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Weekend Preview

Holders Sullivan Upper will meet Friends' in next week's John Minnis Estate Agents Burney Cup final at Stormont after two entertaining semis at Comber Road on Thursday.

Sullivan survived a late scare to defeat Wallace High 3-2 in  a rematch of last year's Burney decider while Friends' were 3-1 winners over Methodist College in the first part of the double header at Lisnagarvey's HC.

In the second game, Wallace had the better of the chances in the first half as Oli Patterson twice went close to scoring. After a cagey opening spell in which Wallace had three penalty corners without reward, Patterson drove into the circle from the right but was unlucky to see his shot crash off the bar.

Five minutes before the break, Patterson set off on another great run down the other flank but unfortunately he was unable to connect when he attempted to shoot. Sullivan took advantage of those misses as they took the lead seven minutes after the break when Fergus Kerr scrambled home following a penalty corner.

Twelve minutes later, Paddy Crookshanks doubled the Sullivan lead when he found the target with a clinical drag flick at another set piece. Matthew Morris added a third for the Co Down outfit with 11 minutes left and it looked like that was that.

But Wallace had other ideas and they hit back with two goals in the space of four minutes, both scored by Troy Chambers. His first came from a penalty corner and in the 65th minute, he netted the best goal of the day, rounding several defenders before hammering home on his backhand.

But Sullivan held on for a narrow win to reach next Thursday's final at Stormont (7.30pm).

In the first semi, Friends' penalty corner routine made a significant difference as all three of their goals came from set pieces. Andy Edgar started the ball rolling with the opener in the 12th minute as his shot found the net with the aid of a deflection off a defender.

There was little in the way of goalmouth action until the 32nd minute when Methody's Paddy Jack had a penalty corner effort saved by Ryan Kirkpatrick in the Friends' goal. Twelve minutes after the break the Lisburn school almost made it 2-0 but Methody keeper Ram Pentavilli stopped a deflected effort from Harry Scott.Shortly afterwards from the resultant corner, Matthew Milliken extended the Friends' lead when his penalty corner deflection gave the goalie mo chance.

With 10 minutes remaining, Methody pulled one back when James Hunter scored from close range after yet another set piece. That goal gave the Belfast side a lift and they forced several more corners without being able to find an equaliser. But with two minutes left, Friends' grabbed the insurance goal when Edgar hammered in a penalty corner for his second of the day to seal the deal.



Meanwhile Instonians have overtaken Bangor to go top of the Ulster Premier after a 4-1 win over the seasiders on Thursday night.

Inst led 2-0 at the break after goals from Ben Palmer and Dane Ward. Ward added a third from the penalty spot and John Watson added number four after Chris Campbell had pulled one back.

Queen's have opened up a five-point gap at the top of the women's Ulster Premier following a 4-2 away win over Dungannon on Monday night. Tori Hastings, Claire Whiteside (2) and Anna Hutchinson got the students' goals with Leanne Cassells and Karen Elliott replying for the Tyrone side, who trailed 3-1 at the break. Champions Lurgan stayed in contention after goals from Chloe McCann, Penny Joyce and Jo Wilson (2) secured a 4-0 away win over North Down on Wednesday.

Meanwhile Ireland women's manager Arlene Boyles has reassured players who didn't make the World Cup training panel announced last week that the door is still open for places in the squad for the London showpiece.

Six Ulster players were included in a 29-strong panel as Ireland prepare to face England, United States and India in the group stages of the summer tournament. Among the absentees were Ards striker Chloe Brown along with Queen's University teenagers Erin Getty and Jessica McMaster. However, Boyles revealed that the trio - and other absentees - still have a chance to stake a claim for selection with several more build up matches planned, including three against England later this month.

Boyles said:
"The initial squad of 29 is certainly not a closed shop and all members of the coaching team get videos of all the relevant club games."

"These are reviewed weekly and we all attend  games every weekend and constantly assess
players. There are non-negotiable qualities we discuss when selecting and current form is an incredibly important box to tick especially in a World Cup year."

Boyles will certainly be spoiled for choice this weekend as she and her colleagues continue their scouting mission with the resumption of the EY Irish Hockey League campaign on Saturday. The game that takes top billing is the meeting of leaders UCD, who include Ulster-born Irish internationals Leah McGuire and Katie Mullan, and third-placed Pegasus in the late slot at Upper Malone.

Pegasus are eight points behind the Dublin students, with a game less played, so a win would keep alive their outside chance of securing top spot and the automatic European place that comes with it.

Boyles might also make time to fit in the clash of Belfast Harlequins and Railway Union which takes place earlier in the day, a short distance away at Deramore. Both sides harbour ambitions of a place in the end-of-season play-offs and it's a game Quins can scarcely afford to lose if they are to keep on the right track.

However, the signing of Ireland players Zoe Wilson and Lizzie Colvin have given the south Belfast side a lift this season, so they will be hopeful of achieving another positive result after a 2-1 Irish Senior Cup win over IHL rivals Pembroke in their last outing. Quins currently trail the fourth-placed Dublin side by seven points but have the benefit of a game in hand, so a win would give Davy Frazer's girls a real boost.

Ards are still in play-off contention, just five points off the fourth and final qualifying spot and a win over struggling Trinity in Dublin would be just the ticket.


Fixtures
Men

Friday

Mossley v Kilkeel  7.00pm @ The Glade

Saturday 
Premier League 

Portadown v South Antrim 1.00pm @ Edenvilla
Harlequins v Bangor 12.45pm @ Deramore Park
North Down v Raphoe 2.30pm @ Comber LC
Cliftonville v Newry Olympic 1.00pm @ CIYMS
Antrim v NICS 2.30pm @ Antrim Forum


Women
Friday

Portadown v Mossley 7.00pm @ Edenvilla

Senior 1
Victorians v Lisnagarvey 8.15pm @ Strathearn 

Saturday
EYHL

Belfast HQ v Railway Union 2.30pm @ Deramore
Pegasus v UCD 4.00pm @ The Dub
Trinity v Ards 2.30pm @ Trinity College

Premier
Lurgan v Ballymoney 2.30pm @ Lurgan JHS
North Down v Ulster Elks 1.00pm @ Comber LC
Queen’s v Randalstown 1.00pm @ The Dub
Rainey v Banbridge 4.00pm @ Meadowbank

Senior 1
Armagh v Ballymena 2.30pm @ Ardmore
Ballyclare v Omagh 2.30pm @ Ballyclare HS
Knock v Raphoe 1pm @ Shaw’s Bridge
Priorians v CI Ladies 2.30pm @ St Columbs Park



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