Men’s EY Hockey League – day 18 round-up
Banbridge 4 (J McKee, J Moffett, Ph Brown, D Finlay) Lisnagarvey 4 (O Kidd, B Nelson, A Williamson, J Lorimer)
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.
For skipper James Corry, he said the only word they got of what was happening elsewhere came in the closing 10 minutes.
“We heard Three Rock had won 3-2 and we had just gone 4-4 with Jonny McKee scoring that stroke. It was basically just to hold out and hope for the best but I think we managed it well; there wasn’t that many chances for Banbridge. Obviously, there were a wee bit of nerves! It was always going to be tough and Bann would never make life easy for us!
“You could nearly tell by the atmosphere of the crowd Three Rock had won because the Garvey fans were very quiet.”
It was an afternoon of roller-coasting emotions as Garvey led 1-0 and 2-1 with Ben Nelson and James Lorimer scoring, Josh Moffett getting the credit for the Bann goal which went in via a defensive foot.
Philip Brown levelled at 2-2 from a corner and they put the cat among the pigeons when David Finlay put the Havelock hosts in front. Vitally for Garvey, Andy Williamson equalised and, with 20 minutes left, Ollie Kidd gave an extra buffer before the late nerves began to set in once again.
McKee’s stroke had hearts fluttering but Errol Lutton’s side took the spoils, taking the league on goal difference and a guaranteed European spot.
Looking back on the season as a whole, Corry cited their 2-2 draw with Corinthian as the result which lit the fire in the team after a rollercoaster mid-season run which saw the lead change hands in the league for six successive rounds.
After that, Garvey were imperious, crucially beating Three Rock and running up five successive wins, scoring 23 goals in the process.
“That result against Corinthians where we were 2-0 up with two minutes to go, we always said we hope don’t lose the title on that one. It gave us the kick up the backside that we needed. Any big game we have had in the past few weeks, we seem to have dealt with them pretty well.
“I don’t know what it was; every team will have those off days but we played well that day and just got caught those last few minutes. We bounced back superbly and credit to the boys.
“The depth in the squad; we have had a lot of players out with injury and Covid and have used about 22 boys. When people aren’t stepping up, others have stepped up to the task. We were missing James Lorimer and Andy Williamson for the Three Rock games, our two flickers, but Ollie Kidd and Andy Edgar stood up and got one each. The younger boys have that bit more experience and can deal with the pressure.”
Monkstown 2 (J Duncan, J Henry) Three Rock Rovers 3 (B Johnson 2, H MacMahon)
Three Rock Rovers dug out another last-ditch comeback to ensure the men’s EY Hockey League season drama went down to the final minutes as they snatched a 3-2 win over Monkstown having trailed going into the last 10 minutes.
The first half was a scoreless affair but high on quality with both sides counter-attacking at pace and winning a couple of corners; goalkeepers David Fitzgerald and Conor Quinn were the key men, making a number of good blocks.
The second half burst to life with three goals in as many minutes seeing Town edge into a 2-1 lead. Lee Cole made a brilliant tackle on the edge of his own D and ripped a pass up to Jazze Henry whose first time touch set Jeremy Duncan through on the gallop. He was shadowed wide but still clipped a perfect shot into the top corner.
Rovers were level with an exquisitely executed move between Matteo Romoli, Evan Jennings and Ben Johnson who burst through the middle and slid home a shot on his backhand.
The sky blues returned to the lead within seconds with David Nolan bursting through the middle; his shot was blocked by Quinn but Henry swooped to slap in to make it 2-1 in the 39th minute.
It remained that way until nine minutes to go as Rovers had one disallowed for a foot guiding the ball into the roof of the net. They got level when a right-wing surge broke the way of Johnson who roofed a reverse from the top of the D, another spectacular goal.
Rovers took off their goalkeeper to chase an equaliser but were almost undone when Rex Dunlop’s foul conceded a yellow card and a penalty corner. The combination of Romoli and goal-line specialist Harry MacMahon cleared from Lee Cole and Geoff Cole strikes on goal, the latter at waist-height.
In the next play, Rovers picked the ball off the Monkstown defence with Romoli finding Ryan Spencer who flicked to the back post where MacMahon was waiting to score his first of the season.
Pembroke Wanderers 6 (E Albers 2, J Dale 2, E Foy, A Sothern) UCD 2 (J Filgas, E Ramsay)
Pembroke got the result they needed to stay alive in the men’s EY Hockey League and, after a nervous 45-minute wait, had their place confirmed in the top tier for 2022/23.
They did, however, fall behind just 30 seconds into this contest against already relegated UCD with Peter Lynch feeding the ball into Josh Filgas who pushed for a deflection but the ball made it all the way to the backboard unimpeded.
Less than two minutes were on the clock when Pembroke equalised as Julian Dale’s cross was picked up by Ewout Albers who snuck in a near post shot. It was his first goal for the club in the EYHL and he added another 10 minutes later with a cracking reverse from the top left of the D.
A sprawling Eric Foy cracked in another from mid-circle and it was 4-1 soon after when Nick Burns picked out Alan Sothern with acres of space to run into. The ace marksman thrashed this one into the top corner.
UCD replied with Ewan Ramsay deflecting a corner move into the top corner to cut the gap back to 4-2 at half-time. The second half was more circumspect with the third quarter scoreless before Dale finished the campaign with a flourish. He fired in a brilliant shot for 5-2 with 11 minutes to go.
He dragged in another to complete the part of the equation they could control, leaving just a nervous wait to see how YMCA would do against Corinthian.
Corinthian 1 (M Neill) YMCA 2 (A Walker, R Henderson)
YMCA copper-fastened their place in the EYHL quarter-final with the result seeing the reds drop down to the second tier in ninth place, falling below Pembroke.
The first half was tense and nervy with chances at a premium with the pick of the openings falling to Ethan McInerney but his reverse was deflected over the bar.
The Y went in front in the second half to put Corinthian in jeopardy, knowing Pembroke were well in the clear at Serpentine Avenue, with Adam Walker propelling a corner shot into the top corner.
YMCA found out mid-match their place in the top six was confirmed but they did not take the foot off the gas as they doubled their lead at the start of the fourth quarter. Harry McCarthy embarked on a long run before setting up Ross Henderson to finish off.
With everything on the line, Corinthian piled forward and ran up a number of corners and got one back when Max Neill scored despite a mistrapped setup at the top. They earned another series of corners chasing the draw they needed but Paebo Lembethe scrambled one off the line while Jakim Bernsden brilliantly saved another to break the Corinthian hearts.
Glenanne 2 (S Boucher, A Clayton) Annadale 0
First half goals from Shannon Boucher and Adam Clayton gave Glenanne a 2-0 win that saw them move up to fourth place in the table and a home quarter-final date with Monkstown next Saturday.
Boucher tucked in at the back post from a right-wing cross in the ninth minute and Clayton deflected in the second in the second quarter. Dale finish in seventh place as a result.
The match was Richard Fairman’s last as Annadale coach as he announced he will be stepping back from his role due to family commitments.
It brings to a close three years in the role, two of them interrupted by the Covid-19 pandemic. This season, they ended a run of 25 top tier games, dating back to February 2019, without a victory when they beat UCD 4-0 to steer them to safety..
John Stephens, Annadale Club Chairman said: “We would like to thank Richard for all he has done for the club during his time here. His commitment and enthusiasm throughout these times was second to none. We totally understand him wanting to spend more time with his young family and everyone at Annadale Hockey Club wish him all the best for the future.”