Rovers leave Turkey with promotion – if not kit

Three Rock Rovers’ Turkish travails ended on a high yesterday after they earned promotion for Ireland back to European indoor hockey’s third tier.

Having fundraised extensively to pay for the 3,700km trip to Malatya, eastern Turkey, the Dublin side had to borrow sticks and goalkeeper gear from opponents for their opening game at the EuroHockey Indoor Club Champion’s Challenge II after their own failed to arrive.

That left netminder Stephen West playing in mismatched protective equipment that had to be taped together, while the side were donated just seven sticks so had to swap them with oncoming players when they were substituted.

Despite these obstacles, and an opening day 4-2 defeat to Norwegian champions Sangene, an under-strength Rovers eked out two wins and two draws in a hostile atmosphere generated by supporters of hosts Anadolu Atesi, who were also promoted.

Ross Canning, Peter McConnell and South African Jody Hosking starred for the Irish side, who made light of the absence of Ireland outdoor internationals Phelie Maguire, Michael Maguire and Peter Blakeney.

Meanwhile, UL picked up the win of the weekend in the Munster women’s league, Emma Sherlock opening and closing the scoring in a 4-1 win over Cork Church of Ireland.

That leaves C of I — Irish Hockey League representatives as recently as 2010 — likely needing to win all of their remaining three fixtures to stand a chance of avoiding relegation.

UL’s 3-3 draw with Ashton on Sunday likely confines both sides to mid-table safety, while Cork Harlequins are in the driving seat to take the last remaining automatic IHL qualification slot despite having a free weekend.

Bandon did them a huge favour in coming from two down to draw 2-2 with third-placed UCC at the Mardyke, Grainne Cronin giving them a lifeline before Vicky Burns picked up a short corner rebound to level it in the final minute. Amy-Kate Trevor and Kate Humphries had seemingly put College in control earlier with two fine reverse-stick efforts.

The students now host Quins next weekend needing a win to keep their fate in their own hands as they chase second place.

Meanwhile, it will be another showdown between Cork Harlequins and Cork Church of Ireland in the men’s Munster Senior Cup final.

Quins needed a sweet Paul Lombard deflection to see off a stubborn Bandon 2-1, after Scott Sullivan had wiped out Dan Hobbs’ opener.

C of I, meanwhile, conceded four but still managed to win comfortably as defences were marked absent in a 12-4 victory over Catholic Institute in Limerick.

Stephen Sweetnam top-scored for the Blues with five, while Eric Callender cracked in a hat-trick for Insta.

Elsewhere, there was heartbreak for Limerick and Clonmel on the national stage as both fell as the penultimate hurdle in the Irish Hockey Challenge semi-finals.

Nathan Eacrett and Tom Clarke’s goals weren’t enough as the Treaty city men went down 3-2 to Ballynahinch at Villiers, while Dawn Grace’s second-half strike came in vain as Sue Shirley’s pair helped Kilkenny through to the final of the women’s competition.

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