Pembroke, Corinthian and Glenanne all strengthened their claims for an IHL semi-final place while Saturday set-backs for Three Rock and Monkstown saw their challenges all but go up in smoke.
Corinthian’s fourth quarter comeback sees them maintain second spot in Pool A as they came from 3-1 down to draw with play-off rivals Banbridge 3-3 in the first IHL tie to be played at Whitechurch Park.
Darren Kimfley and Davy Carson both reversed home in the closing stages to steal two points from a Bann side who looked well set for the spoils after three quarters.
Brian Doherty had given the reds the perfect start, potting a fifth minute penalty corner. His side subsequently survived the two minute suspension of Rowland Rixon-Fuller while Ross McCandless served the same sentence in the second quarter.
But he emerged re-energised and flashed a corner into the top left for 1-1 before drawing a strong save from Ross Murray. Bann did take the lead by half-time, teenager Josh Moffett deflecting a powerful ball into the danger zone.
The aerial route saw Corinthian regain their authority in the tie but had an Andrew Cronje equaliser chalked off at corner time before Bann stung the Whitechurch hosts when Dane Ward finished off after a long, diagonal overhead was controlled and crossed his way.
But goals in quick succession from Kimfley and Carson earned a dramatic late draw and keep their interest in the competition very much alive.
Pembroke continue to rule the roost in the group, though, as they swept to an impressive 3-0 win at Instonians and have dropped just one point from a possible 12 this term.
Alan Sothern added yet another brace to his seasonal tally, his first coming early on after Pembroke capitalised on a midfield mistake to quickly transfer his way and he slid the ball past Nigel Skillen.
Chris Kirk went close for Inst but Pembroke moved into a strong position from the only penalty corner of the game, Alan Giles finishing off the move.
A lightning Justin Sherriff run set up the third, squaring the ball to Sothern to roll home from three yards to conclude the day’s scoring.
Pembroke continued to impress with a very slick all round performance but Skillen produced some fine saves to make sure there was no further damage.
Monkstown, meanwhile, let a two goal lead slip to come away from Cork with just a losing bonus point for their troubles. The visitors played plenty of pretty hockey and found space at will, but as has become a hallmark of theirs, also left gaps at the back too often.
The town hit the front on six minutes as Andy Ewington roofed a drag-flick, and they had the better of the early chances, the livewire Frank Ryan rifling a reverse straight at Reinout Mensink from 10 yards after doing well to create space.
But they did eventually find a second in the 27th minute, when a searching long ball found skipper Gareth Watkins, and he fed Alec Barrett, who fired over the grounded Mensink from close range after his first effort was blocked.
‘Town appeared to be cruising as the break approached, but a flurry of corners amazingly helped Quins draw level with two goals in four minutes.
The frustration of seeing Darren Farrell’s goal ruled out as the whistle was blown for a corner a second a moment before evaporated as Dan Hobbs zinged his drag-flick just inside David Fitzgerald’s right-hand post.
And after the half-time hooter, Mark Black touching in another Hobbs drag to send Quins into the break in chipper form.
The best chance of the second half fell to Watkins after Barrett was stick-chopped in the 50th minute. But Mensink guessed right and got down brilliantly to his right to deny the flick
And Quins grabbed the winner when Eddie Dore latched onto a defensive blunder and he twisted his way goalward, finding David Lombard who fed Paul Lombard to flick home in the 60th minute.
Also in Cork, Glenanne’s storming first half performance put them right back on track to return to the semi-finals of the competition.
While recent international retirees Stephen Butler and Graham Shaw commanded most of the pre-match attention, it was some of Glens’ lesser lights who hogged the headlines.
Gary Shaw has been in ruthless form of late – his last-quarter hat-trick helped Glens come back from the dead in the ISC against Corinthian seven days ago – and he gladly took on the role of torturer-in-chief for the visitors.
He picked out Mick McGuinness with a bullet cross that took out C of I keeper Billy Lynch on three minutes – the former Fingal man having plenty of time to trap and score into an exposed goal.
Brendan Parsons then made hay from a quick free on the left to set Eddie O’Malley free on nine minutes, and the striker forced the ball home at the second attempt.
C of I knew they had to score next to stand any chance of keeping the contest alive, but John Jermyn saw his first short corner attempt partially blocked by Joe Brennan, while Stephen Doran kept out a David Hobbs snap-shot.
Lynch made a truly stunning stick-save at the other end, keeping out a Paul Fitzpatrick thunderbolt, but he agonisingly then saw Butler’s 17th-minute drag-flick wriggle under him and over the line for three-zip.
Quins' Paul Lombard flicks home the winner past Monkstown's Andy Ewington and Eoin O'Connor, as David Lombard collides with the fence after supplying the assist.
O’Malley nudged a reverse lob just wide after tricking his way into the circle as Glens initially went for the jugular, while Doran matched Lynch’s stick-save heroics with an unbelievable stop to deny Jermyn.
Graham Shaw and Nick Burns both saw green, before Parsons rattled home Glenanne’s fourth on 30 minutes, finding the bottom corner after lovely interplay by David Keogh and Gary Shaw.
Lynch made yet another brilliant block, denying Gary Shaw’s rocket, though the latter really should have picked out Parsons, who was all alone at the back post and braying for the ball, instead.
The second half saw much less in the way of action, as Glens sat back knowing the job was all but done. Worryingly for C of I, David Hobbs was helped off with an ankle injury in the third quarter, and looked to be in some distress – it remains to be seen how serious the problem is.
The hosts did finally plunder a consolation in the 58th minute – an improvised 1-2 short corner move between Jermyn and Karl Burns eventually seeing Nick Burns slot home – but they never looked like getting a second, which would have denied Glens a bonus point.
The win moves the Glens into second place in the standings behind Lisnagarvey who lead the way by two points following a 7-0 execution of Three Rock Rovers, comfortably wreaking revenge against the Grange Road club.
Timmy Cockram struggled to find his form from set-pieces in Dublin last weekend but once he got a taste at Hillsborough, he was insatiable.
He zipped home four corners out of a personal tally to record the biggest win in the IHL to date as Lisnagarvey cut loose.
Cookstown, meanwhile, stay in contention in the group as they got the better of Annadale 3-1 with David Ames firing a double.
In the Irish Hockey Trophy, Suttonians advanced to their first national as they outdid Belfast Harlequins 2-1 in Deramore Park with their third win over Ulster opposition.
They will face an incredibly impressive NICS outfit in the decider who have amassed almost 100 goals already in 14 Senior One league games.
* A big thanks to Southern Fried's Alan Good for his reports from the two games in Cork. Adrian Boehm's photos from Cork Harlequins vs Monkstown can be seen here, while his snaps from Cork C of I vs Glenanne are here.
Men's Irish Hockey League:
Pool A: Corinthian 3 (Brian Doherty, Darren Kimfley, Davy Carson) Banbridge 3 (Ross McCandless, Josh Moffett, Dane Ward); Cork Harlequins 3 (Dan Hobbs, Mark Black, Paul Lombard) Monkstown 2 (Andy Ewington, Alec Barrett); Instonians - Pembroke 3 (Alan Sothern 2, Alan Giles)
Pool B: Lisnagarvey 7 (Timmy Cockram 5, Mark Daniel, own goal) Three Rock Rovers 0; Cookstown 3 (David Ames 2, Ian Hutchinson) Annadale 1 (Ian Hamilton); Cork C of I 1 (Nick Burns) Glenanne 4 (Mick McGuinness, Eddie O'Malley, Stephen Butler, Brendan Parsons)
Men's Irish Hockey Trophy: Belfast Harlequins 1 (Steve McGrath) Suttonians 2 (Simon Walsh, Marc Guerin); NICS 3 (Colin Irwin, Gill Irwin, Pete Johnston) Antrim 0