Mighty Quins edge Banbridge to advance to cup semi-finals

It’s been a fallow few seasons for Cork Harlequins in national competitions, but they continued to roll back the years in stunning style on Saturday to see off Banbridge 2-1 and progress to the Irish Senior Cup semi-finals.

The 2006 champions again reprised the spirit of that success as their veterans gear up for one last tilt at an Irish crown.

David Eakins played in David Lombard to reverse home the opener against Bann, only for Peter Brown to collect Scott Forbes’ cross and slam home for a half-time stalemate.

But Colin Ross blasted one in from the top of the circle off a lightning counter-attack to win it, a victory that could have been more comfortable had Bann netminder Gareth Lennox not twice denied Paul Lombard in one on ones.

More encouragingly for Quins, the semi-final draw pits them against the tournament’s other surprise package, Instonians. They saw off NICS 1-0 thanks to Julian Lewis’ winner 45 seconds from time, and will hold no fears for Quins given the Cork side beat them 3-2 in the Irish Hockey League this term.

That was on the Farmer’s Cross sand however, whereas the sides will meet on neutral territory at Belfield this time around as the world’s oldest hockey tournament has now reverted to a “finals weekend” format.

Railway Union will play Lisnagarvey in the other last-four tie after they removed Leinster’s big two. Railway were short on possession but had a clinical edge as Rob Abbott, Peter English and Eoin MacArthur propelled Ireland’s most improved side to a 3-0 win over Glenanne.

That gives them a first semi-final berth in 15 seasons, but cup specialists ‘Garvey will be tough opponents. They overcame a scoreless first half as Timmy Cockram and Greg Thompson struck to see off Pembroke Wanderers 3-0.

Anna O’Flanagan’s winner saw UCD undo women’s Irish Senior Cup favourites Pegasus once more — as the students had in the 2009 final — on a 2-1 scoreline. They’ll now meet Railway in the semis, a daunting task after the Dubliners stunned Armagh with a 9-0 away victory, Zara Delany hitting four of those.

Loreto made it three Leinster sides in the semis with another emphatic victory, racing past Old Alex 5-0 with Nicci Daly and Cathy McKean contributing to a 3-0 half-time lead. They will play Queen’s University in the semi-finals after Julie Allison trickled home the only goal of the tie with Trinity at Griffeen Valley Park.

Meanwhile, Cork C of I have forced a Munster men’s league title play-off against Cork Harlequins after overcoming a stout UCC defensive effort to win 4-1 at the Mardyke.

Stephen Sweetnam and the students’ Roger Gray swapped first-half strikes, leaving it tense at the break as C of I had to win to prevent Quins claiming the title.

But John Jermyn eventually put them back on the front foot before Gary Wilkinson and Clinton Sweetnam finished the job for the Blues.

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