Lisnagarvey lifted the inaugural Irish Hockey League title in superb style at Lough Moss when they beat Annadale by 7 goals to 2 in a scintillating performance of high quality hockey.
Requiring just one more win from their last four matches, Garvey completed the job, systematically dismantling their opponents over the space of the 60 minutes at rain soaked Lough Moss.
The victory ensures Garvey a place in the European Hockey League next season.
The home side seriously struggling for survival in the EHL, gave as good as they got in the opening quarter, causing John Tormey in the Garvey goal to make a save from Matthew Allister in the 3rd minute but striking back almost immediately with the first penalty corner of the game in the 11th minute.
The resulting drag flick from Timmy Cockram was easily parried by Annadale keeper Johnny Moor but as the first 15 minutes elapsed, Garvey began to turn the screw and dominant play in the vital mid field area and although they did not score, they were well on top at the end of the first quarter.
Gradually, Garvey began to penetrate the Annadale defence with both Daniel Nelson and Steven Arbuthnot bringing keeper Moore into the game with two good saves in the 14 and 17th minutes.
More pressure was applied by Sean Murray and Neil Glassey stretching the Annadale defence to the limit with only ace defender Davie Smyth’s vast experience keeping them afloat.
However in the 24th minute the seal was broken when a fierce left wing cross was deflected past Moore by Daniel Buser before the keeper could react.
The goal eased the tension for Garvey and five minutes later they added the crucial second goal and what a strike it was; Timmy Cockram made ground on the right before slipping the ball to Sean Murray who lashed his reverse shot past Moore into the far corner of the net from 12 metres and his team were well and truly ‘in the box seat’ at the end of the first half.
Immediately after the restart Richard Arneill forced Garvey second penalty corner but again Moore came to Annadale’s rescue with a fine save from Cockram and a minute later Mikie Watt saw his right wing cross go untouched with the Annadale defence in tatters.
The 40th minute saw the EHL title virtually sealed when Garvey notched their third goal. It was another fine move involving Ryan Getty and Daniel Buser before Timmy Cockram added the finishing touch from close range.
The floodgates were now well and truly open as Garvey penetrated the Annadale rear-guard almost at will and it was no surprise when Andy Williamson added goal number four in the 45 minute from a well executed penalty corner drag flick low past the diving Moore.
The goal of the game, the 5th, came in the 54th minute when Timmy Cockram set up Neil Glassey who like Murray before him blasted the ball past Moore on his reverse with incredible power.
Garvey were now totally on top of the tiring Annadale team and their brilliant third quarter was rewarded with goal number six.
After some fine inter play, Andy Forrest shot from the edge of the circle only to see Sean Murray deflect the ball into the left hand corner leaving Moore totally flat-footed and three minutes later Neil Glassey was fouled in the circle and the resulting penalty stroke was duly converted by Timmy Cockram to take the score-line to an impressive 7-0.
The gallant Annadale never gave up the fight and in the final three minutes scored two consolation goals; first Matthew Allister took advantage of a slip in the Garvey defence and slotted the ball past Tormey while the impressive Michael Robson ended the match with a wicked reverse shot which gave the Garvey keeper little chance of making a save.
The 7-2 score-line certainly indicated the gap between the top and bottom of the IHL but Annadale are the 13th successive side to suffer the power of this excellent Garvey squad.
The team has match winners all over the pitch and the vitally important quality of strength in depth and this, most of all has taken them to their success.
To win the highly competitive IHL with such a margin is more than impressive and all involved in the playing and coaching side of the club must be greatly satisfied with the season’s outcome.
With three games left, coach, Errol Lutton is keen to keep the winning streak going and the remaining games against Glenanne, this Saturday at 3pm at Comber Road, Cookstown the following day at Cookstown (2.30pm) and finally Railway Union at home on Saturday 16th April will all be taken with similar importance to the previous matches in the programme.
Firstly, Glenanne come to Comber Road on Saturday still in with a strong chance of finishing in the vital top four and will give Garvey a severe test in the process.
The match at Glenanne was a very tight affair with Garvey winning by 2 goals to nil but more than pleased with the hard earned points.
They will be expecting another close encounter on Saturday.
The EYHL trophy won by Garvey on Saturday will be presented to skipper Jonny Bell immediately after the last game against Railway Union at Comber Road on April 16th.