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Goals dry up at wrong time as Garvey fall in second final

Three Rock Rovers 1-0 Lisnagarvey

Key role: Jonathan Bell, a pillar of strength at the heart of the young Lisnagarvey team
Key role: Jonathan Bell, a pillar of strength at the heart of the young Lisnagarvey team

By Graham Hamilton

Lisnagarvey coach Errol Lutton and his skipper James Corry remain upbeat despite their side missing out on winners' medals for the second time in six days when Three Rock Rovers beat them 1-0 in the Irish Senior Cup final at Grange Road, Dublin, on Saturday afternoon.

The defeat followed a 2-0 scoreline against the same opposition in the EY Irish Champions Trophy decider at Banbridge's Havelock Park last Sunday, depriving the young squad of some end-of-season cup final glory.

But it was a case of the goals drying up at the business end of the campaign, with those back to back blank sheets being the only time this season that Lutton's lads didn't manage to find the net.

But there is every reason for the Blues to remain upbeat after what has been an amazing spell for them - there may have been disappointment in the two national cup finals but let's not forget they were crowned EY Irish Hockey League champions with six points to spare and have qualified for Europe.

And that's after Lutton had to integrate five schoolboys and a couple more teenagers into his senior squad after last summer's wholesale departures which saw four internationals head off to European clubs and further five fringe players move elsewhere.

With a season at the top level behind them, and invaluable cup final experience along the way, there's little doubt that Garvey's young players will up among the best north and south of the border when the new campaign gets under way in September.

There was little doubt the Blues, although wearing their white strip, went into Saturday's final as underdogs with Three Rock boasting an unbeaten home record that stretches back to October 2017.

And it was the hosts who had the better opening quarter, pushing Garvey back at every opportunity and coming close through Ben Walker.

They finally broke the deadlock on the 20-minute mark from their second penalty corner, with Jody Hosking deflecting Luke Madeley's low strike past keeper James Milliken and into the net.

With Mark English and Mitch Darling keeping defenders Jonathan Bell and Andrew McKibben on their toes, Three Rock remained on the ascendancy and John Mullins saw an effort come back off the post.

However, it was a different story in the second half, with coach Errol Lutton urging Garvey forward, and indeed they started to pin Three Rock back into their own half.

But they just couldn't find a way through with their closest efforts coming from teenager Ben Nelson's shot on the reverse which cleared the crossbar and James Lorimer's penalty corner which was kicked clear by in-form goalkeeper Jamie Carr.

Meanwhile, there were celebrations for Queen's and Ballynahinch who landed the Sussex Regiment Cup and Ulster Intermediate Cup respectively after Saturday's finals staged at Stormont Playball.

Queen's beat Newry Olympic on penalty runs after a 1-1 draw, with Colin McKnight opening the scoring for the border team but the students levelling through Ross Kelly just four seconds from half-time.

Ballynahinch's 4-1 success over CI was their fourth trophy of the season, having already landed the Ulster Intermediate League title, the Linden Cup, and the Irish Hockey Challenge.

That's great credit to Willie Cairns and Mark Brown and their squad of players who now step up to senior status for next season.

Hinch's goals came from Stuart Hunter, Jason Campbell, Matthew Martin and Andrew McIlwaine, with CI's consolation strike coming from Paddy McKane.

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