Monday, May 31, 2010

Corithian ladies looking for new coach

Corinthian ladies first eleven are looking for a new coaching team in the wake of Stuart Walker and Andrew Cronje being unable to continue the role and are now advertising for the position of coach.

Key skills for the job would be technical and strategic ability, interpersonal and organisational skills. The applicants must be able to provide the commitment levels required for coaching a division one team. It is also desirable that the applicant would have coaching experience at this level.

If you are interested in taking on the role, please contact clubcaptainladies@chc.ie for details or expression of interest.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Leinster stars feature heavily on Awards night

Railway Union's ladies, the Watkins family and Glenanne were the big winners at last night's Irish Hockey Awards, held in the Burlington Hotel with nearly 400 people in attendance, including former world super-bantamweight champion boxer Bernard Dunne, Minister for Culture, Tourism and Sport Mary Hanafin and compered by RTE's Darragh Maloney.

Brother and sister Gareth and Chloe Watkins followed in the footsteps of Gordon and Trevor Watkins as family members to earn the coveted awards, taking the Men's Club Player and ESB U-18 Female player of the year, respectively.

Chloe was a potent factor in St Andrew's claims for the School Club of the Year win, too, having helped the Booterstown outfit to a trio of senior girls titles to match their boy's senior cup win.

Railway Union ladies, meanwhile, capped their treble-winning season with the Club of the Year crown while Mick McKinnon took the Coach of the Year having led his side to their second Leinster league title and the club's first ever national titles - the Irish Indoor Trophy and the recent ESB IHL triumph.

The Glens, meanwhile, had a number of club members honoured on the night. Shane O'Donoghue was the recipient of the Boy's U-18 Player of the Year after becoming the club's first team top scorer from play this term, netting 18 times in total - including one in the Irish Senior Cup final win.

Kieran Bolger was rewarded for an excellent season with the whistle to take Umpire of the Year while Graham Shaw was presented with his 150th cap - earned in Argentina in the World Cup Qualifiers.

North Kildare were the winners of the Development club of the Year in a season where they opened their floodlit astroturf pitch at The Maws and achieved their women's highest ever league finish in division two.

Botanic, former Development club winners, took the Youth Club of the Year title and are another side to have funded and built a new astro in the past season with the benefits extending to St Mary's, Glasnevin - nominees in School of the Year category.

The senior player of the year sections, nominated by the Irish senior international panels, saw Mikey Watt and Bridget Cleland named by their peers as the top performers in the past 12 months which included Champion's Challenge, European Championship and World Cup qualifying events.

Cork Harlequins were double winners; Dave Egner rewarded for his work at club, school and provincial level to receive the U-18 Coach of the Year while Karen Bateman - a driving force in her club's run to the IHL final - was given ESB Women's Club player of the year.

School of the Year: St. Andrews College, Dublin.
DVD Centre developing club of the Year Award: North Kildare
Trilogy Technologies Youth Club of the Year Award: Botanic
Local Lotto Volunteer of the year award: Ciaran Delaney (Knocknacarra)
Dixon Rose Umpire of the Year award: Kieran Bolger
O’Driscoll O’Neil U18 Coach of the Year Award: David Egner (Cork Harlequins)
O’Driscoll O’Neil Coach of the Year: Mick McKinnon (Railway Union)
ESB Club of the Year: Railway Union Ladies Hockey Club
ESB U18 Female Player of the Year: Chloe Watkins (St Andrews, Hermes, Ireland)
Samurai U18 Male Player of the Year: Shane O’Donoghue (High School, Glenanne, Ireland)
ESB Senior Women’s Club Player of the Year: Karen Bateman (Cork Harlequins)
Samurai Senior Men’s Club Player of the Year: Gareth Watkins (Monkstown)
ESB Players Player of the Year Awards: Bridget Cleland (Ireland)
Samurai Players Player of the Year Award: Michael Watt (Ireland)
President’s Award: John Smyth
2010 Hall of Fame Inductees: Margaret Gleghorne (Ulster); Mary Geaney (Munster); Eddie Cummins (Munster) and Billy McConnell (Ulster)

* To see Tristan Seaton-Stedham's photos from the Awards night, click here

Friday, May 28, 2010

Smyth and McCandless resign from U-18 post

Irish U-18 coach Andy Smyth and manager Chris McCandless have from their posts with immediate effect this week following a stand-off with the IHA over funding and their views on the long-term good of the sport.

But the IHA have quickly denied to the Hook and BBC Radio Ulster that any Junior Age Group team will be “scrapped”, as suggested was the cause for the resignations by a Belfast Newsletter article yesterday.

With Irish Sports Council funding reduced by roughly €275,000 in the past two years to a new level of €425,000 and the Council’s expressed intention that greater focus go on elite level sport from a more youth-based brief in that time, the funding of the Junior Age Group teams was always likely to feel the pinch.

But the administration of the new structure, which will see every international from U-16 to senior pay a contribution every year regardless of their upcoming programme, has left Smyth and McCandless at an impasse they feel cannot be bridged

Andy Smyth outlined his decision to step down following 12 years of coaching national teams from U-16 up to senior level.

The contention is that the manner in which this levy has been administered could make the sport increasingly ‘elitist’ and unavailable to more people in society.

“I have witnessed many decisions taken which were based on what was best for the players, the parents, supporters of Irish hockey and also the sport itself in order that we move forward and develop.

“Recently, I have serious doubts over whether this is still the case.”

Smyth said: “Figures supplied to me from the IHA for this season are requiring a player contribution of €425 [to include a target of local lotto sales of €175] to play.

“When we received our budget for the year, myself and my manager Christopher McCandless sat down and tried to come up with cost cutting measures to keep these costs down to a minimum. All of these were rejected.

“We asked for the programme to be reviewed. I advised, as an FIH coach with years of experience in Junior Age Group coaching, that we did not need a large program in a non-European year.

“We were advised by the High Performance Director that the programme we had was in his opinion the minimum requirement for this age group. The programme was costing €10,500 and yet they were giving us €4,000 with the rest was to be funded by parent contributions and local lotto.

“We asked for a review of funding allocation. We felt that, as the Irish U-16s are going to Europe, they should get the majority of the matches.

“Currently, they have none going into a major tournament whereas [the U-18s] have nine in a non-European year.

“This review was also rejected under the point that 'contracts' had already been agreed to play these other countries.”

Smyth does believe, though, that in these financially constrained times, such a player contribution is a necessary evil but how it has been conducted has made his position untenable.

“I am not opposed to pay to play. I feel it is necessary in order to secure Junior Age Group hockey in Ireland.

“What I am opposed to is the blanket charging for every squad regardless of what phase of competition we are in.

“We asked that player contributions be pro rata to the amount being held in a squad. We had to raise €4500 euro in player contributions.

“We asked that this be shared between 24 players and not 18. This would help with developing ‘two-year’ players and wouldn't limit the size of the squad.

“We were told that this could not happen. Regardless of squad size we were to charge €250 per player and the excess could underpin squads for the future.

“I am not adverse to charging players if I felt that everything and every avenue had been exhausted with regards keeping the costs down. In my opinion this has not been the case.”

Smyth and McCandless called for cost-cutting reviews of the upcoming series of against Scotland and the Home Countries tournament in July as well as the allocation of kit where a partial agreement was reached.

Speaking in support of Smyth’s decision, McCandless added: "The programme for the U18 boys was set prior to any certainty concerning funding. This has resulted in a 'cart before the horse' scenario with the resulting shortfall in funds being expected from parental contribution.

“I do not and will not accept that the fund raising i.e. local lotto is anything other than an additional levy upon players and their family. This is inequitable and unreasonable especially in light of our head coaches [Smyth] opinion that a reduced program would be acceptable in 2010. His opinion and authority has been undermined and this is completely unacceptable to me.

“The decision to levy may cause hardship and embarrassment to certain players and their parents and contribute to our sport becoming elitist in the future.

“This is not a policy supported by the vast majority of the hockey playing and supporting public and I believe a policy that could cause long term damage at grass roots level at a time when we should be encouraging youth into our sport as one open and accessible to all."

Pakistani influence sees Ports bounce back

Portrane, one of the country’s oldest clubs, bounced back from last season’s relegation to division four as they landed the division five title in the final match of the season, defeating long-time leaders Naas to take top spot for the first time.

The club earned just one point from their opening four games of the campaign but their fortunes turned with the arrival of former Glenanne and Dublin University player-coach Nasir Munir and Mukhtar Ahmed from Clontarf (pictured, right, with Adrian Henchey).

The pair proved a massive influence on the pitch with their array of skills and goal-scoring presence which club stalwart Adrian Henchey described as “levels of hockey never before seen in our club and in every game, between them, they had contenders for goal of the season.

Munir’s positive influence on the club also saw former Sandford Park players Richard Tector and Andrew Collings join the club having experienced his coaching at the school in recent years.

The side was captained by Peter Conway who was a strong defensive presence whilst chipping in with corner goals while bagging his first competitive hat-trick of a long career when his side met St James’ Gate.

Sutton Park goalkeeper Tom Fee enjoyed a strong season between the posts, aided by veteran defenders Ken Davis and Dave Eustace.

The season also marked a special achievement for Henchey who doubled as the Swords ladies coach in reaching top spot in division five – their highest ever league finish.

He paid tribute to what he called “by far our most enjoyable season for a long, long time”.

He added that “the priority for our club is to firmly re-establish our colts and fillies section which is going very well. Also, the construction work of our new water-based pitch is commencing in two weeks time and is due for completion in April 2011”

* For a few more photos of Portrane in action in their final league tie against Naas, click here. I'm still looking to post final round-ups on division four, six and eight. If you were involved in the title race in either of these divisions, please email me on stevie_findlats@yahoo.com with details to celebrate your club heroes.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

McInroy steps down; UCD look for new boss

UCD men are on the lookout for a new coach following John McInroy’s decision to pursue a new business venture in his native South Africa, leaving with the club’s blessing.

Speaking in the wake of his one year tenure, the player-coach said of the student club: “I believe UCD can become the most powerful team and producer of international hockey players in the country.

“It is a very exciting time to be taking over the team - the team is ready to push on and keep enjoying their hockey and improving."

As a result, the club are now welcoming expressions of interest for the position of the first eleven coach for the upcoming 2010/11 season.

The club’s committee is welcoming applications from individuals who can give the required commitment to a division one team, who demonstrate ambition, good organisational and interpersonal skills and desirably have previous experience coaching at this level but all applicants will be assessed on their individual merits.

A club statement adds that “UCD are an ambitious club whose league performance has improved every year over the past four seasons and, under John McInroy, achieved their highest ever Leinster league position this season, finishing in eighth place, and will be looking to improve on that performance aspiring to reach the IHL in the next two seasons.”

Interested applicants can send a short résumé, detailing coaching qualifications, previous experience and any other information they feel is relevant to their application to Stephen Tennant Humphreys at stephenvth@gmail.com; for more information call Stephen on 086 154 7330.

Ireland clubs demoted despite Loreto fifth

The myriad machinations of women’s European club competition has seen Ireland’s two representatives drop a division despite Loreto’s fifth place finish in Rome earlier this week.

Ireland’s second seed, UCD, were relegated from the third tier European Champion’s Challenge I competition on Monday following a 2-1 defeat to Czech hosts Slavia Praha.

Rachel Burke got a superb deflection to Kerry McComish’s guided corner strike to tie the game at 1-1 but the Czechs struck in the last quarter to a share of fifth place and condemn the students to a share of seventh place and relegation to next year’s Challenge II event for Ireland’s second European entrant – Loreto as Irish Senior Cup winners.

And after the jigs and reels of a complex EHF ranking system, despite Ireland remaining 12th in the overall list of European performers, they have lost their place in the Club Champion’s Trophy.

How this is arrived at is based on a two-tone approach. Ranking lists are derived from the combination of results from the past three years of European club competition in the Club Champion’s Cup and Trophy.

Meanwhile, this year’s three challenge events used a direct promotion/relegation for the Champion’s Challenge events.

The combined system, though, creates the anomaly that while Azerbaijan’s second team, Baku, finished rock-bottom in the Champion’s Trophy, they stay in the division courtesy of Atasport claiming fourth in the top tier to earn enough to maintain their second team’s berth in the Trophy.

As a result, Ireland were the unfortunate country to make weight with Belarus producing two strong showings and earn two places in next season's Trophy.

As such, Railway Union will compete in next season’s Champion’s Challenge I event which will be a promotion/relegation affair while Loreto drop two divisions to play in the Challenge II.

On the men's side, due to Pembroke, Glenanne and Three Rock's performances in the past three years in the EuroHockey League, Ireland has risen another place to sixth in the overall, season-end rankings but it is very tight between sixth and ninth with less than one ranking point separating the sides.

* For more information and clarification on how the ranking systems work, follow the links on the homepage of www.eurohockey.org

Monks eye U-21 Cup three in-a-row

Avoca U-21 Cup final: Monkstown 7 TRR 0
Monkstown retained the Avoca Cup at Whitechurch with an emphatic win over Three Rock Rovers on IHL Sunday.

The game was effectively over in the first four minutes when an attacking blitz saw the Town put three past Stephen West.

Strikes from a solo run by Frank Ryan, an opportunist reverse by Theo Kirwan and a deft flick by Andrew Ward stunned Rovers in the early stages from which they struggled to recover.

Richard Sykes added the fourth before the break with a rising penalty corner as the Town continued their slick, fast-flowing hockey.

Rovers did come out stronger in the second period, with Jamie Haughton crashing off the crossbar while Tom Samuel drove his side forward.

But a strong Town first-team midfield of Stephen Cole, Cian Speers and Billy McEnery were always in control and they added three further goals.

A fine deflection by David Watkins, a tap-in from Sam O,Leary and a rocket to the roof by Andy Ward completing the tally.

Captain Nick Dee – who is the only player dropping off for next year’s three in-a-row bid – collected the U-21 cup from Leinster Branch President John Flannery, a title first won by Monkstown in the competition’s inaugural year in 1972.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Students denied by extra French goal

EuroHockey Club Champion’s Challenge I - Day Three
UCD 0 Cambrai 1 (Gwenaelle Dutel)
UCD fell to a second defeat in two days to miss out on a final shot as Cambrai grabbed the only goal through Gwenaelle Dutel struck from play in the 19th minute.

In combination with Royal Uccle’s win over Rottweiss Wettingen, a draw would have seen the students advance to one of Monday’s twin ‘finals’ but they were unable to get back on terms.

As a result, the French side’s victory left both teams level on seven points with an equal goal difference but the French side progressed courtesy on a tie-breaker of goals scored.

UCD had several opportunities to win the game but could not find the all important goal as they were frustrated by the French defence and in particular their goalkeeper, Maite Minet. UCD now play the Czech hosts Slavia Praha - who lost all three of their group games - at 10.45am on Monday in the 5th to 8th place play-offs.

Standings: 1. Royal Uccle 15pts (+6) 2. Cambrai 7pts (-2) 3. UCD 7pts (-2) 4. Rottweiss Wettingen 4pts (-2)

Apologies for any errors in the standings. There seems to be a number of inconsistencies on the EHF site, some but not all of which have been updated, but think above is the correct version.

Loreto finding magic touch for fifth

EuroHockey Club Champion’s Trophy - fifth/sixth playoff
Loreto 3 (Nikki Keegan, Lizzie Colvin, Nicci Daly) Alta Boryspol (Ukraine) 1
Loreto finally found their scoring sticks in the second half of their fourth EuroHockey Club Champion’s Trophy to end their campaign on a high, finishing fifth with an impressive win over Ukraine’s Alta Boryspol, outdoing their pre-tournament ranking by three places.

A frustrating first half with plenty of missed chances ended scoreless despite a corner count of 4-3 in favour of the Irish side. Nikki Symmons flashed wide from close to the stroke spot in the first minute while an excellent move saw the Irish international play in teenager Carly Baker whose cross just evaded sticks racing in.

A facial injury to Caitriona Tipping did see Loreto lose a little shape in the second quarter while a lengthy goal-mouth scramble also went a begging.

But the second half proved a different story with Nikki Keegan breaking the deadlock in brilliant fashion. In the 40th minute, she hared down the left flank, starting on the 25 metre line, cutting in on the baseline and finding a way to the net.

After that, it was all one-way traffic. Lizzie Colvin banged home from the top right of the circle eight minutes later before Nicci Daly applied a similar finish with 13 minutes to go for 3-0.

Boryspol pulled one back from a soft corner in the closing minutes but never threatened a comeback, leaving the Irish side as the fifth placed finishers in Rome.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

UCD undone by Uccle double

EuroHockey Champions Challenge I
UCD 0 Royal Uccle 2 (Magali Demeyere, Sofia Ambrosoni)
UCD remain in second in Pool A of the EuroHockey Champions Challenge as they failed to augment their 1-0 win yesterday with victory today against Belgian’s second ranked side; goals from Magali Demeyre and Sofia Ambrosoni giving the Belgian outfit Royal Uccle the win.

Uccle got off to a flyer, scoring after two minutes following an error in the UCD defence, forcing a penalty corner and the resultant straight strike by the impressive Demeyere put the Belgians one up. They subsequently controlled the game for the first 15 minutes with Grace O'Flanagan called on to make some fine saves.

UCD did force two corners in quick succession in the 16th minute but failed to covert either chance and in the 24th minute the Belgians had two of their own but both were saved by O'Flanagan.

The students did net inside a minute of the turnaround when nice work down the left channel involving Laura Wilson, Rachel Burke and Lisa Jacob led to another corner but this attempt was deemed high.

UCD were frustrating Uccle with their more physical play and the pressure told on the Belgians when they were reduced to nine players following two yellow cards for not retreating in quick succession.

No tangible advantage accrued with the best chance falling to Jacob who had her reverse stick effort saved.
Uccle even managed two corners of their own with O'Flanagan having to make a fantastic reaction save to her stick side to keep the score at 1-0.

UCD were helped further when in the 13th minute of the half a third yellow for the Belgium side saw their captain spend ten minutes in the bin for a stick tackle.

During this time, the Dublin club had their clearest opportunity when a move started down the right by Megan Tennant Humphreys through Jacob ended with a reverse stick strike from Orlagh O’Shea hit the post with the keeper well beaten.

With Elaine Collins marauding runs down the right flank and Valerie Sexton always a threat up front, the Belgian's were hanging on. But in the 26th minute UCD saw their own yellow when Kerry McComish was sin-binned and the Belgians got the killer strike when Sofia Ambrosoni took the ball off O'Flanagan's pads to score the Belgian's second putting the result beyond doubt.

The only consolation for UCD was a losing bonus point which could prove vital. Rotweiss Wettingen drew 0-0 with Cambrai in the day’s other game.

Standings: 1. Royal Uccle 10pts (+5) 2. UCD 6pts (-1) 3. Rottweiss Wettingen 2pts (-1) 4. Cambrai 2pts (-3)

Loreto claim third in dramatic fashion

EuroHockey Club Champion's Trophy
Loreto 0 Izmaylova Moscow 3
Loreto again struggled to convert possession into goals but managed to take third place in the group – meaning they will finish above their pre-tournament ranking of eighth seed – courtesy of an amazing late three goal from La Gantoise in the group’s other game.

Moscow scored from their first corner following a trio of saves from Louisa Healy and Nikki Symmons and were stung again by a superb reverse-stick shot from the left of the circle for 2-0.

Catriona Tipping saw one effort well-saved while corners in the 11th and 12th minutes were also kept out and the Dubliners were made to pay just before the break when they were dispossessed playing the ball around the back for the Russian side to notch their third just before the break.

In the second half, Loreto earned a further four corners to pull back a goal which would have earned a losing bonus point. One of those resulted in a 60th minute stroke but Symmons hot streak from the spot was ended.

It left Loreto on tenterhooks, hoping for the Belgians to win by three clear goals against Kelburne to escape Sunday’s wooden spoon play-off.

The Ghent club achieved that target with 55 minutes gone but, needing to win by six to top the group, took off their keeper in a bid to go through, further raising the nervous tension in the stands.

No matter, La Gantoise notched three goals in a whirlwind finish to take first place with while placing Loreto third. They find out their opponent later this afternoon but will play at 9.45am on Sunday.

Standings: 1. La Gantoise 12pts (+9) 2. Izmaylova Moscow 12pts (+9) 3. Loreto 2pts (-6) 4. Kelburne 2pts (-12)

Friday, May 21, 2010

Loreto stung by Belgian counter strikes

EuroHockey Club Champions's Trophy
Loreto 1 (Niamh Small) La Gantoise 4
Loreto chances of reaching Sunday's final in Rome are all but mathematically over as they fell to a 4-1 defeat to Belgian champions La Gantoise - who featured former Alex and Trinity woman Ciara Murphy - this morning.

They got off to a nightmare start, conceding in the first minute but Niamh Small cancelled out that effort within seconds to leave the game tied at 1-1 after just two minutes. She got on the end of Nikki Symmons crash ball and the latter almost gave the Dubliners the lead soon after but saw her drag-flick taken off the line.

Loreto were in the ascendancy in the first quarter but were stung after the small break, conceding from a double-switch corner in the 19th minute and the Belgians pressed home their advantage in the 41st minute.

In a fairly even contest, Loreto let three corners in succession slip by and, while piling forward, they were stung on the break with two minutes to go for a 4-1 result - a harsh reflection of a tie in which the Beaufort side won the corner count 7-3.

Izmaylova Moscow won the other group game against Scotland's Kelburne 6-0 to head the group after two games.

UCD, meanwhile, won their first group game of the Champion's Challenge I event in Prague, beating Swiss champions Rotweiss Wettingen 1-0 (more details to follow).

Also, in a correction to yesteday's posting, the tournament uses the EHL's points scoring format with five points for a win, two points for a draw and losing bonus points for close losses. The accumulation of these points go toward Ireland's European ranking with each tier of competition weighted to reflect the level of competition.

EuroHockey Club Champion's Trophy Standings: 1. Izmaylova Moscow 7pts (+6) 2. La Gantoise 7pts (+3) 3. Loreto 2pts (-3) 4. Kelburne 2pts (-6)

EuroHockey Club Champion's Challenge I Standings: 1. Royal Uccle (Bel) 5pts (+4) 2. UCD 5pts (+1) 3. Rotweiss Wettingen 1pt (-1) 4. Cambrai 0pts (-3)

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Loreto begin Euro campaign with draw

Women's EuroHockey Club Champion's Trophy
Loreto 2 (Nicci Daly, Nikki Symmons) Kelburne 2
Loreto began their European campaign with a draw to leave things all tied up in Group A after day one - the Beaufort's club's Russian and Belgian rivals playing out a 3-3 draw earlier - as Nikki Symmons penalty stroke earned her side a draw.

Nicci Daly had earlier broken the deadlock with her side's first circle penetration of the game, played under a 23 degree Roman sun, in a lively period in which the sides halved eight corners. The Scots, though, tied the game up by the break before taking a 2-1 advantage in the second half.

Symmons stroke garnered a point and her side had two corner chances in the closing two minutes go awry which could have taken three points. The midfielder - along with Clodagh Grealy and Sarah O'Meara - had earlier been yellow-carded.

Earlier, Izmaylova Moscow and La Gantoise - club of former Trinity and Old Alex player Ciara Murphy - drew 3-3.

The format of the tournament sees the Irish representatives play three group fixtures, leading to Sunday's playoff day where the top sides in the two groups meet in the grand final. Loreto's final position will also determine how many points Irish clubs receive in the European ranking list, determining at what level the nation's representatives compete at in 2011.

UCD get their campaign underway in the Club Champion's Challenge I tomorrow in France. They have been grouped with Belgium's Royal Uccle, France's Cambrai and Switzerland's Rottweiss Wettingen. Their group stages subsequently lead into crossover play-offs

Club Trophy Day One Standings: 1. Izmaylova Moscow 1pt (0) 2. La Gantoise 1pt (0) 3. Loreto 1pt (0) 4. Kelburne 1pt (0)

Fixtures (Irish time):
Friday, May 21: Loreto vs La Gantoise, 9am, Rome; UCD vs Rottweiss, 3pm, Prague
Saturday, May 22: Izmaylova Moscow vs Loreto, 9am, Rome; UCD vs Royal Uccle, 1pm, Prague
Sunday, May 23: Trophy Playoffs (Rome); UCD vs Cambrai, 11am, Prague
Monday, May 24: Champ's Challenge I playoffs, Prague

UCD panel: Grace O'Flanagan (GK), Leigh Pelow, Kerry McComish, Elaine Collins, Rosie Carrigan, Megan Tennant Humphreys (VC), Orlagh O'Shea, Caitriona McGilp, Lisa Jacob (Capt), Rachel Burke, Julie Garvey, Laura Wilson, Emily Menzies, Rachel O'Reilly, Val Sexton, Stella Davis (GK)
Coach: Mary Logue
Assistant Coach: Nicola King
Manager: Joan Morgan
Physio: Keith Thornhill

* The Hook is on tour in Paris for the next seven days and so may be a bit slow in posting stories or responding to emails. Please bear with me during this time. Thanks for the interesting story ideas and so forth that have been sent through in the last two days, I will get round to dealing with them in due course. Also, apologies for any accuracies in the above report but was as close as I could manage from the available data. If anyone has knowledge of live streaming or photos, drop me a mail at stevie_findlats@yahoo.com

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Jamie Dwyer enjoys busy day at Grange Road

World player of the year Jamie Dwyer was on hand to show off some of the skills that made him a World and Olympic champion and impart some of his knowledge to some of Ireland's future stars at Grange Road last weekend.

The diminutive Australian conducted a couple of coaching clinics which ran in tandem with the Irish Hockey League's finals weekend. In between times, he also was on hand to sign balls, sticks and jersies for the assembled players and posed for photos with members of the public - notably Railway mascot Flora the Frog who presented him with their supporter's "R U a player?" t-shirt.

Amid his busy schedule, Dwyer took time out to have a few words with The Hook about how he enjoyed his brief first visit to the capital, how he was savouring the atmosphere at the Irish Hockey League and what is upcoming plans are.



* To see more of Emer Keogh's photos from the Jamie Dwyer coaching clinics, click here

Suttonians coach position: news in brief

* Suttonians currently have coaching positions available for the upcoming 2010/11 season. The ladies section is looking for a head coach and an assistant coach who will be responsible for the ladies 1st and 2nd teams and ladies 3rd and 4th teams respectively.

The club are also looking for a goalkeeping coach who will be responsible for coaching both the men’s and ladies goalkeepers. This role may also include coaching of our Junior Goalkeepers.
An attractive package and support is available for the right candidates. All enquires to Ciara Walsh at ciarawal@gmail.com

* The Ireland Masters women’s squad are still on the look-out for new talent as they build their squad ahead of the Home Nations ‘Plus’ event which takes place in Lisnagarvey in August this year. The competition promises to be one of the biggest international hockey competitions in Ireland and the UK for a number of years.

As well as the normal participants, England, Ireland, Scotland, and Wales it is anticipated that there will be a numbers of other international teams travelling to participate. After their trip to Hong Kong, Ireland were able to invite other countries including Australia, Austria, Malaysia, New Zealand, and Singapore.

Alison Pigot is coordinating the Ireland Ladies squad and is keen to accompany the Men to the Home Nations tournament in Swansea 20 - 21 June but so far has only got a limited number of volunteers.

If you are keen to try your hand and find out more, go to the team’s website - www.irelandmasters.com - for more details.

* Monkstown added yet another trophy to their bulging cabinet as their U-21 side won the last of the Leinster finals on offer this season, beating Three Rock 7-0 in the decider of the Avoca Cup.

Goals from Andrew Ward (2), Frank Ryan, Theo Kirwan, Richard Sykes, Sam O’Leary and David Waktins took the laurels for the Rathdown based side.

* Links to video interviews conducted by The Hook at last weekend’s Irish Hockey League finals weekend have now been added. To see the men’s final interviews, scroll to the bottom of this post here and for the women’s, scroll to the bottom of this post here for some of the key player’s thoughts.

Rematches abound for IHL mark three

Women’s IHL 2010 finalists Railway Union and Cork Harlequins will lock horns once again in next season’s competition in the group stages following last Sunday’s draw.

The pair have been paired together once again having both retained their provinicial titles this season. They will be joined by a trio of Ulster sides, the returning Armagh who reclaim a place after a year’s absence, along with Ards for their second season and ever-presents Ballymoney.

On the other side of the draw, Pegasus, Hermes and Loreto are set for yet another dust-up following their intriguing battle went to the wire this season – the Leinster pairing fighting for one semi-final place.

They are joined by UCC in their second season, Belfast Harlequins who missed out last year in the wildcards and tournament newcomers Catholic Institute.

On the men’s side, Pembroke’s group is a virtual identikit of the season past with Banbridge, Instonians, Monkstown and Cork Harlequins back for another season. YMCA are the one change, replacing last year’s wildcard Corinthian.

The reds face a much-changed task this time round in what looks the more competitive group at this early stage. Cookstown, Glenanne, Annadale, Cork C of I and Lisnagarvey are all ever-presents in the competition.

2010/11 IHL draw
Women’s Pool A:
Pegasus, Hermes, Loreto, Belfast Harlequins, UCC, Catholic Institute.
Women’s Pool B: Railway, Armagh, Ards, UCD, Cork Harlequins, Ballymoney.

Men’s Pool A: Cookstown, Corinthian, Glenanne, Annadale, Cork C of I, Lisnagarvey.
Men’s Pool B: Pembroke, Banbridge, Instonians, Monkstown, Cork Harlequins, YMCA.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Alex ousted as Inst up for IHL debut

Leinster will have to make do with just four entrants in the 2010/11 Irish Hockey League as Old Alex were pipped in last weekend’s wildcard play-offs by Ballymoney and Catholic Institute.

The Limerick side salvaged a draw on Friday night which proved key in the final reckoning despite Aoife Budd and Laura McCoy both rebounding at corner time to twice give Alex the lead.

But Institute fought back strongly in the closing quarter with Naomi Carroll on the mark to grab a second equaliser and tie the fixture at 2-2.

A 7-1 win for Alex on Saturday over Galway’s Greenfields – all seven of which came from short corners, making it nine from two games from set plays – had the Milltown club in pole-position in the group.

That was courtesy of Institute’s 3-0 win over Ballymoney, former Bray woman Elaine Brommell on the mark twice.

But, needing only a draw to take their place in the competition for a second time, Alex were unable to get the result against Ballymoney, led by Irish vice-captain Bridget Cleland.

She and Diane McNeill were on the mark with only Budd’s goal in response while Institute sealed their place with a 2-0 win over Greenfields.

Wildcard playoffs
Old Alex 2 (A Budd, L McCoy) Catholic Institute 2 (R Pratt, N Carroll); Ballymoney 3 (R Sutherland, A Kearney, K Mullan) Greenfields 1 (T Garrett); Old Alex 7 (L McCoy 3, D Costigan 2, N Gray, A Budd) Greenfields 1 (N McGettigan); Catholic Institute 3 (E Bromell 2, N Carroll) Ballymoney 0; Greenfields 0 Catholic Institute 2 (E Higgins, R Pratt); Ballymoney 2 (B Cleland, D McNeill) Old Alex 1 (A Budd)

Final standings (goal diff): 1 Catholic Institute 7 pts (+5); 2 Ballymoney 6 pts (0); 3 Old Alex 4 pts (+5); 4 Greenfields 0 pts (-10).

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Sothern triple brings back-to-back glory

Men's Irish Hockey League final
Lisnagarvey 1 (Timmy Cockram) Pembroke 4 (Alan Sothern 3, Maurice Elliott)
Alan Sothern’s hat-trick secured back-to-back Irish Hockey League titles for Pembroke as clinical precision and body on-the-line defending gave them an emphatic-looking final scoreline.

For Lisnagarvey, they put it up to the national champions, earning nine corners which, had their routine found holes in David Harte’s armoury, could have made this a sterling contest.

As it was, the big stopper kept numerous efforts at bay while Ronan Gormley took one effort off the line and Steven Arbuthnot dinged the post in the first half when just one goal separated the sides.

But Pembroke never trailed and looked to always have an extra gear when it came to the game’s key moments.

They showed serious early intent. Davey Williamson saved twice inside a minute from Maurice Elliott and Alan Giles, who started like a house on fire.

Alan Sothern delightfully dinked past the first runner and smashed home the first goal from a corner to give the Ballsbridge club the lead in the third minute lead but Timmy Cockram – the eventual man-of-the-match, whipped his back into the tie within three minutes with a low corner strike of his own. His battle in the first quarter with Adam Pritchard was a key one, the frightening pace of both players making for a superb contest.

The latter shut down three flashing runs before Cockram decided to try his luck down the left flank.

It was a fascinating first period, more akin to rugby with long breaks for each set-piece and a couple of injuries to stretch a bench already shorn of Gordon Elliott, Justin Sherriff and Tim Lewis. But when the ball was in play, there was some supreme spurts of action.

The second Pembroke goal was a perfect case in point. Mark Raphael had foraged dangerously on the right but Conor Harte did excellently to get his body position right to block out Peter MacDonnell and launched a trademark counter-attack.

Giles hared down the right, found Patrick Good who returned the favour to take out Williamson and his goalward prod was nudged over the line by Maurice Elliott.

The second quarter was more circumspect, turning to a more cat-and-mouse style tussle while Alan Sothern (shoulder-barge), Patrick Martin (not retreating) and Ronan Gormley (diving tackle) all saw green.

Nonetheless, there were still chances. Steven Arbuthnot banged the post while Johnny Bell’s slide from the left was almost flipped over David Harte.

Pritchard, meanwhile, found himself at right-wing and launched a sublime overhead the way of Andy McConnell who Pembroke’s third corner which Johnny Gray took off the line from Conor Harte’s drag.

The corner contrast, though, was never as stark as the start of the second half; David Harte denied three corners in quick succession at the start before a little switch left was slammed home by Sothern for the game-breaking goal.

Pritchard and Conor Harte shut down another pair of corners before Sothern was given a golden chance for his hat-trick. Harte’s drag was saved excellently by Williamson but Maurice Elliott’s poke caught a foot. Sothern, though, flicked wide with nine minutes to go.

He need not have worried, though. Two minutes from time Patrick Good chased what looked a well and truly lost cause, recovered inches from the corner flag and steadied to sweep to Sothern at the circle’s edge with Garvey’s defence understandably scattered and he finished calmly.

For Good it was a sweet moment. With injuries abounding, increased game time saw him step up to the plate, playing a hand in three goals on Saturday and making vital interventions to his side’s two goals from play today.

Conceding nine corners on the day meant it was not the most polished performance but when the key moments came, Pembroke showed all the aces against a Lisnagarvey looking to reach the high standards of yore. They are on their way but the Dublin 4 side are still very much the best around.

Pembroke: David Harte, Alan Giles (capt), Craig Fulton, Ronan Gormley, Conor Harte, Maurice Elliott, Patrick Conlon, Andrew McConnell, Adam Pritchard, Patrick Good, Alan Sothern
Subs: Antoine Bruneau, David Molloy, Ken Treacy, Scott Furlong, Mick O'Connor

Lisnagarvey: Davey Williamson, Brian Waring, Johnny Bell, Mark Robinson, Jason Lynch, Peter MacDonnell, Mark Raphael, Timmy Cockram, John Gray (captain), Steven Arbuthnot, Mark Daniel
Subs: Patrick Martin, Glen Whitten, Stuart McNiece, Stephen Hunter, Greg Thompson

* For more of Adrian Boehm's photos from the IHL Final, click here while Tom Daly's photos from the game are here. To see interviews with Pembroke's player-coach Craig Fulton and Lisnagarvey's captain Johnny Gray, click the videos below. There are also interviews with Pembroke's Alan Giles here and Colin Stewart speaking about his final involvement in Irish hockey here



Emphatic Railway claim maiden outdoor title

ESB Women’s Irish Hockey League final
Railway Union 4 (Jean McDonnell 2, Nikki Evans, Kate Dillon ps) Cork Harlequins 0

Railway Union enjoyed their biggest day in their 106 year history as they claimed their first outdoor national title in consummate style, showing a difference in class to end Cork Harlequins’ dreams of taking the club champion’s crown.

Jean McDonnell’s first half double laid the groundwork before Nikki Evans’ unique deflection and Kate Dillon’s penalty stroke in the final quarter capped the performance.

Quins’ never truly got going, the exertions of yesterday’s epic win over Pegasus apparent as they drew only fleeting sights of Helen Stevenson’s goal.

Indeed, the omens weren’t good when Karen Bateman went down with what looked a nasty injury inside 15 seconds as Railway initially imposed themselves physically. Bateman returned to the fray but was unable to carry the threat as the Park Avenue club had control from the off.

After fronting up well initially, the spaces began to open up for their speedy brand of hockey, flying down the left flank through the triumvirate of Isobel Joyce, Emma Smyth and Jean McDonnell.

The latter created the only chance of the first quarter, burning down the right end-line for Kate Dillon – another key player on the day – to draw an excellent diving save from Amy O’Neill.

But, with the tempo upped in the second period, Jean McDonnell gave her side the clear advantage. Emer Dillon and Emma Smyth had both served green card suspensions but, back with the full complement, they took the lead their dominance deserved.

The move which led to the set-piece was pure Railway. Smyth sped forward past two tacklers, laid the ball down the left channel for McDonnell to collect, leading from inside to out, and her reverse stick cross picked up a foot

The goal itself was a repeat of last Sunday’s corner switch, first left and then right opening the space for McDonnell to get back on the horse and drill past O’Neill’s defences.

Jane Chapple deflected one corner effort just wide but, when another flowing move yielded the fourth penalty corner of the half, McDonnell banged home off O’Neill’s pads for 2-0 on the half-time hooter.

It was a killer blow from which Quins struggled to recover. Rachel McSharry was green-carded inside eight second half seconds before returning only to be shown a yellow – following McDonnell’s incredible turn and burn – during which time Railway moved further ahead.

If Nikki Evans meant her 46th minute effort, she is a genius, scoring a one-of-a-kind deflection which left O’Neill helpless. Isobel Joyce took on a long corner, chipped across at shin-height about a stick-length behind Evans but she flung out an arm, and her control dragged home at the near post, completely wrong-footing the Cork ’keeper.

At this stage, Railway were running riot and could have extended their advantage on numerous occasions but for the brilliance of Sinead McCarthy and cohort Cliodhna Sargent.

The one effort to find the net was Kate Dillon’s stroke, firing home to the same spot she found a day earlier in the 63rd minute after Smyth was checked while in her shooting stride.

Pushed into midfield, McCarthy was denied a consolation when her flick was blocked on the line by Isobel Joyce, preserving the clean sheet much to Mick McKinnon’s delight.

Railway Union: Helen Stevenson, Holly Jenkinson, Emer Lucey, Eimear Dolan, Isobel Joyce (capt), Sinead Walsh, Kate Dillon, Emma Smyth, Jean McDonnell, Nikki Evans, Cecelia Joyce
Subs: Sarah McDonald, Kate McKenna, Emer Dillon, Ruth Hutchinson, Hannah de Burgh-Whyte, Patricia O’Dwyer, Sinead Dooley

Cork Harlequins: Amy O’Neill, Cliodhna Sargent (capt), Yvonee O’Byrne, Hilary Chapple, Karen Bateman, Rachael Kohler, Rachel McSharry, Antonia McGrath, Sinead McCarthy, Jane Chapple, Cliona O’Connor
Subs: Jessie Morris, Claire Bergin, Jane Bourke, Edwina McGrath, Laura McSweeney, Leanne Mullins, Leslie-Ann Daunt

* Adrian Boehm's photos from the ESB IHL final can be seen here while Tom Daly's photos from the final can be seen here. To see interviews with Railway coach Mick McKinnon and Cork Harlequins' Eddie Gash and Sinead McCarthy, see the videos below while an interview with Railway captain Isobel Joyce, click here.



Cockram silver goal ends red's run

Men's IHL semi-finals
Lisnagarvey 6 (Mark Daniel 2, Timmy Cockram 2, Mark Raphael, Stephen Hunter) Corinthian 5 (Darren Kimfley, Brian Doherty 2, Lucas Piccioli, Andrew Cronje ps) after silver goal extra-time
On a day of high drama, Lisnagarvey and Corinthian’s tie probably topped the lot with a fixture devoid of some of the earlier controversies while there easily could have been more than the 11 goals that did accrue on a mad-cap, early evening tie.

Timmy Cockram scored with the last act of extra-time, driving home a low drag-flick to cap a phenomenal day’s play at Grange Road.

The tale of the tape included as equally unlikely as the first semi-final as a blistering opening salvo from Mark Daniel saw ’Garvey 3-1 to the good inside the first quarter.

In truth, his side scored with virtually every attack they had in that time with Daniel getting two from a combined total of about a yard.

His first broke the deadlock in the fifth minute, tapping in after Mark Raphael – still showing utter class in every touch – went down the right and Daniel had a simple task to score.

Darren Kimfley pummelled one through David Williamson to level two minutes later but Wallace schoolboy Peter MacDonnell this time did the yards down the right to manufacture a ball to Daniel score.

Cockram rounded off a loose ball from Jason Lynch’s crash in the 16th minute to complete a lively first quarter.

And the goals kept flying in. Raphael finished with a brilliant couple of touches to a bouncing ball, laid on by Daniel, nut-megging Ross Murray.

But two Brian Doherty drags – one high, one low – from the only two corners of the half meant it was very much game on at 4-3 at the interval.

The third quarter was an anomaly. No goals but how the reds were not at least level was a mystery. MacDonnell had the first chance of the half, Daniel’s pace setting him free before the top of Murray’s pad denied a goal.

But then came a series of Corinthian chances. Davy Carson beat David Williamson, pulling onto his reverse in the centre of the goal but his bullet was knocked away by a superman-style dive from Brian Waring who’d covered the line.

Kimfley had three top chances, hitting a post with a rasper, flashing one wide while Williamson produced a trio of full-stretch saves from Carson and Lucas Piccioli.

Johnny Bell saw yellow moments after Kimfley went off injured for the first two stoppages of an absorbing game with none of the niggle and dissent of the previous encounter.

The goals, though, returned in the fourth quarter. Lucas Piccioli, sliding in on his tummy, got Corinthian on terms with an amazing diving deflection and the comeback looked complete with three minutes to go when Andrew Cronje netted a stroke – awarded after Brian Doherty’s drag caught Brian Waring flush on the head, thankfully he was ok.

But within 60 seconds ’Garvey tied it at 5-5. Marks Raphael and Daniel combined down the right yet again and rolled across the line for Stephen Hunter who inched the ball in despite Murray’s near-heroic efforts.

And they almost had time to steal it but Murray saved three times while Henry Micks was yellow carded for dissent to end a crazy 70 minutes.

Extra time retained the end-to-end spirit. Cockram saw his side’s first corner effort touched away by Murray while Jason Lynch had fired one wide on his reverse.

Carson won Corinthian’s fourth corner which Williamson saved on the fly and backed up that save in the second phase with a smother on Brian Doherty. Strokes looked likely but Johnny Gray won the vital corner and Cockram drove to the bottom corner to end an incredible match.

* Adrian Boehm's photos from the game can be seen here.

Controversial Harte strike ends Glens dreams

Men's IHL semi-finals
Pembroke 5 (Alan Sothern 2, Alan Giles, Mick O’Connor, Conor Harte) Glenanne 4 (Stephen Butler 2, Shane O’Donoghue, Jonathan Kane) after silver-goal extra-time

Where to start! Pure madness all round as Pembroke rallied after giving up a four goal lead for Conor Harte to sweep home an angrily contested winner in the first of the men’s semi-finals.

Major incidents abounded in a tetchy, fast-paced and bruising encounter defied belief at times and which, were it a Hollywood script, would be dismissed as an over-the-top flight of fantasy.

To start with, the simple stuff. Pembroke took an early lead when Alan Sothern found a way through Steven Doran’s defences for 1-0 in the 12th minute with a powerful drag-flick. Shane O’Donoghue had two decent efforts blocked while Stephen Butler saw one drag brilliantly denied by David Harte’s diving stick.

Pembroke went on to take total control as Glenanne were all at sea in the second period. Captain Alan Giles applied a brilliant guiding touch to Andy McConnell’s diagonal ball to double the difference before Craig Fulton played in Patrick Good on the baseline and his body swerve stylishly eliminated Doran to lay on a cross for Mick O’Connor to tap in from a metre out.

Sothern made it 4-0 on 25 minutes, slamming home another corner after Joe Brennan was adjudged to have kicked the ball rather than the glove he reckoned it hit. He took a green for his protestations – the same fate that befell Sothern in the first quarter for a niggly foul on Butler.

Butler, himself, gave the Glens a slight lifeline when he produced an incredible, glove-side corner flick from his side’s fourth corner for a three-goal deficit at the break.

He pulled another back with an odd corner in the second half. Playing what proved his last game before emigrating, Butler didn’t seem to catch the shot flush, pushing down the middle but Harte was unable to keep it out and the tension rose a notch.

At this stage, Pembroke were the side unable to find a pass or hold an ounce of possession but did have what they felt was a decent own goal shout waved away, their suggestions David Keogh’s shin had been shaved en route to the backboard dismissed.

The Glens were busy earning a plethora of corners. From their ninth, Shane O’Donoghue made it truly game on with ten minutes to go when he reversed through Harte on a switch move.

And 90 seconds later it was all square. Butler slammed a free from outside the circle goalwards. It seemed to go untouched, especially judging by player reaction, but umpire McConkey first swung his arms corner-wards and then switched around to indicate a goal.

Apparently Jonathan Kane got a touch but bemused supporters all round the ground were non-plussed while their was little reaction from Glenanne to claim the goal but it stood after consultation and it was level with eight minutes left.

Now back in a dogfight, Pembroke broke out of their shell in the 67th minute, Sothern bringing in McConnell down the left flank only to be denied by Gary Shaw’s sliding tackle in the circle.

Strangely, the tackle was severe enough to warrant a yellow card but not enough for a penalty stroke. The corner chance was brilliantly blocked by Mick McGuinness. There was still time left for O’Donoghue – the Hook’s nominee for player of the match – to dazzle his way past a couple of defenders and flick wide of the back post.

The diving Graham Shaw missed out by centimetres with mere seconds remaining of normal time and so to silver-goal for the third time in three fixtures on the day.

And five minutes later, Pembroke had their passage back to the semi-final secure when Conor Harte netted the most controversial of all decisions of the tie. It occurred on the half-time hooter of the silver-goal time added on.

A penalty corner was switched right but went slightly awry, leaving Craig Fulton to retrieve on the right edge of the circle. He crossed to Harte who swept – hands joined at the top of the stick – over the backboard. As first shot, surely it should have hit the backboard.

Pembroke wheeled away in celebration. The Glens, en masse, vehemently protested their case but umpire McConkey – in the face of some severe and downright ugly complaints – was not for turning.

The frustration was understandable but the unsavoury scenes continued all the way over to the technical bench where at least one red card was flashed in a frenzy of abuse.

Pembroke, though, are through and lie one a game away from their third club champion’s title in four years and a return to European competition.

* Adrian Boehm's photos from the game can be seen here while Emer Keogh's pics are here. To get the thoughts of captain Alan Giles, click the video below:

Mighty Quins end Pegasus hoodoo

ESB IHL semi-final: Pegasus 2 (Suzanne Beaney 2) Cork Harlequins 3 (Hilary Chapple, Antonia McGrath, Cliodhna Sargent) after silver-goal extra-time
Cork Harlequins ended their Pegasus’ hoodoo in dramatic fashion, twice using penalty corner overtime to progress to their first national final since 2003 and ensured a new name will be on the club champion’s trophy.

Cliodhna Sargent battered home a corner on the extra-time, full-time hooter to set off chants of “you ain’t seen nothing like the mighty Quins”.

It had looked an unlikely scenario when the Farmer’s Cross side trailed 2-1 going into the final seconds of normal time. But a clearance fell to Antonia McGrath and she proved the unlikeliest of heroines, scoring her very first goal for the club.

She looked stunned, initially when she picked up the loose ball but steadied herself and her second shot was pure dynamite, cracking the backboard from eight yards on the left of the circle.

Quins’ bench initially invaded the pitch before regaining composure to contest extra-time and their final fantasy was complete ten minutes later.

Early on, Pegs had whipped up an early storm, Suzanne Beaney pulling the trigger inside 50 seconds before Cork’s Jane Chapple squeezed just wide.

Her namesake, Hilary, was the one to break the deadlock in the 10th mnute, flicking home from a narrow angle as she blocked Arlene Boyles goal-line clearance to give Harlequins the lead from the quarter’s only corner.

After the goal, Kirsty McCollum aerialled just wide while a sublime Hilary Chapple diagonal ball from left to right found Cliona O’Connor in space but her shot skipped across the face of goal.
The second period was pitched at a slightly low key quarter with big defensive interventions defining the key moments.

Rachael Kohler’s was the first, intercepting after Claire McMahon had raced down the right wing; her pull-back found a dangerous zone but Kohler was calm to clear.

Sweeper Sinead McCarthy produced the first of a never-ending string of vital touches while Arlene Boyles was similarly alive to keep Quins outside the 22.

Cliodhna Sargent was sin-binned for disputing a corner decision – following a back-stick outside the circle – while Quins had one corner saved by Sharon Moffett, struck by Rachel McSharry.

The game’s momentum switched fully the Belfast side’s way, though, in the third quarter. Suzanne Beaney’s double – coming within four minutes of each other – turned the tie on its head.

She did brilliantly for her first, a right-wing bash got stuck in Amy O’Neill’s pads but the former international whipped the ball out to the left of the goal and, on the slide, reverse-swept by the despairing lunge of two defenders.

Her second was a touch to a crash ball from the 25 and that looked like it might have been enough. But the marauding Yvonne O’Byrne and Rachel McSharry combined to earn a spate of corners in the final period to pile on the pressure.

With time up, they got their eventual reward. Sargent tamely shot but the clearance off Sharon Moffett – who made a string of fine saves – found McGrath and she did the rest.

* Adrian Boehm's photos from the game can be seen here while to hear Cliodhna Sargent's thoughts on the game, click the video below:

Penalty drama but Railway on track

ESB IHL semi-finals - Hermes 2 (Chloe Watkins 2, one ps) Railway Union 2 (Cecelia Joyce, Kate Dillon ps); Railway win 3-2 on penalties
On what will go down as one of the most memorable days in Irish club hockey history, jammed with incident, controversy, four extra-time deciders and a whole world of talking points, Railway Union were the first side to confirm their place in Sunday’s finals.

In so doing, they completed the set of national finals, taking their place in the IHL decider following last week’s Irish Senior Cup and the Indoor in February.

Their penalty win over Hermes was a truly stunning game, though it ended in unsatisfactory style with the administration of the penalty one-on-one format again a serious issue.

Emma Smyth netted the vital one-on-one but, a round earlier in the shoot-out, Kate McKenna’s effort was the defining moment. With Hermes leading 2-1, McKenna swung left of Emma Gray before reversing into the goal.

However, the whistle to signal the end of the eight seconds allowed in this format seemed to have sounded already, which would have rendered the effort void.

Nonetheless, the goal stood. Helen Stevenson kept out Elaine O’Neill’s next penalty before Smyth held her nerve to take the first final place.

Hermes briefly entertained notions of an appeal but decided better of it, ruing the penalty competition that has ended their dreams for two years running.

It was an unfortunate end to what was a cracking contest between two well-matched sides, facing off for the seventh time this season.

Hermes got off to a flyer, earning a corner inside 45 seconds, Niamh Atcheler drawing an excellent save from Helen Stevenson, and they took the lead in controversial circumstances.

After a goalmouth melee, Anna O'Flanagan found a foot but it looked to be heading well wide. It was deemed in front of goal, though, and Chloe Watkins – with yet another superb all-round performance on the big stage – converted the ensuing stroke for 1-0.

Emma Smyth then saw yellow, denying a quick break when she was tempted to stop an overhead over shoulder height. Upon her return, Railway found their way back into the tie from their first corner when Cecelia Joyce got a brilliant touch to Emer Lucey’s corner strike, ramping the ball high into the net for 1-1 on quarter time.

The second period was more sedate but Deirdre Duke continued to show her menace, smashing a half-volley at Stevenson while Smyth did likewise to Emma Gray.

Railway took the initiative in the third quarter as Hermes were blighted by green cards.
Niamh Atcheler denied Jean McDonnell with a huge tackle as Railway briefly had a three on two before Gillian Pinder was binned for two minutes.

During that time, though, their full press worked well with Aine Connery twice going close.
McDonnell twice drew saves at the near post from Emma Gray before Kate Dillon forced a penalty stroke, her close-range flick giving Sarah Greene little chance but to take evasive action in front of the goal, a brief signal from the umpire on halfway.

Dillon converted in the 44th minute to complete the comeback. Kate McKenna’s reverse and a deflection – along with McDonnell’s twin efforts – both from the left toward Gray’s near post were dealt with before Watkins was sin-binned for not retreating.

But they roared back into the tie in the final quarter, bossing possession and equalising in the 60th minute in brilliant fashion.

It was forged via three teenagers, Gillian Pinder working the ball to Watkins whose turn was sublime to ghost by two defenders and lay off to Duke.

The Alex schoolgirl returned the favour, eliminating the out-rushing goalkeeper and Watkins first-time volleyed into the welcoming net from 10 metres, wonderful touch from the young midfielder.

And in an incredible finale, Anna O’Flanagan terrorised the Railway defence down the right to draw a corner with two seconds left.

It was perfectly worked, Watkins taking a switch and rolling to injector Niamh Atcheler but she deflected right across the face of goal for what would have been the winner. Silver goal passed with few chances of note, precipitating the controversial shoot-out but Railway remain on track for a maiden outdoor national title.

* Deryck Vincent's photos from the Railway vs Hermes game can be seen here; while post-match interviews with Isobel Joyce and Mick McKinnon can be seen below:



while below are the thoughts from Hermes' Christine Quinlan:

Friday, May 14, 2010

Pembroke injuries open door for Glens

Given the history between Glenanne and Pembroke in the last 15 years, it is perhaps fitting that Stephen Butler – the Ireland record caps and goalscoring holder – gets one last shot at his club’s arch-rivals before sailing to shores anew.

The two face off on Saturday afternoon in the semi-final, a stage earlier than last year, with the Glens looking to hold a few extra pre-game aces in their deck.

Bouyed by last week’s Irish Senior Cup final win, the Tallaght side have no EHL qualification concerns to worry about but are gunning for a first ever national double, the upshot of which may draw an easier draw in Europe next time round.

And captain Joe Brennan is hoping to right a few wrongs from days gone by: “The last time we were in this situation, we lost 7-1. We were exhausted as we’d made it quite far in all the competitions. This year, Arul and the management have managed it quite well.

“We were criticised for what happened at the end of the Leinster league. After we lost to Fingal, we gave up and said ‘we’re going to take a proper break’ and took three weeks off so everyone is very, very fresh.

“I do think Pembroke have a lot of pressure on them. For them not to qualify for the EHL would be a disaster because of the team they have but it’s just the way the draw has fallen. Honestly, I’d prefer to play them in the semi-final but it’s going to be an absolute cracker of a game.

“For our club, it would be outstanding. We don’t have the luxuries of a lot of clubs. We struggle in a lot of ways to try and do things because the financial backing isn’t always there.”

Pembroke are the one men’s side remaining with injury concerns with Timmy Lewis ruled out through injury while Justin Sherriff has work commitments. Gordon Elliott faces a race against time to be passed fit while Alan Sothern is said to have a slight niggle but is likely to play.

For captain Alan Giles, though, he believes that Pembroke are one of the sides who can absorb this kind of setback.

“Certainly they do bring masses of experience and strength but the squad has been together for the last two or three years and has grown. We do have a lot of depth and experience in the squad so I wouldn’t be overly concerned.”

The day’s second semi-final pits the two wildcard entries together – Corinthian and Lisnagarvey. The reds have surpassed many expectations this season, pipped to the Leinster title and semi-finalists in their maiden competition.

They face a Garvey side whose division of form has been stark – awesome in the country’s premier competition, patchy in Ulster’s top tier. And CHC player-coach Andrew Cronje knows that it is a format which suits the Hillsborough outfit’s all-action approach.

“They’re in the semi-finals for a reason but we’ve had a good look at them [at last week’s wildcard playoffs] and will have our tactics. They play a high tempo and intensity game so it should be a cracker and we’re looking forward to it.”

Just two competitive fixtures in the last six weeks has allowed Corinthian’s squad to reach full fitness and Cronje believes his side are in ‘perfect’ condition as they seek to add another chapter to a memorable season at Whitechurch Park.

“To put it bluntly, it’s been an amazing season. I knew we had the potential to do really well this year. We set targets at the start of the year which might have sounded unrealistic but getting into the IHL semi-finals was one of those.

“We had a good squad throughout, the guys trained from July all the way through so it didn’t surprise me at all; the guys certainly had it in them.”

As for ’Garvey’s Johnny Gray, this season has resembled a resurrection. The 34-year-old was close to hanging up his stick at the end of last season before being named captain – in a similar manner to Glenanne’s Clinton Murphy a few years back.

A switch to left-back has yielded him 13 goals this term and a nomination for club player of the year has helped the side bounce back to being contenders on the country’s main stage.

“This time last year, I’d decided that I was stopping. With a lot of young guys coming through and Mark Tumilty taking things a certain direction but when he stopped, we didn’t really know where we were going.

“You get into your mid-30s and you do think about retiring. It’s such a young man’s game and guys like Raph and Brian Waring both have young families which are obviously the priority in life. But none of us were going to stop when we didn’t have a coach and didn’t know what direction the club was going.

“This year, it’s just about passing on some of my experience. I haven’t done it on my own, its guys like Mark Raphael and, Brian Waring; fellas I’ve come through mini-hockey with. We worked as a unit.

“What I try and do is set an example for the guys to follow; this is what I expect from you. I came in with the likes of Kirkwood, Taylor, Clarke and Dowd. Those guys who set very high standards that we didn’t live up to last year. We’ve been trying all year to get the message across that this is what our team and club is about.

“The player of the year nomination shocked me, though. The chairman rang me to say I’d been shortlisted I thought it was a wind-up and that it was for someone else. It’s a fantastic honour but the biggest honour was being appointed captain for Garvey and all years that’s driven me on and hopefully done a decent job.”

* For full list of IHL interviews, click here.

Men's Irish Hockey League finals, Grange Road, Dublin
Saturday, semi-finals:
Pembroke Wanderers vs Glenanne (3pm); Corinthian vs Lisnagarvey (5pm).
Sunday, final: 4pm.

Final four bullish over IHL chances

All four ESB women’s IHL semi-finalists have reported clean bills of health as a fascinating weekend starts with a bang tomorrow morning when Railway Union face Hermes for the seventh time in all competitions this season.

Railway have just one absentee from last Sunday’s Irish Senior Cup final penalties defeat, Hannah de Burgh-Whyte is exam-tied. Speaking about that setback, though, Isobel Joyce believes her side have learned from last Sunday’s experience, their first ever appearance in a national outdoor final.

“It makes it easier because we made it to the biggest stage and played really well,” she said.

“Obviously we lost but we were very proud of the way we played. The nerves we might have had going into Saturday won’t be as strong after that.”

Hermes, meanwhile, are going for their fifth club championship title and a return to the final stage where they were so cruelly denied on penalties last time round.

They fell to Railway in the Leinster league decider 1-0 but Christine Quinlan believes her side need to sharpen their edge in front of goal from that performance to be real contenders this weekend.

“I don’t think it’s necessarily revenge but we have a few things we want to put right ourselves; things we need to put to bed. In the Leinster league decider, we didn’t play our best and there was no question of being cheated out of it or anything, they were the better team on the day.

“We need to be more ruthless when taking our chances in attack, be patient because they’re obviously a pretty experienced side who are going to throw everything at us and then take the opportunities when our time comes.”

On the other side of the draw, which tips off at 12.30pm, Cork Harlequins face Pegasus attempting to beat the Ulster side for the first time.

But Irish legend Rachael Kohler says the weight of history will be much less of a factor this time round.

“It’s probably very different from previous years. We’ve had this idea in the past that we’d never be able to beat Pegasus, when you’ve continuously lost to the same team.

“But an awful lot of our players don’t even know who Pegasus are so you can’t really look back too much historically on the fixture at all.

“Our squad this year is a real mix and it’s worked really well for us with the experience to steady the ship and the youth to bring a lot of excitement, particularly in the forwards so hopefully that should stand to us this weekend.”

As for Pegasus' Arlene Boyles, she says that despite eight Ulster league matches in three weeks in the build-up, her side is much fresher this time around. Last year, her side were unable to capitalise from 12 penalty corners against Hermes in the semi-final stage in the wake of a tough European campaign but this year, Boyles says they have managed the situation much better.

“I think there is a sense of making things right this year. A lot of us have been waiting to get back to this part of the season and into this competition.

“We’re very conscious of not making the same mistakes again. We came into the ESB IHL finals last year off the back of a European campaign, there were a lot of tired players. We’ve rotated our players a lot better this year, certainly in the last eight games.”

* For the full list of IHL interviews, click here

ESB Irish Hockey League finals, Grange Road, Dublin
Saturday, semi-finals:
Railway Union vs Hermes (10.30am); Cork Harlequins vs Pegasus (12.30pm)
Sunday, Final: 1.30pm.

Alex face stern test in IHL wildcards

Old Alex bid to retain their place in the IHL via the playoff route gets underway this evening at Grange Road as they battle it out with Munster’s third ranked side, Catholic Institute.

Both sides are bolstered by returning stars. Alex welcome back Roisin Flinn following her WCQ travels while Institute have Irish captain Eimear Cregan – a mid-season transfer from Cork Harlequins – available for selection after Chile. And the Limerick side go into the tie with the greater volume of recent hockey under their belt.

They were still in the mix for an automatic IHL place on the final day of the regular Munster league season, bagging a draw against eventual champions Quins while, as Irish Hockey Trophy winners, have been on a serious high this term. Rising star Naomi Carroll is one to watch for the Milltown club.

The other pairing contesting the positions is Ballymoney who play Greenfields, going in search of Connacht’s first place in the national league.

The Galway girls renew their rivalry with Institute on Sunday morning, hoping to over-turn that Trophy defeat.

Dora Gorman scored the league winning goal on Tuesday night, supplementing Alma Whelan’s strike, to add to her incredible recent success across three different sports, as Greenfields beat Galway 2-1 in a play-off to reach this phase.

Ballymoney are first up, though, and aiming to bring Ulster’s quota in the IHL back up to five after Belfast Harlequins fell at this hurdle last time around. Bridget Cleland provides the defensive foundations.

ESB IHL Wildcard playoffs (all at Grange Road):
Friday, May 14:
Old Alex vs Catholic Institute, 7.30pm, front; Ballymoney vs Greenfields, 8pm, back
Saturday, May 15: Greenfields vs Old Alex, 3.15pm, back; Catholic Institute vs Ballymoney, 5pm, back
Sunday, May 16: Greenfields vs Catholic Institute, 11.30am, back; Ballymoney vs Old Alex, 3.30pm, back