Lisnagarvey Hockey Club captain Jonny Bell said it was a ‘privilege’ to lead his side to Irish Hockey League glory this season.
In just their first year in the new league, which features sides from across Ireland, Garvey stormed to victory, suffering just one defeat in the entire season and winning all other matches.
And so, it was with great pride that Jonny Bell lifted the league trophy last Saturday at Comber Road in front of a jubilant home crowd.
Speaking of their season, he said: “The squad are a great bunch of players. It’s a real privilege to captain such a team.
“This season we were able to blow the rest of the league away and are deservedly All Ireland champions,” he added.
“The level of performance has been absolutely phenomenal, there is quality throughout the squad from 1 to 20.
“We have 20 players all chomping at the bit to play and the performance level has been superb, because of the competition for places.”
Taking time to praise the Garvey coaches, Bell commented: “The work put in by the coaching staff has been phenomenal.
“The time and effort and commitment they have put in is tremendous. We are all really thankful for their expertise and knowledge.”
The hard work doesn’t end here, however, with Garvey involved in the play-offs at the Champions Trophy on the 30th April at Banbridge.
“We now have the play-offs, and it’s important to try to get that number one seed into Europe,” Bell added.
“Two of the three sides we’re playing have no trophies this season and they will raise their level of performance, so we have to match that.”
Praising the club for the way they supported the team this season, the club captain said: “It’s just been a phenomenal club effort all round this season.
“I don’t think any other team has done the IHL as well as we have, with the effort that’s been made, not just on the pitch, but off it, with match sponsors, ball boys. The whole match day has been played out to the fullest and it’s probably the best in the league.
“I don’t think anyone else has embraced it as much as our club.”
Bell added: “There is a blend of youth and experience here and I hope we can keep the team together and win more silverware.
“Hopefully there’ll be more silverware next week, but play-offs are always tough. In one-off games like this, past results and fixtures count for nothing.”
Meanwhile, several members of the Garvey squad, including Bell, will be hoping to board a plane to Rio for the Olympic Games this summer.
“Quite a few of our players are involved in the Olympic training panel and we’ll all be pushing hard for selection,” he said. “It’s a massive commitment, but hopefully we can get as many games as possible and get selected.”