High controversy surrounded the Irish Cup final at Belfield last Sunday.
After a hotly disputed goal and a superb exhibition of club hockey, Monkstown claimed the title when the game was forced into a penalty stroke shoot-out which went the way of the Dublin team.
A very large crowd, bathed in sunshine watched a thrilling encounter which proved to be the close match everyone expected.
With a wealth of talent on both teams, the quality was high from the start with Garvey the quicker to attack.
They had two sharp raids before they opened the scoring as early as the 3rd minute. A superb over-head from Paul Gleghorne found Daniel Buser in the clear and after his first shot had been saved by Monkstown keeper David Fitzgerald his second on the reverse found the net to give Garvey the vital lead.
Monkstown replied with a telling raid of their own in the 7th minute but David Carson shot past the post when well placed. Two minutes later, Neil Glassey had a great chance to extend Garvey’s lead but he delayed his shot and Fitzgerald was able to smother his effort.
Garvey’s pressure continued with shots from Mikie Watt and Daniel Buser being saved by the Dublin goalkeeper and after a fine run by Glassey, Watt also saw his shot saved in the 17th minute.
After a great run and chase, Andy Williamson forced Garvey’s opening penalty corner in the 18th minute but again Fitzgerald got a toe on the ball which cannoned off the right hand post to safety.
Monkstown responded almost immediately with their first set piece but their routine went awry and nothing came of the chance to equalise, while it was the turn of Garvey goalkeeper John Tormey to make his first save of note in the 30th minute; he made a block at very close range from Jonny Bruton to maintain his team’s slender lead.
However, all was to change in the controversial last few seconds of the first half. Monkstown broke down the right flank and as David Carson swept the ball into the Garvey net the hooter sounded for the end of the half.
Amid total confusion, the goal was awarded but it took another two minutes of discussion before the goal was officially awarded much to the astonishment of the Garvey players and massive support in the stands.
The disputed goal meant that the two sided started from scratch after the interval and immediately Sean Murray drew a save out of Fitzgerald and two minutes later he set up a chance with a great cross from the right but no touch was supplied by the Garvey forward.
Garvey, now well into their second half stride, forced their second penalty corner in the 41st minute but after a switch from Cockram to Paul Gleghorne, Fitzgerald made a save and another chance had gone for Garvey.
A quiet period of play ensued with half chances for Watt and Bruton being repelled until Garvey gained their 3rd set piece in the 55th minute; again the ball was switched, twice this time but with the same result; a save from the excellent Fitzgerald.
Both teams were still giving everything even as the hour mark passed and it was Monkstown who had the next good chance.
Their second penalty corner was saved by Tormey stretching with his right foot but a minute later, Garvey regained the lead when Sean Murray tore the Monkstown defence to shreads before Mikie Watt slipped the ball over the line with some relish giving Garvey the vital goal difference with less than three minutes remaining.
Monkstown were not finished however, they applied pressure during the last few minutes and were rewarded with their 4th penalty corner in the 68th minute. The initial drag flick was saved by Tormey but the ball was bundled over the line by Jonny Bruton with the Garvey defenders doing everything possible to prevent the ball crawling into the net.
The final minute ticked by and Garvey found themselves robbed of a win with just seconds left on the stop watch and for some reason, only known to the I.H.U. hierarchy, no extra time was allotted to the two teams which deserved the chance to settle the game before resorting to penalty strokes.
Faced with an immediate shoot-out both teams selected their stroke takers and all ten takers scored with their well taken shots, Steven Arbuthnot, Paul Gleghorne, Timmy Cockram, Daniel Buser and Sean Murray all slotted their efforts taking it to a ‘sudden death’ situation.
Unfortunately, Stevie Arbuthnot fluffed the first in the sequence and it was left to Gareth Watkins to convert his stroke and secure the Irish Cup for Monkstown leaving Garvey desolated and their eleven year quest for the trophy pushed further into the future.
Apart from the controversy involved in the game, Garvey had performed superbly and with a little more fortune could well have been the winners on the day, but both teams had provided a fine exhibition of club hockey in front of deserving support.
Garvey now take a break for Easter but return on April 2nd with the chance to wrap up the I.H.L. title when they visit Annadale.
A win at Lough Moss would give them three points and that would take them out of reach of arch rivals Monkstown. Perhaps the Garvey squad will take the massive disappointment of last Sunday out on their opponents who are struggling for survival in the I.H.L. The game starts at 2.30 p.m.