Bann squeeze through to set up crucial Dublin clash

BANBRIDGE kept the defence of their Irish Hockey League title alive at Havelock Park on Saturday past in a pulsating encounter with Instonians, overturning a three goal deficit to eventually win by the odd goal in 11.

William Robinson opened the scoring for the visitors in the third minute with a well taken reverse shot from the edge of the circle.

Bann’s main threat early in the game came through the pace of Steven Dowds and following creative approach work between Dowds and Owen Magee, the home team won their first penalty corner which Dowds dispatched high to the keepers right. Bann were unlucky not to take the lead when both Magee and Dane Ward had shots well saved by the keeper.

Instonians won their first penalty corner in the fourth minute of the second quarter, which Lennox did well to save, with Philip Brown completing the clearance off the goal line.

Shortly after this Mark Irwin had a chance to put the visitors ahead, but dragged his shot past the left hand upright. Instonians retook the lead following their second penalty corner, when Paul Gleghorne flicked powerfully into the roof of the net.

Just before half time Bann drew level for the second time when Matthew Bell forced Banbridge’s second penalty corner which Dowds dragged low to the keeper’s right.

Banbridge started the third quarter at a higher tempo, but it was Instonians who scored first through John Watson following a quick break from midfield. The home side were lucky not to go two goals behind when a combination of Lennox and Bell cleared the ball from the top of the circle. Instonians did go two goals clear from their third penalty corner, Lennox saving the initial shot but William Robinson was on hand to score the rebound.

Two minutes later Instonians went further ahead when Mark Irwin deflected home a switched penalty corner. Bann were then given a lifeline in the game when Owen Magee scored in the final minute of the quarter following a pass from Bruce McCandless.

The fourth quarter started at a frenetic pace and following a forceful Dane Ward run into the circle, Owen Magee scored at the second attempt. At this stage it was all Banbridge and they finally got back on level terms when Josh Moffet forced the ball through the keeper’s legs from an acute angle. With the game now tied and the home support sensing a famous victory, Bann poured forward and five minutes from the end of the game won their final penalty corner which Steven Dowds powered home to seal an unlikely but well deserved victory.

Final score Banbridge 6-5 Instonians.

Team: G. Lennox, M. Bell, S. Forbes, P. Brown, D. Carlisle, P. Brown, R. Beattie, B. Mc Candless, H. McShane, P. Brown, O. Magee, S. Dowds, D.Ward, S. Caruth, J. Moffett, C.Dowds.

Bann now travel to Dublin next Saturday knowing that a bonus point win would almost certainly mean that they would again be competing in the IHL finals weekend which will be played at Lisnagarvey towards the end of May. The same venue that saw the team win in such dramatic circumstances last season.