Tallaght and, with Corinthian helping their progress, look an imposing threat in the title race after months in the background. Brendan Parsons got on the end of a corner to open the deadlock against his former club before Gary Shaw continued his fine form and Stephen Butler netted for a 3-0 half-time lead. Butler and Graham Shaw added goals before both being sentenced to time in the sin-bin in the second half while Mark English scored a consolation goal.

Irish Junior Cup, second round:
Monkstown II 2 (Richard Sykes, Simon Allen) Kilkeel II 1 (A Graham)

* For more of Adrian Boehm's photos of Pembroke vs Corinthian, click here; Deryck Vincent's photos of Clontarf vs UCD are here.

Alex inches away from Trin win

Women's Division One:
Trinity 0 Old Alex 0
Sylvia O'Mahony came within centimetres of making Old Alex's place in the top five a done deal but her late touch from Aoife Budd's pass hit the inside of the Santry post, meaning there is just a sliver of hope that Trinity can overhaul the Milltown club or UCD. The chance came late on in a tie played almost exclusively between the 25s. Alex earned more corners but on the slower, sand-based surface were unable to create the chances that came so freely against Railway in midweek. Trinity struggled anything of the clear-cut variety, their achilles heal this term, and while they were competitive, rarely threatened.

Pembroke 2 (Sarah Clarke, Hilda Maguire) UCD 2 (Kerry McComish, Lisa Jacob)
Pembroke snatched an equaliser five minutes from time to take a point from an even game at Serpentine Avenue against UCD. Kerry McComish's straight strike gave the students the lead against her former club but it was cancelled out by a Sarah Clarke smartly worked corner switch for 1-1. Lisa Jacob finished off yet another corner switch, via a defender's body, for 2-1 at half-time but a much-improved Pembroke - with Clara Chamberlayne impressing at the back - eventually got the equaliser five minutes from time when Hilda Maguire was on the mark. The point a piece keeps UCD three points clear of their third level counterparts Trinity in fifth while Pembroke move a point closer to Glenanne whom they face next Saturday.

Hermes 3 (Deirdre Duke 2, Anna O'Flanagan) Glenanne 0
On a day where the top three all recorded clean sheets and three points, Deirdre Duke produced the goods in the first half to hand Hermes a 2-0 lead at St Andrew's as they controlled a scrappy game. Glenanne defended doggedly but were unable to prevent Anna O'Flanagan copper-fastening the win in spite of a Niamh Atcheler penalty stroke miss. Jenny Burke (virus), Chloe Watkins (rested) and Sarah Greene (illness) all did not play though Watkins could be in the team for Sunday's Jacqui Potter Cup tie.

Bray 0 Loreto 3 (Nicci Daly 2, Cathy McKean)
Loreto produced a solid, if unspectacular 3-0 win in Bray as they turned a high percentage of pressure into three points against an understrength host team who defended well and made the IHL champions work for every inch. Nonetheless, Nicci Daly's double proved the gamebreaker while Cathy McKean, enjoying a more advanced role after last week's midfield outing against Trinity, was also on the score-sheet.

Corinthian 0 Railway Union 4 (Cecelia Joyce 2, Emma Smyth, Patricia O'Dwyer)
Railway comfortably swept aside Corinthian at Whitechurch Park this afternoon to keep their title retention hopes on course as they raced into a 3-0 half-time lead courtesy of Cecelia Joyce's double and a solo goal from Emma Smyth. In a tighter second half, Patricia O'Dwyer added the fourth in the second half while the Park Avenue side did have to play with ten as Sararh McDonald saw yellow and the reds had a goal chalked off for a corner-strike deemed above the backboard.

* For more of Adrian Boehm's photos from Pembroke vs UCD, click here

Suttonians back on top of Div Two pile

Men's Division Two:
Navan 3 (Simon Clarke, Ruairi Clarke) Suttonians 4 (Conor Gillett 2, Simon Walsh 2)
For a third time this season, Suttonians were made to work extremely hard for their points against the Navan badgers, this time Conor Gillett’s stunning, top-corner reverse the highlight of a lively fixture.

Simon Clarke’s deflected corner strike gave Navan the lead at King’s Hospital for an early lead. Gillett, though, levelled matters in disputed circumstances with the Navan defenders believing the forward handled the ball before finishing off a goal-mouth scramble to make it 1-1 at the break.

Sutton started the second half brighter, Simon Walsh banging in two goals in quick succession to make it 3-1 before Simon Clarke pulled one back. Gillett, though, kept the league leaders in front with a superb reverse from the top of the D. Ruari Clarke pegged one back when he got his stick to a wayward shot to set up a grandstand finish with five minutes left. But Sutton held out to take all three points to move them back out to a clear lead in division two.

Elsewhere, Dublin University's tie with Bray was called off due to a frozen pitch with a quarter of the pitch at the Marlay end under ice.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Double trouble for Mills Cup quartet

Two double-headers dominate the men’s landscape this weekend as top two Pembroke and Corinthian joust twice while Monkstown face a tough pair of matches against Fingal in fixtures which will go a long way to determining the success of their season.

Serpentine Avenue is undoubtedly the ground to be at on both days as Pembroke host Corinthian in the league and Mills Cup semi-finals.

December’s 2-1 win in Whitechurch Park for Corinthian threw the league open and remains the only points Pembroke have dropped this term. Last week’s draw, though, at YMCA ended a run of nine wins in the league for the reds and if they are to have any dreams of a maiden league crown, they will need to summon the immense defensive effort from Andrew Cronje and his cohorts.

The pace of Chris Pelow, Davy Carson and Darren Kimfley means they will always have a chance on the counter-attack, a style of play that has frustrated Pembroke’s natural instinct to do the same.

Nonetheless, the ‘Broke will always be clear favourites with Alan Sothern continuing to score goals for fun and Justin Sherriff and Gordon Elliott back in the panel after pre-Christmas breaks.

Their additional squad size could also play a factor in the back-to-back nature of the weekend.
A win for Pembroke on Saturday will see them top for the first time this term while Sunday’s cup tie could go some way to avenge last year’s hotly contested Mills’ final which the reds nabbed in extra-time.

Monkstown, meanwhile, desperately need the three points to stay in touch with the race for an IHL-berth. ALSAA is never an easy place to visit and David Bane is back for Fingal after serving an internal ban for the game against Pembroke last week.

The northsiders, bouyed by their win over Glenanne and only conceding in the very late stages against Pembroke, have worked on an ultra-deep press which is becoming an effective method on the continent for dealing with the auto-pass ruling.

They may need to make more of the play against the Town but hitting the likes of Tom Manning or the evergreen Adrian Sweeney is a fruitful avenue.

The significant change of speed in surface from Saturday to Sunday will be an intriguing factor as cup action switches to Serpentine Avenue.

At the bullring, Clontarf face their very last chance to stage a dramatic escape from relegation as they face UCD. The students were not as sharp as recent times without skipper Tim Hill and player-coach John McInroy. The latter may return after sitting out the colours game in midweek but Irish Uni’s Karl Smith will be a big miss in midfield, having moved to Australia for the remainder of the season.

Elsewhere, Glenanne face Railway Union for the second time in a week, hoping for an easier ride than they were given at St Mark’s on Sunday.

In division two, Suttonians can re-establish their place at the top of the charts. They travel to King’s Hospital to Navan, a side who have caused the Dubliners more than their fair share of problems this season. Given debate on the blog, the fixture could also serve as a trial match for the Leinster Junior side with numerous names put forward for the representative side.

Dublin Uni, meanwhile, will look to bring the positives from the colours defeat through to their game with Bray. Craig Moore is a doubt through illness but are at full strength otherwise and will aim to recreate the 9-1 win at the same venue in January. Simon Cox, among others, was absent that day and always provides a threat when available.

Men’s Division One (Sat)
Fingal v Monkstown, 2pm, ALSAA; Railway Union v Glenanne, 2.45pm, Park Avenue; Clontarf v UCD, 2pm, Mount Temple; Pembroke v Corinthian, 2pm, Serpentine Avenue

Men’s Division Two (Sat)
Navan vs Suttonians, 12.30pm, King’s Hospital; Dublin University vs Bray, 12.30pm, Grange Road
(Tues): Dublin University vs Suttonians, 7.30pm, Grange Road

Leinster Senior Mills Cup, semi-finals (Sun)
Monkstown vs Fingal, 1.15pm, Serpentine Avenue; Pembroke Wanderers v Corinthian, 3pm, Serpentine Avenue

Irish Junior Cup, second round (Sat):
Monkstown vs Kilkeel, 3pm, Rathdown; Cookstown vs Glenanne, 4pm, Coolnafranky

Trinity in IHL "last chance" saloon

The top five meet the bottom five in women’s division one this Saturday in what looks to be a series of fixtures which could go a long way to deciding who takes fourth and fifth in the table.

David Bane sees his side’s battle with Old Alex as very much a “last chance” to close the gap on the top five and earn an IHL place. Goals have been hard to come by for the students – scoring just seven league goals – and just two from play – but a strong defensive resolution means they are still in the mix for fifth place.

Lucy Small could be out for the visit of Alex who were more than a match for Railway for long periods on Wednesday night while American Roz Ellis is a powerful presence in the back-line.
The University of Iowa woman is in Ireland during her off-season to try and propel herself further into the American national team’s plans.

She visits Santry with a sizable former-Trinity contingent in tow with Laura McCoy a key bustling presence while Nicola Gray's powerful corner shot could also return after a Wednesday night absence.

UCD are the other side in the reckoning for an IHL place and welcome back defensive lynch-pin Megan Tenant-Humphreys for the trip to Pembroke after she missed the colours match due to a work placement.

Pembroke are also in the last chance saloon for IHL qualification for a third successive year, surprisingly lying just a point off bottom.

Hermes and Railway will fancy their chances against Glenanne and Corinthian while Loreto will have their international quintet available for selection against Bray before they head out to England on Sunday.

It means Old Alex will be the only side affected in the Jacqui Potter Cup semi-finals as Roisin Flinn will be unavailable for the Milltown date with Corinthian.

Hermes' Emma Gray will not be travelling with Irish set-up this week and the 4.30pm tip off time means that players involved in Ireland training may yet be able to make it to the tie with Pembroke in the second semi-final.

Women’s Division One fixtures (Sat):
Trinity v Old Alex, 11am, Santry; Pembroke v UCD, 12.30pm, Serpentine Ave; Hermes v Glenanne, 1.15pm, St Andrew's; Bray v Loreto, 1.30pm, Loreto Bray; Corinthian v Railway Union, 3.30pm, Whitechurch

Jacqui Potter Cup (Sun):
Old Alex vs Corinthian, 2pm, Milltown; Hermes vs Pembroke, 4.30pm, St Andrew’s

Carefree Rovers set for indoor promotion push

With the threat of relegation no longer an issue, Three Rock Rovers will hope to push for promotion from the EuroHockey Indoor Club Champion’s Challenge I in Bologna, Italy.

The last three years have seen Irish clubs maintain their place in the third tier of indoor club competition in their last fixture of the tournament – Railway in 2007, Pembroke in 2008 and Three Rock with a stunning 8-1 win over Swansea Bay.

But such concerns are absent this year as the Turkish and Slovakian entrants have pulled out, meaning they will occupy the two relegation spots.

As such, Three Rock are among six sides vying for the two promotion spots up to the EuroHockey Indoor Club Champion’s Trophy.

They begin this morning with an immensely trick tie against hosts Bologna who dropped down to this level after HC Bra were relegated to this level last year.

They feature two Russian imports, including 2003 World Cup participant Sergey Stasiouk, as well as Argentinian German Chaves to bolster their bid.

They follow up with a fixture against Croatia’s HK Jedinstovo before facing Belarus’ Stroitel Brest on Satruday morning – a side who will be well known to Pembroke and Ireland, featuring many Belarussian internationals who also competed in last season’s outdoor EuroHockey Club Champion’s Trophy.

Rovers renew rivalries with Slovenia’s HK Pliva Lipovci from last time out before facing Hungary’s Epitok – a side who a number of the Rovers’ selection faced as part of an U-16 tour to Holland back in the mid 90s.

To follow the tournament online, click here

Match Schedule:
Friday (all times Irish): TRR vs CUS Bologna, 10am; TRR vs HK Jedinstovo, 4.10pm
Saturday: TRR vs SC Stroitel Brest, 11.05am; TRR vs 2pm
Sunday: TRR vs Epitok, 10am

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Leinster Juniors call for players

The Leinster Junior squad is calling for clubs to nominate players for the upcoming junior interprovincial tournament which will be held in Cork on March 13 and 14, 2010.

Eligibility for nomination excludes all current division one club players and those who line out for second elevens of division one clubs.

Players who have played interprovincial hockey at Senior or U-21 level, or who have played international hockey, are also not eligible to play.

Following the receipt of nominations, training sessions and squad selection will be announced in the coming week.

Nominations can be sent Ian Wilkie at or via phone to 0876393213.