Fiery Banbridge miss out on IHL title

Action from Cookstown v Banbridge in IHL semi-final 2013
Action from Cookstown v Banbridge in IHL semi-final 2013

BANBRIDGE left Dublin disappointed on Sunday having missed out on local hockey’s top prize.

Monkstown claimed their third and biggest title of the season at Three Rock Rovers as they became the first men’s club to do the Irish Hockey League and Irish Senior Cup since the former was introduced.

It added to a Leinster Senior Cup title as their smart second half performance at Grange Road tamed a fiery Banbridge that had laid waste to all-comers in the build-up to the final.

But their firebrands up front – Stephen Dowds, Owen Magee and Dane Ward – found little time of the room that saw them obliterate Cookstown in Saturday’s semi-final 6-1.

They threatened to do something similar in the early phases of the final, bursting out of the blocks. They scored inside the first ten seconds as Simon Magowan tore down the right wing.

His cross was clipped in at the near post by Bruce McCandless for a wonder start and further chances from Dowds stung the pads of Dave Fitzgerald. Monkstown had not settled but they got on terms in bizarre fashion as Stephen Forbes dithered before playing a rash pass across the face of goal.

Gareth Watkins gambled and his diving touch was perfectly timed, getting enough on the ball to leave Gareth Lennox no chance.

It gave them the jolt they needed and they went in front on 25 minutes when Davy Carson produced some moments of individual brilliance, drawing two men before unleashing a reverse-stick shot. It was probably goal-bound but Andrew Ward made sure of it.

The lead lasted scarcely three minutes as Phil Brown tore down the right wing and Magowan turned home at close quarters. Andrew Ward, however, ensured Town went in ahead at the break 3-2. His immaculate first touch created the space before rocketing through Lennox.

It was another in a collection of true beauties scored this weekend and was the defining factor in a thrilling, wide open affair prior to the break. But Monkstown player coach Graham Shaw knew that pace could not be sustained and tweaked his team’s set-up accordingly.

He had already had an emotional day, coaching Loreto to runners-up in the women’s competition, a drawn out affair decided on penalties. The Town were not to be denied, limiting Bann to just a handful of second half openings while turning the screw at the far end.

Carson’s calmly taken corner rebound left Bann needing snookers down the final stretch. Dowds did recover one of the deficit with 45 seconds to go but they scarcely had a chance to tip off before the final hooter.

It puts Monkstown into the 2013/14 EuroHockey League while Banbridge will be Ireland’s second European representatives.

Monkstown: D Fitzgerald, L Cole, N Dee, D Carson, G Watkins, D Cole, S Cole, G Shaw, R Sykes, A Ewington, K Good

Subs: C Ellis, J Beirne, G Groves, G O’Halloran, A Ward, R O’Moore, S Nolan

Banbridge: G Lennox, Stephen Forbes, Scott Forbes, Peter Brown, Philip Brown, B McCandless, S Magowan, O Magee, D Ward, D Carlisle, S Dowds

Subs: J Moffett, J McKee, M Bell, H McShane, S Caruth, P Bingham, C Dowds