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Weekend Hockey - Roundup

Ulster's men and women both had to be satisfied with second place at the junior interpro tournament in Cork on Sunday.

The men needed Leinster to beat Munster in the last game of the day to lift the trophy. But it was the hosts who prevailed with a decisive 3-1 victory as the required scenario didn't transpire for the northern province who relinquished their grip on the title.

Ulster had beaten Munster 2-1 on Saturday and then drew 2-2 with Leinster before losing 3-1 and drawing 2-2 against the same opposition respectively in Sunday's rematches. Cookstown had four representatives on the squad namely Gareth Thom, Steven Stewart,Richard McGaw and Andrew McWhirter

Munster set the tone for their first tournament win in a decade with a 6-1 victory over Leinster in their first game. However, Ulster looked to be in the driving seat when they came away from their opener against Munster with a 2-1 win.

McWhirter got the opener before the men in red equalised before Mossley player Jordan Barr hit the winner in the second period. It was a quick turnaround for Ulster to play their second match of Saturday. It was goalless at half time before McGaw smashed the opening goal.

A disputed penalty stroke saw Leinster go level before Aaron Gill put Ulster back in front.  Unfortunately their heroics against Munster meant that Ulster couldn't hold on and conceded in the closing minutes to make it 2-2 at the finish. The northerners were first on the field on Sunday against Munster and, despite a red card for the southern province, Ulster found themselves 2-0 down at half time.

But they stormed back into it with another McGaw goal, but unfortunately in an effort to draw level conceded a third. Ulster were back in action just a few hours later and knew that they had to win against Leinster to keep the pressure on Munster. McGaw hit his third of the tournament before Gill extended the Ulster lead to 2-0 late in the second half but Leinster came back and managed to snatch a 2-2 draw.

It meant that Ulster required Munster to lose their last game in order to have any chance of retaining the trophy but it wasn't to be. Congratulations to Gareth Thom who was named Coaches' Player of the Tournament and to Richard McGaw who was Ulster's top scorer.

The women's team had been just two minutes away from retaining the trophy when they led Leinster 2-1 on Sunday only to be denied by a late equaliser, having had a 'goal' controversially ruled out minutes earlier.

That result left Leinster needing to beat Munster in the final game of the tournament and they won 2-1 to pip Ulster to the title on goal difference. Ulster coach David Menual said: "Obviously we are bitterly disappointed not to have won the title again but all credit to the girls, who were magnificent throughout the tournament."

"The disallowed goal turned out to be the turning point and we felt there was no reason why it shouldn't have been allowed to stand."

"The disengaged umpire felt she saw the ball hit an Ulster foot before it went into the net after her colleague had initially signalled for a goal and Leinster didn't protest but sometimes these things happen."

Ulster had trailed to Leinster after only two minutes but Queen's player Julie Morrow equalised straight from the push back and her sister Jenny made it 2-1 early in the second half when she converted from the penalty spot.

However after Menaul's team had that 'goal' disallowed, Leinster salvaged a crucial point when they scored from a penalty corner with just two minutes remaining to tie things up. On Saturday, Gemma Menaul and Julie Morrow were on target in an opening 2-0 win over Munster and then a late goal from Nikki Smyth sealed a 1-0 victory over Connacht to put Ulster ahead overnight.

Meanwhile, Ulster Hockey's cup and plate finals days on Saturday and Sunday produced some outstanding hockey at Stormont.

The highlight was undoubtedly the men's McClements Cup final in which Ballynahinch beat Banbridge III 3-1 on penalty runs following a thrilling 5-5 draw. Willie Edgar was the star of the show for the Hinch, scoring a magnificent hat-trick and setting up one of the other goals for Andy McIlwaine who bagged a double.

It was a pulsating game of hockey which ebbed and flowed and the result was in doubt until the final whistle. Edgar grabbed the opener within five minutes but Ross McCandless equalised two minutes later with a powerful drag flicked penalty corner. McIlwaine got his first with a fine diving effort beyond the onrushing Bann keeper to make it 2-1 at the break.

Edgar then converted a penalty stroke shortly after the restart after being fouled in the circle but Bann fought back again. Gary Dean started the revival with a set-piece scramble and then, with 14 minutes left McCandless got his second to tie things up at 3-3. Two minutes later, Edgar completed his hat-trick from another corner to make it 4-3 before it was McCandless's time to make it a treble with another drag.

Edgar then turned provider for a brilliantly worked goal, whipping in a rasping cross from the left for McIlwaine to convert superbly with a waist high first time effort with four minutes left. However, Bann still weren't finished and there was just time for Neil Wilson to score and make it 5-5. But it was the Hinch who prevailed in the shootout after a truly absorbing contest which was a credit to both teams. 

Elsewhere on the men's front, Ross Blair (2), Johnny Dalton and Peter Bailey got the goals from Queen's II in a 4-1 win over Mossley III in the Junior Plate final and PSNI beat Raphoe III 4-3 to lift the Minor Cup in another thriller.

In a good day for the students, their women's thirds were 2-1 winners over Ulster Elks III in the Intermediate Plate final. Sarah Wells opener for Queen's was cancelled out by Emma Dunlop before Cassie Dunford grabbed a late winner. Claire Greene was the two-goal heroine for Belfast Harlequins III, who defeated North Down II 2-1 in a tightly contested Intermediate Cup final.

Goals from former international Bridget Cleland and Nikki Taggart gave Ballymoney III a 2-1 win over Castle II in the Junior Cup final. Enniskillen were 3-1 winners over Mossley III in the Junior Plate final while on Sunday, Coleraine beat Randalstown II 3-0 in the Qualifying Plate decider. The Minor Cup went to Newry who beat Coleraine III on penalties after a 2-2 draw while the Minor Plate was also decided by a shootout, CI IV defeating Dromore IV 5-3 after a scoreless 70 minutes.


Junior inter-provincials:

Leinster 1 Munster 6
Ulster 2 Munster 1
Leinster 2 Ulster 2

Munster 3 Ulster 1
Leinster 2 Ulster 2
Munster 3 Leinster 1

Final placings:
1 Munster 9pts; 2 Ulster 7; 3 Leinster 4

McClements Cup final:
Ballynahinch 5 (W Edgar 3, A McIlwaine 2) Banbridge III 5 (R McCandless 3, G Dean, N Wilson) (Ballynahinch won 3-1 on pens)

Junior Shield final:

Queen's II 4 Mossley II 1

Minor Cup final:
Raphoe III 3 PSNI 4

Junior interprovincial tournament:

Munster 0 Ulster 2 (G Menaul, Jill Morrow)
Leinster 3 Connacht 1
Connacht 0 Ulster 1 (N Smyth)

Connacht 1 Munster 4
Leinster 2 Ulster 2 (Julie Morrow, Jenny Morrow)
Munster 1 Leinster 2

Final placings:
1 Leinster 7pts; 2 Ulster 7; 3 Munster 3; 4 Connacht 0.

Intermediate Cup final:

Belfast Harlequins III 2 North Down II 

Junior Cup final:
Ballymoney III 2 Castle II 1

Minor Cup final:
Newry 2 Coleraine III 2 (Newry won on penalties)

Intermediate Plate final:
Queen's III 2 Ulster Elks III 1

Junior Plate final:
Enniskillen 3 Mossley III 1

Qualifying Plate final:
Coleraine 3 Randalstown II 0

Minor Plate final:
CI IV 0 Dromore IV 0 (CI won 5-3 on pens)

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