Shane O’Donoghue’s hat trick propelled Glenanne to a first EY Hockey League crown and their first national title since 2010 as they came back from 2-0 down at Lisnagarvey to win 4-2 and move out of range of all the chasers.
Their party, though, looked to be put on hold as Daniel Nelson and Andy Williamson gave Garvey an early lead. O’Donoghue’s penalty stroke got Glenanne on the board before half-time and then levelled the game in the third quarter.
Two goals in a six-minute spell in the final quarter broke the game in Glenanne’s favour with Shannon Boucher finishing off a classic counter-attack before O’Donoghue flicked into the top corner to make the game safe.
The result put them 10 points clear of second placed Three Rock Rovers who have three games left to play, meaning no side is in a position to catch them.
It completes a dominant campaign in which the Glens won 13 of their 16 games played so far, going unbeaten to date, winning numerous games from behind and they will take up a European berth as a result.
Elsewhere, Cookstown made a big move at the bottom of the table as they struck twice in the first half against Cork C of I to win 2-1 on Sunday. It moves them two points clear of Railway Union who, themselves, missed out on a win against Annadale in the dying moments, Oliver Flack scoring an equaliser at the death for a 3-3 result.
Three Rock Rovers moved back up to second as they came from 2-0 down in the final quarter to beat Pembroke 3-2 with Luke Madeley scoring two penalty corners and Harry Morris striking the winner.
Jonny McKee and John Jermyn both scored hat tricks as Banbridge and Cork C of I played out a cracking 4-4 draw on Saturday afternoon. It was C of I’s fifth successive draw and sees them move a step closer to formal safety.
Saturday EY Hockey League: Banbridge 4 (J McKee 3, A Tinney) Cork C of I 4 (J Jermyn 3, J Dale); Lisnagarvey 2 (D Nelson, A Williamson) Glenanne 4 (S O’Donoghue 3, S Boucher); Railway Union 3 (M English, A Rooney, S McKeever) Annadale 3 (O Flack 2, P Caruth); Three Rock Rovers 3 (L Madeley 2, H Morris) Pembroke Wanderers 2 (R Sweetnam, J Ryan)
Sunday EY Hockey League: Cookstown 2 (S Smyth, M Kerr) Cork C of I 0
Day 16 extended reports
Lisnagarvey 2 (D Nelson, A Williamson) Glenanne 4 (S O’Donoghue 3, S Boucher)
Glenanne produced an immaculate comeback from 2-0 down to beat Lisnagarvey at Comber Road to get the win they needed against their nearest rivals, claiming the EY Hockey League and a spot in Europe into the bargain.
Garvey went in front with the Nelson brothers combining, Matthew setting up Daniel to score with a fine backhand effort. Andy Williamson doubled up with a corner shot as it looked like Garvey would put the brakes on a title celebration.
But Glenanne have come back numerous times this term from losing positions to grab wins and they got a lifeline before the break via a Shane O’Donoghue penalty stroke.
And they produced the goods in the second half with O’Donoghue rebounding for his and Glenanne’s second goal. And the game-breaker came early in the fourth quarter from a quick counter-attack which Shannon Boucher finished off.
Six minutes later, O’Donoghue made extra sure with a flick into the roof of the net and they had the EYHL title secured for the first time.
The EY Hockey League trophy and medals will formally be presented to Glenanne at their final home game of the season.
Three Rock Rovers 3 (L Madeley 2, H Morris) Pembroke Wanderers 2 (R Sweetnam, J Ryan)
Three Rock Rovers came from 2-0 down in the final quarter to beat Pembroke 3-2 at Grange Road, lifting Rovers back into second place.
Richard Sweetnam got the opening goal after Alan Sothern cleverly worked a free from outside the circle before slipping a pass to the far post for the final touch.
Jack Ryan doubled the lead in the third quarter when Pembroke drove into the circle and he slotted home from the left of goal.
Rovers, though, won plenty of corners throughout the game and they eventually made a couple stick with Luke Madeley dragging in twice in the final quarter to bring the game level – making it five in two games against Pembroke this week.
And the game was won by a piece of class from Harry Morris, rounding on a reverse-stick shot coming across his body, slamming home first time. Pembroke remain in fifth place as a result, two points off Monkstown in the fourth and final playoff place.
Railway Union 3 (M English, A Rooney, S McKeever) Annadale 3 (O Flack 2, P Caruth)
Oliver Flack’s goal in the closing minutes denied Railway Union victory but the point could nonetheless be an important one in their bid to avoid the drop as they moved off the bottom overnight for the first time since early October.
Mark English raced through to fire Railway into an early lead only for Peter Caruth to level the tie soon after from a penalty stroke. Flack then scored his second before the end of the first quarter from a corner for a 2-1 advantage.
Railway battled back, winning a couple of corners, and they went level in the second half when Aran Rooney got a sliding touch onto a diagonal ball into the circle.
Kenny Carroll put the Dubliners in front at the end of the third quarter from a switch move. But they could not hold on to the narrow lead and were eventually caught late on when Caruth burst into the circle to win a corner which Flack netted.
Banbridge 4 (J McKee 3, A Tinney) Cork C of I 4 (J Jermyn 3, J Dale)
A hat trick each from Jonny McKee and John Jermyn led to a 4-4 draw between Banbridge and Cork C of I, the fifth draw in succession for the latter side.
Jermyn got off the mark in the early stages from a corner but also missed a stroke as the sides went tit for tat, going 1-1 and 2-2 before Bann built a 3-2 half-time lead. Bann went 4-2 up in the second half befor a Jermyn stroke and Julian Dale levelled the game at 4-4.
Sunday: Cookstown 2 (S Smyth, M Kerr) Cork C of I 1 (S Wolfe)
Cookstown responded to Railway Union’s point with just their second win of the campaign, moving back off the bottom and into ninth place in the division.
Stu Smyth’s super strike put them 1-0 up in the first quarter before Michael Kerr’s deft touch made it two at half-time. Simon Wolfe pulled one back for C of I but they could not forge an equaliser and Cookstown gave their hopes of avoiding the bottom rung and automatic relegation a big boost.