Lisnagarvey will meet UCD in a novel men’s Irish Senior Cup final in two weeks time following Sunday’s respective semi-final wins over Glenanne and Cookstown in games carried over from the 2019/20 season.
It was the first competitive hockey played in Ireland since March with the Lisnagarvey defender Jonny Bell summing up the mood, saying: “Everyone is just delighted to get back to playing competitive hockey, see a bit of a crowd. The sun shone – it’s just good to see everyone back at the club and a buzz which is what we all wanted.”
His side ran out comfortable 4-0 winners over Glenanne, moving a step closer to ending their relative drought which now sits at 15 years as they pursue their 24th title.
Ben Nelson set the tone with a pin-point shot from right to left into the backboard after Jonny Bell’s steal preceded a perfectly weighted pass which the striker could not help but chase onto.
Nelson created the second for teenager Cole Chambers for 2-0 at half-time. Glenanne were sluggish in the first half but improved after half-time with Shane O’Donoghue providing the coaching. He will play for the club this season following his return from Dragons along with Sam O’Connor from Beerschot but both were not eligible to play in this contest.
Late in the game, the elder Nelson brother, Daniel, nicked two more goals to complete their win.
For Garvey, it continues the rise of their young team with the vast majority still Under-21 while Johnny Lynch, Mark McNellis and Troy Chambers have all recently been added to the Irish senior men’s training panel.
“I am certainly feeling old watching them!” Bell said of the youthful influence. “A lot of those guys came into the team two years ago and looked really raw but the development and where they have got to is absolutely fantastic. They are young, they will make mistakes and sometimes we are a bit over-eager to win the ball and aggressive but it does bode well for the future.”
For Bell, he is hopeful of finally winning the Senior Cup for the first time. In 2005, he would have been a reserve on the 18-player squad list; rules at the time meant he would have had to sit in the stands and so he opted instead to play Irish underage cricket that weekend.
Since then, Garvey have endured final defeats to Cork Harlequins, Monkstown and Three Rock Rovers and so he is especially keen to land the famous trophy on the weekend of September 19. It was originally scheduled to be his wedding weekend but that has been pushed back to April 2021.
“It would be lovely to salvage something from the season. We will prepare well in the next couple of weeks and hopefully things go well for us on the day. In cup finals, you sometimes need a bit of luck and things to drop for you!”
UCD will be their opponent after Guy Sarratt’s buzzer beater, the sharp-shooter scoring twice in the final quarter to give them a 3-2 success over Cookstown at Steelweld Park.
The Ulster Premier champions looked in good shape for a cup shock when Michael Kerr and Mark Crooks put them 2-1 up deep into the second half, the latter a glorious backhand off the back of some trickery in the 23-metre zone.
But Sarratt is one of the most lethal weapons in Irish hockey in front of goal and he turned things around. Earlier, Sam Byrne got UCD’s first of the day from a corner before Kerr levelled with a direct drag-flick.