Irish coach given food for thought

IRELAND coach Andrew Meredith made only his second trip north to see four of Ulster’s top five sides in action and he could not have failed to have been impressed by the talent on show.

It was the first time that the Irish coach had seen any Ulster hockey action, and he was using the opportunity to see players before he names his Irish squad later this month, for the forthcoming World League semi-finals in Rotterdam in June.

Meredith is expected to be visiting various pool games over the next two weeks and after that he will name a 24 player squad.

But the Irish coach could not have missed superb performances from Steven Dowds (Banbridge), James Corry (Instonians), Peter MacDonnell (Lisnagarvey), Gareth Lennox (Banbridge) and Andy Williamson (Annadale) to name just a few, as there were other players that must have caught his eye.

It would be a surprise if Dowds is omitted from the Irish squad when it is named, as he scored a superb opening goal for Bann in their 3-2 over reigning Irish champions Lisnagarvey.

It was always going to be a ding-dong battle between two teams who hoping to return to European action next season and that is exactly what it was.

Bann took an early lead in the 11th minute when Dowds smashed home a drag flick. But a minute into the second period Andy Forrest levelled it for Garvey.

Then just before the interval Jonny Quigley had Garvey in front when he thumped home a reverse stick shot.

Midway through the third period Bann were back on level terms when a cross from the right was deflected home by a Garvey player.

Going into the final quarter the game was evenly balanced and could have gone either way but it Bann who would be taking maximum points as Dane Ward blasted home the winner.

- Meanwhile on Sunday there was disappointment for Banbridge’s Second XI as they lost in the Irish Junior Cup final.

By contrast it meant celebration time for Monkstown, who added the Junior Cup to the Irish Senior Cup they won only last week.

Andy Ewington was again the hero for Monkstown, scoring the two goals in the 29th and 42nd minute from penalty corner strikes.

Banbridge had opened the scoring when their drag flick specialist Scott McCandless scored in the 25m from a PC.

If Ewington was the man of the match in the Senior Cup for Monkstown then surely keeper Craig Ellis won the award in the IJC final. He made numerous saves to keep his team in the game the final one in the dying minutes when Banbridge had forced a PC but he stood tall and denied McCandless his second.