James Dowling’s first-half hat-trick was enough for Inst to see off Denis Pritchard’s men without much discomfort in the semi-finals of the provincial play-offs in Grange Road on Saturday.
It brings the curtain down on a couple of seasons of frustrating missed opportunities for the West Cork men, having lost three Irish Hockey Trophy finals, two Peard Cup deciders and this year’s Munster league at the death.
It also meant an unwanted ending for Canada-bound talisman Clinton Sweetnam, whilst a touching tribute to decorated goalkeeper Ian Hosford on the club’s Facebook page cast doubt over his ongoing involvement in Bandon colours.
Instonians went on to qualify for next year’s EYHL as they eventually made their pressure tell in the final against UCD, winning 3-1.
The students’ only attack of note in the first-half saw Jeremy Duncan give them a shock lead, but James Corry’s response was immediate to tie things up before William Robinson’s corner and a John Watson tap-in broke the resolve of the students.
It means they will replace Annadale in the league next season having made it through the provincial round-robin and knock-out stages, winning all bar one of their five matches in the last fortnight.
UCD, meanwhile, have a second bite of the cherry this weekend when they face Cookstown at Havelock Park in a promotion/relegation playoff for the last remaining place in the top tier. Loreto qualified for next season’s women’s EY Hockey League as a superb second half display saw them beat Belfast Harlequins at Grange Road 2-0, capping a superb campaign for the Beaufort club.
Ali Meeke’s deft volley in the 43rd minute, coupled with Kate Crotty’s touch to Jessica McGirr’s blasted pass with 11 minutes to go were enough to see off a gritty Quins who had their moments in the first half but ran out of legs.
On Saturday, Loreto reached the final play-off with a 3-1 win over Ulster champions Lurgan while Belfast Harlequins beat Randalstown by the same scoreline.
Quins now face UCC in the promotion/relegation playoff next weekend. A 5-3 Irish Senior Cup win for the Cork students earlier in the season would suggest they have an edge, but exams are likely to rob them of numerous key performers.