Lisnagarvey Hockey Club secured the inaugural Irish Hockey League title last weekend with a 7-2 victory over Annadale.
Even more impressive was the fact that the local club were crowned champions with three matches still to be played in a league featuring the best clubs in Ireland.
A delighted Garvey Head Coach Errol Lutton said the title win was a ‘big reward for the club’.
“I am obviously absolutely delighted for the guys,” Lutton said.
“We knew we had four matches left and had to win one of them and thankfully that win came on Saturday.
“We knew it wouldn’t be easy and we came up against a resolute and organised Annadale, but we were able to get ahead and kicked on and went on to win the game.
“Annadale have some very good players and they had some chances, but once we got ahead we were able to kick on and get a couple more. It took a wee bit of time to do it, but we eventually broke them down,” he said.
“We acknowledge that there has certainly been a lot of hard work put in this season to win most of the matches against the premier teams in Irish Hockey.”
Whilst Garvey are already champions, the trophy presentation will take place at Comber Road after the final match of the league season on April 16, meaning celebrations were muted at Lough Moss last Saturday.
“The cup wasn’t there at that stage,” explained Lutton, “and five or six of the guys were going away with Ireland to play against Great Britain, so there were no organised celebrations.”
Lutton says there is also a lot of hockey to be played before his squad can truly celebrate.
“We have three games to go and then a play-off decider for a European slot,” he said.
“There will be time to celebrate certainly, down the line,” the coach commented.
“We had a good crowd of supporters down, they have been fantastic all season,” Lutton added. “This is a big reward for the club.”
Whilst the title win secures Garvey a European place next season, the play-offs at Banbridge in May, as well as Banbridge’s participation in the Euro Hockey Club Champions Trophy will decide Garvey’s seeding and which European tournament they will play in.
“We’ve secured a European place of some sort,” Lutton said, “but there are other places to secure.
“It could be reformatted for next year, it depends on how Ireland’s representatives do and the Banbridge play-offs in May.
“Banbridge have to play in Europe and obviously we want them to do well, who knows how the play-offs will go in Banbridge.
“Where it gets us remains to be seen but it is fantastic for the club. Winning the league is fantastic, Europe is a bonus,” he stated.
With three matches remaining in the season, but the title already sewn up, it would be easy for Garvey to take their foot off the gas, but that is most certainly not their style.
“The players have put a lot of time and effort into this season,” the coach said. “We’d be letting ourselves down. Plus teams are still playing for the vital fourth place and fighting relegation.
“Ireland are away in England at the minute so we have to see what way the players come back.
“We wouldn’t be true to ourselves if we didn’t want to win every game,” he added.
Looking back on last Saturday’s triumph, Lutton commented: “It was a good day for the club, not everybody wins the IHL, to do so against the top opposition in the country is fantastic and the club want to recognise that.
“It will be a fantastic day for the club when the team receive the trophy.
“The players have been absolutely fantastic. They’ve been receptive to what we’ve asked them to do this season.
“There have been highs and lows, as there are in any season but thankfully for us they’ve been mostly highs.
“The support from the club and the supporters has been wonderful and we really appreciate it,” he said.
“I recognise that the players have had a tough season, well done to the players.”