Lisnagarvey staged an astounding come back at Comber Road to secure a place in the Irish Cup Final on 20th March against Monkstown.
Three goals behind with 46 minutes of the match played, it looked all over for yet another season for a strangely unsettled Garvey.
But, they eventually showed their class and pulled themselves into the game to finish the 70 minutes with the score at 3-3 and, in the end won on penalty strokes in an unforgettable cup tie.
The game, watched by the biggest crowd of the season, began with Rovers having a half chance in the 3rd minute but, James Lorimer was on hand to clear the danger.
Neil Glassey showed his ability in the 12th minute but Garvey could not capitalise and in the 14th minute Garvey keeper John Tormey had to make the first save of the match from the dangerous Harry Morris.
Garvey replied with their first shot on goal by Glassey, but the Rovers keeper Jamie Carr was there to make the first of many saves of the afternoon and in the 16th minute Garvey’s opening penalty corner was deflected and taken off the goal line. A second corner in the 17th minute saw Timmy Cockram’s drag flick go straight at Carr and a minute later Glassey shot past the post when well placed.
Rovers were always dangerous on the break and in the 22nd minute James Walker worked his way across the Garvey circle before bringing a fine block out of Tormey and a minute later the visitors forced their first penalty corner after Garvey had lost some of their usually composed defending. The shot was half saved but Luke Madeley was on the spot to open the scoring from close range.
Garvey responded with their second set piece in the 28th minute but again the shot was too straight and Carr had little trouble making a save from James Lorimer.
Daniel Buser brought another good save out of Carr in the 37th minute while Garvey’s third penalty corner was completely wasted and two minutes later they were punished for their lack of discipline; the usually totally reliable Jonny Bell gave the ball away on his own 22 metre line and Freddie Morris beat Tormey with a fine shot to give Rovers a shock 2-0 lead after 38 minutes and Garvey a mountain to climb.
A second Rovers penalty corner in the 44th minute was blocked while a minute later Garvey had the chance open their account when their 4th penalty corner shot was stopped on the goal line by a Rovers foot but Timmy Cockram could not give the Garvey supporters hope when his weak flick was easily saved by Carr.
Worse was to follow in the 46th minute when a cross from the right was deflected into the path of Conor Empey who slammed the ball past Tormey to take his team into an almost unassailable position with just 24 minutes left in an engrossing cup tie.
Still Garvey struggled to find their recent form until, in the 49th minute Timmy Cockram found Mikey Watt on the right of the circle and he blasted the ball past Carr into the top left hand corner and suddenly Garvey had had a glimpse of a way back.
As Garvey piled on the pressure they forced their 5th penalty corner in the 50th minute but in the melee Paul Gleghorne was injured as he put the ball past the post, no action was taken by the umpire and play continued with Mikey Watt having a rocket shot cannon off the cross bar in the 52nd minute and Neil Glassey close with another great effort just a minute later.
Garvey were now completely in charge of the game and they fully deserved their second goal scored by the ever active Glassey and with 8 minutes left, Garvey were pushing for the priceless equaliser.
The Garvey support was frenzied at this stage but were rewarded when after some severe pressure a cross from the right was guided into the net by Matthew Nelson past man-of-the-match Jamie Carr and Garvey had managed a most remarkable resurgence with just two minutes left in the 70.
Having got their breath back after the magnificent last quarter the players had to compose themselves for the ensuing penalty shoot-out and a place in the Irish Cup final and it proved to be Garvey who responded best. Timmy Cockram, Paul Gleghorne, Steven Arbuthnot and Daniel Buser all slotting home their flicks before Darragh Walsh missed the fourth flick for Rovers and it was left to 19 year old Sean Murray to seal a stupendous victory with a nerveless fifth flick.
I cannot recall any occasion when Garvey came back from three goals behind to win a game let alone an Irish Cup semi-final so it proved to be a very special afternoon for a team which had the skill and determination to pull off a remarkable victory.
Their opposition in the final on March 20th at Belfield will be Monkstown who outplayed Glenanne by 6 goals to 2 leaving arguably the two best teams in Ireland locked together in a bid to win the oldest cup trophy in the hockey world, remembering that it’s as far back as 2005 when Garvey last won, the year they were in transition between New Blaris and Comber Road.
This weekend Garvey return to the EYHL with the 13th in the league format and they entertain Cork Church of Ireland at Comber Road at 2.30pm.
The match in Cork left Garvey winners by 4 goals to 2 and since that Church of Ireland have slipped down the table but they will not come to Hillsborough to present Garvey with the three points. so another fierce encounter is expected but the home side’s power and skill should take them to another victory to maintain their top spot in the EYHL league with just five games remaining.