Monkstown win the double and qualify for the EHL

[img_assist|nid=7992|title=Monkstown win the double|desc=|link=none|align=left|width=200|height=112]Monkstown HC will be the Irish representatives in next season’s Euro Hockey League following the completion of the Irish Hockey League at the weekend. 

Monkstown claimed their third title of the season as they became the first men’s club to win both 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 Banbridge’s firebrand forwards – Stephen Dowds, Owen Magee and Dane Ward – found little of the space 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 moved the score on to 4-2 before Banbridge’s Stephen Dowds reduced the deficit with 45 seconds to go, but it was not enough to deny Monkstown a wonderful victory.  

It is possible that Banbridge may join Monkstown in next season’s Euro Hockey League, although this depends very much on Ireland’s placing in the EHL Rankings table, which will be updated at the end of the European club season. 

More information about the weekend’s action from the Irish Hockey League can be found at http://www.irishhockeyleague.ie/

Men’s Irish Hockey League

Final: Monkstown 4 (A Ward 2, G Watkins, D Carson) Banbridge 3 (B McCandless, S Magowan, S Dowds)

Semi-finals: Monkstown 2 (K Good, D Carson), Lisnagarvey 1 (T Cockram); Banbridge 6 (S Caruth 2, B McCandless, S Dowds, C Dowds, H McShane), Cookstown 1 (G Allen).

Sources: Irish Hockey Association / Hook Hockey