Monkstown make it an IHL three in-a-row over Bann

by Stephen Findlater

A DEVASTATING penalty corner brace from Richard Sykes saw Monkstown win their third successive Irish Hockey League title, inflicting Banbridge’s first defeat in all competitions this season at Grange Road.

It was the third successive meeting between the sides in the marquee event with Town once again winning by a single goal following a 4-3 result in 2013 and 2-1 last year.

And Monkstown once again showed their iron will of late to wrestle down the title once again in front of a raucous crowd with Sykes finding the winning line to goal with 12 minutes to go.

And the pre-match flares from the Bann crowd gave some early colour but this frenzy was quickly tempered with Sykes firing a rocket to the roof of the net inside four minutes.

From there, with Eugene Magee pulling the strings, Bann start to push the agenda but found David Fitzgerald in brilliant form. He parried away a pair of Stephen Dowds drag-flicks before Sykes had another effort at the far end ricochet off the crossbar.

Dowds’s frustrations continued as his nemesis, Fitzgerald, got in the way of a point blank shot from the second phase of a corner before sliding out to deny the striker from a classy pitch length move.

The irrepressible Dowds tore down the right wing but his cross should have been comfortably dealt with. Inexplicably, a Town defender lifted his stick to leave the ball and Jamie Wright, waiting at the back post, controlled and scrambled home at the second attempt after his first swipe went under the ball.

Bann did look slightly the more likely to snatch a second but Monkstown rolled with the punches with Lee Cole and Fabian Wullschleger making some key tackles. Fitzgerald got down brilliantly to deny Dane Ward – playing in his final match for Bann before moving to London on Monday – with a stick save.

But, with 12 minutes to go, Town won another corner which Sykes planted into the unguarded bottom right hand corner to land the winning blow.

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