Lisnagarvey, having been three goals in the lead had to survive a last quarter barrage by Three Rock Rovers to win eventually by 4 goals to 3 and draw nine points clear of closest rivals Monkstown at the top of the EYHL.
The visitors to Grange Road, controlled most the game scoring a goal in each of the first three quarters until the home side struck back with a vengeance in the last 15 minutes of a pulsating game in front of a good size crowd.
Garvey took only three minutes to open their scoring account when they forced their first penalty corner; the ball was switched around the circle from Timmy Cockram and Paul Gleghorne put the finishing touch with a neat shot past keeper Jamie Carr.
The game was mostly played in the middle of the pitch during the opening 15 minutes with few creative openings for either side until Andy Williamson brought out a fine save from Carr just before the end of the first quarter with Garvey still holding the one goal advantage.
Sean Murray broke down the Rovers defence in the 16th minute but passed when he might well have a shot at goal and a minute later Mikey Watt presented a delicate pass between his legs and Carr had to make another good block from Murray.
The 20th minute saw Garvey’s second goal which came from a poor hit out by the Rovers defence which Neil Glassey latched on to and proceeded to beat three defenders before lifting the ball over keeper Carr with a piece of exceptional skill.
The second quarter ended with a Daniel Buser pass to Watt who got in a half shot which was saved by Carr and Garvey remained two goals in front at the half way stage of a very interesting encounter.
Early in the second half, Garvey captain, Jonny Bell had a surge up field but his efforts ended with a chance for Andy Williamson but the striker was off target in the 32nd minute.
Rovers had never back peddled even when two goals adrift and they created a chance in the 34th minute only for Sean Murray to show his defensive skills inside his own circle.
Two more attacks from the home side were repelled before Garvey broke quickly from defence and Timmy Cockram set up Paul Ritchie for a tap in at the right hand post with the Rovers keeper defenceless.
Again, Rovers retaliated with two more very dangerous attacks and a penalty corner in the 42nd minute but their effort was wasted as the drag flick went past the post leaving Garvey still fully in charge at the three quarter stage of the game.
With most of the good crowd expecting Garvey to canter to a comfortable win, Rovers had other ideas and in the 52nd minute, following a slack pass from Neil Glassey in mid field, Ross Canning beat Garvey keeper John Tormey with a shot from the right hand side of the circle and suddenly the home side saw a chance of pushing their opponents to the utmost in the last few minutes.
They shocked Garvey again in the 56th minute when after a good run by Canning, James Walker squeezed the ball into the Garvey net at the left hand post and at 3-2 the game was far from over.
However, Garvey responded with the vital fourth goal a minute later when Steven Arbuthnot combined with Andy Williamson who made ground down the right before releasing a perfect pass to Cockram who swept the ball into the empty net with some relish.
Even at that stage, Rovers were not finished as they forced their 3rd penalty corner in the 58th minute and Jody Hosking beat Tormey low to his right for their third goal with two minutes left on the stop watch.
Agonisingly for Garvey, Rovers nearly grabbed a sensational equaliser when Luke Madeley shot narrowly wide of the right upright in the 59th minute and Garvey then took the sting out of the last seconds with their only their second penalty corner of the match.
The resulting Cockram flick was taken off the Rovers goal line leaving the visitors only a single goal ahead in the seven scored and stretching their lead at the top of the EYHL as closest rivals Monkstown could only manage a 1-1 draw at Havelock Park against Banbridge.
This week, Garvey look forward to a return match with Three Rock Rovers when the two teams meet in the crucial semi-final of the Irish Senior Cup at Comber Road, Saturday 3pm.
Following the drama of the EYHL game at Grange Road last Saturday, another close encounter is expected. Even with a clear 3 goal leading margin, Rovers were determined to keep themselves in the game and they did so with some purpose scoring three goals in 13 minutes to give Garvey a very difficult last quarter of the match.
This weekend’s visitors will take a lot of confidence out of their performance last week and Garvey can be certain of another spirited effort from the Dubliners and a place in the Irish Cup Final will only be secured with a disciplined performance from the talented Garvey team.
It is ten years since Garvey won the Irish Cup and they will more than keen to reach the final on March 20th at U.C.D. to play against either Monkstown or Glennane. A large support is expected for the mouth-watering match against their very welcome opponents from Dublin.