Lisnagarvey, facing the first of their clashes with potential top four Premier League teams began well with a feisty 4-3 win over Cookstown at Comber Road last Thursday evening.
Welcoming back skipper Jonny Bell after his successful trip to USA with Ireland, Garvey were on the back foot almost immediately when Cookstown scored from their first penalty corner in the 4th minute; Stephen Smyth’s shot was slightly deflected past the helpless John Tormey in the Garvey goal.
Garvey replied instantly with two set pieces of their own. The first taken by Timmy Cockram was scraped off the line and the second was off target but in the 13th minute they equalised after a great surging run by Cockram before Andy Williamson finished off the move with a shot past Cookstown keeper Ian Hughes.
A very even game was switching from end to end until Garvey earned themselves a penalty stroke after their 3rd penalty corner was illegally off the goal line but unfortunately Timmy Cockram put his flick wide of the goal; a very rare miss from the seasoned stroke taker.
Jonny Bell went on a fine penetrating run in the 23rd minute but his efforts were in vain as the attack broke down close to goal. However, a minute later, Garvey took a deserved lead. Peter MacDonnell did the good work down the right wing before his cross was converted by Andy Williamson but their advantage was short lived when Cookstown struck back in the 28th minute. Cookstown’s second penalty corner was blocked by John Tormey but the third, retaken, again by Smyth beat the keeper at his right post.
The last minute of the first half ended in drama as Cookstown’s 4th penalty corner was deflected onto the cross bar by Jonny Bell and another corner was awarded but Smyth’s effort went wide of the goal leaving the score at 2-2 at half time.
The second half began with Garvey on the offensive and after 43 minutes they were back in the lead. Their third goal came from the stick of Timmy Cockram at Garvey’s 4th penalty corner; he beat keeper Hughes with a low fast drag flick which rattled off the back board.
The pressure was maintained as the second period continued but it was another 10 minutes before Garvey stretched their lead to 4-2. This time the goal came from Andy Forrest, his shot coming off a defender on its way into the Cookstown net.
Timmy Cockram had another chance to score with Garvey’s 5th set piece in the 52nd minute but his flick was saved as was the rebound from James Lorimer and in the 55th minute Cookstown struck back to make the final ten minutes tense. Their goal came from Andrew Sloan after some hesitant defending by the Garvey defence which under Jonny Bell had been secure up until that point.
A heated final few minutes involved a number of cards being distributed by the umpire including one for the Cookstown coach but Garvey kept their head and might well have increased their advantage as they forced two late penalty corners in the 68th and 69th minutes. No shot resulted from the 6th corner and Ian Hughes saved well from Cockram’s last effort to leave the score a satisfying 4-3 to Garvey and a place in the last four almost guaranteed.
However, their situation is hardly helped by the news last week that Ulster Hockey are still going to take two points from Garvey’s Premier League tally following their supposed misdemeanour regarding supplying a registered umpire.
The case as far as Garvey is concerned is not yet over so the team will concentrate on winning their remaining matches.
This Saturday, Garvey take a break from the league to complete their I.H.L. programme with a game against Cork Church of Ireland at Gulladuff. Garvey have a very slender chance of qualifying for the final stages. They must win heavily in Cork while Banbridge must also lose heavily to Monkstown in their final match of the series.
Garvey will be aiming to revenge the defeat by Cork in the quarter final of the Irish Cup in January but will be without striker Andy Forrest who is on tour with a Friends’ School hockey party.