South Antrim have nothing to lose, says Taylor
South Antrim will be hoping to defy massive odds and step out of the shadow of their local rivals on Sunday when they tackle mighty Lisnagarvey in the Kirk Cup semi-final, 88 years after they last won the famous trophy.
It's a veritable David versus Goliath clash as the Lisburn-based Ulster Premier League side take on the current EY Irish Hockey League leaders, with Banbridge facing Cookstown in the other tie in a Stormont double-header.
Garvey have been scoring for fun this season, having hit 29 goals in their five national league games and run up double figures against local opposition in the Kirk Cup, including 17 in beating Portadown, who play in the same league as South Antrim.
It might seem that Sunday will be purely a damage limitation exercise for South Antrim, but they have been in decent form and in their last outing put nine past Queen's without reply.
Even more impressive was their 3-2 win over Garvey's IHL rivals Annadale, which earned them a place in the semi-finals at the Belfast team's expense.
South Antrim manager Johnny Taylor explained: "We don't see ourselves as having to compete with Garvey for players and hockey is thriving locally with both clubs providing great opportunities for men and boys to play the sport at various levels.
"Ironically, while we are based at Friends', we actually have all but two of the Wallace High School team in our ranks, three of whom play on our firsts, namely Max Taylor, Peter Milligan and Ben Clarke."
Garvey can boast two former Wallace High players in their ranks, so Ireland Under-21 international Troy Chambers and Johnny Lynch will be in direct opposition to the South Antrim trio and their former team-mates on Sunday.
Taylor added: "Garvey are an unbelievably good side and we go into the game under no illusions. Although we have had a solid start to the season, the same teams we have beaten by the odd goal, Garvey have put double figures past, including IHL opposition in Annadale."
The first semi-final is also a battle between teams from the IHL and Ulster Premier League, so Cup holders Banbridge will start favourites to beat Cookstown.
Cookstown co-coach Gareth Cuddy said: "This will be a huge test for us even though Banbridge haven't been on their best run in the IHL, but they're still packed with talent and will obviously want to hold onto the trophy.
"We've been really good in patches and have scored a lot of goals from a lot of players, and only conceded a few.
"That's exactly where you'd want to be but, while we've yet to put together four perfect quarters, we're getting there. On Sunday, we'll want to bring it all together."
FIXTURES: Saturday: EY Irish Hockey League: Lisnagarvey v Corinthian (5.30pm); Pembroke v Banbridge (2.30pm); Three Rock Rovers v Glenanne (3pm); UCD v Annadale (3pm); YMCA v Monkstown (4pm).
Ulster Premier League: Ballynahinch v Cookstown (1pm); Instonians v Bangor (2.30pm); Portadown v Kilkeel (1pm); Queen's v Mossley (2.30pm); Raphoe v Newry (2.30pm). Intermediate League: Armagh v Antrim (2.30pm); CI v Civil Service (4pm); Parkview v PSNI (2.30pm). Sunday: Kirk Cup semi-finals (Stormont): Cookstown v Banbridge (1pm); South Antrim v Lisnagarvey (3pm).