Munster take title in shoot-out

 

After an unprecedented and complex three-way shoot-out at Harlequin Park, Cork, yesterday, Munster emerged as inter-provincial hockey champions for the first time since 1981.

Leinster, the title holders, who had lost 2-1 to Ulster on Friday, saved their pride in beating Munster 2-1 yesterday and as this was the score by which Munster had taken the points from Ulster on Saturday, the three teams finished dead level.

So, after some confusion, each side had to meet again, taking five strokes each from the penalty spot. First, Leinster beat Ulster 4-3; this was followed by a 5-4 tally in Ulster's favour against Munster; but finally the host province out-scored Leinster 4-1, and - though each team was still level on three points - it was sufficient for Munster to take the trophy on goal difference.

For Ivan Bateman the climax to the tournament was almost unbelievable. The Harlequin's goalkeeper kept out four of Leinster's strokes, after he had made one error in the normal match - allowing Cliff Bailey to put Leinster into their 2-1 lead in the 48th minute, which they held to the end. "We were lucky to gain a second chance," said Bateman modestly; but he also foiled Devin Donnelly in the last minute, when a third Leinster goal would have enabled them to retain the trophy.

Munster were quickly out of the blocks but Paul Lombard and Trevor Dunne had shots saved by Nigel Henderson. This allowed Leinster to settle and seven minutes before the interval, Paul Armitage found an opening for Bailey to score his first goal at this level.

Three minutes into the second half, a renewed Munster effort saw Lombard driving through the Leinster defence and, combining with Nigel Buttimer, he slammed home the equaliser. But then, 18-year-old Bailey severely dented the home side's hopes. Both Lombard and Jason Black threatened to earn Munster a draw, which would have avoided the enormously complex shoot-out, but neither could convert solid scoring chances and the lottery had to begin. A totally concentrated performance earned Munster their victory over Ulster on Saturday. There was little to cheer in a first half without even a single short corner, but after the interval four Munster set pieces enabled Ali Dunne to put away two of them clinically.

In between, Julian Stevenson snapped up a goal in response, but the Munster defenders - with Black outstanding - held their composure in the final quarter.

Graham Shaw celebrated his 20th birthday in captaining The Shamrocks in a 4-1 drubbing of Leinster. The under-21s slipped into a 3-0 interval lead with Simon Kershaw pouncing twice and Garry Ringwood finishing off a third raid. Leinster could reply only through Colin Stewart. Then, Stephen Butler, with a drag flick, added to the Shamrock's tally.

Yesterday, The Shamrocks, in holding Ulster to a 2-2 draw gained further encouragement for the Celtic Cup Under-21 Tournament at Garryduff next March.

MUNSTER: I Bateman; R Dorman, D Hales, G Burns, A Bateman; J Black, A Dunne (capt) N Buttimer; T Dunne, P Lombard, C Hanna. Sub- stitute: J Ahern.

LEINSTER: N Henderson (capt); P Young, A Browne, T Dagg, F de Rosa; D Donnelly, P Carley, P Armitage; G Elliott, A Scott, C Stewart. Substitutes: S Stewart, C Bailey.

Umpires: R O'Connor, C Hutchinson.