Lisnagarvey survived a real final day scare to land the men’s EY Hockey League title following a heart-stopping final day of the season.
The Comber Road men needed just a draw to secure the title ahead of Three Rock Rovers and they looked to be cruising with 15 minutes to go as they led 4-3 against Banbridge while the Dubliners trailed against Monkstown.
But three wild minutes made for a tense close to an epic campaign as Rovers turned things around with Ben Johnson and Harry MacMahon both scoring to land a 3-2 success at Rathdown in the dying seconds.
Simultaneously, Banbridge levelled through Jonny McKee from the penalty spot to make it 4-4 while Garvey needing to hold on for the last eight minutes.
There were Bann chances but their Ulster rivals hung tough to allow James Corry to lift the regular season title for the third time in this full-season format.
It was an afternoon of rollercoasting emotions as Garvey led 1-0 and 2-1 with Ben Nelson and James Lorimer but opened the door when they fell 3-2 behind in the second half.
Vitally, Andy Williamson equalised and, with 20 minutes left, Ollie Kidd gave an extra buffer before the late nerves began to set in.
McKee’s stroke – his second of the day – had hearts fluttering but Errol Lutton’s side took the spoils, taking the league on goal difference and a guaranteed European spot.
For Three Rock, this competition remains the elusive one for their trophy cabinet as they finished second for a third successive time, goal difference the key factor for a second time.
They will hope to bounce back in three weeks time at the EY Champions Trophy at Havelock Park where they are going for a fourth successive title.
Both Garvey and Rovers are straight into the semi-finals while Banbridge will meet YMCA and Glenanne host Monkstown in the quarter-finals next weekend.
The Glens were strong 2-0 winners over Annadale with Shannon Boucher and Adam Clayton on the mark – Dale miss out on the playoffs as a result.
At the bottom, Pembroke produced the great escape as they beat UCD 6-2 with Ewout Albers scoring twice, his first goals for the club’s first team, with Julian Dale also netting twice.
They still needed a favour from YMCA who did just that, beating Corinthian 2-1 to confirm their playoff place while the reds dropped into the bottom two as a result.
In the promotion playoffs, Instonians eased to a 5-1 victory over Bandon with Olympians Mark Gleghorne and Mikie Watt accounting for three of the goals.
They advance along with Clontarf who needed a shoot-out to eliminate Cork Harlequins after normal time ended 2-2.
On the women’s side, Queen’s defeated UCC 5-0 while Corinthian got the best of Cork C of I by the same scoreline, marking a rough day for the southern city, ending hopes in each competition of reaching the top tier.
EYHL Division 1: Banbridge 4 (J McKee 2, Ph Brown, D Finlay) Lisnagarvey 4 (O Kidd, B Nelson, A Williamson, J Lorimer); Corinthian 1 (M Neill) YMCA 2 (A Walker, R Henderson); Glenanne 2 (S Boucher, A Clayton) Annadale 0; Monkstown 2 (J Duncan 2, J Henry) Three Rock Rovers 3 (B Johnson 2, H MacMahon); Pembroke Wanderers 6 (E Albers 2, J Dale 2, E Foy, A Sothern) UCD 2 (J Filgas, E Ramsay)
EYHL2 Play-offs – Quarter-Finals: Clontarf 2 (S Grace 2) Cork Harlequins 2 (Brophy, J O’Meara), Clontarf win shoot-out 4-3; Instonians (M Gleghorne 2, M Watt, S Kelso, C Kirk) Bandon 1
EYHL Division 2
Quarter-Final: Corinthian 5 (J McGrane 2, C Seggie, C Vincent, L McGrane) Cork C of I 0; Queens University 5 (Z Wilson, J McCarlie, C Whiteside, R Quinn, E Getty) UCC 0