The Irish Hockey League‘s newly crowned champions, Lisnagarvey, extended their unbeaten run of victories to 13 when they defeated Glenanne by 5 goals to 2 at Comber Road on Saturday.
The visitors, fighting for a place in the IHL play-offs later in the season, had a great chance in the 2nd minute but the end result was a hurried clearance by the Garvey defence which had started without captain Jonny Bell who was resting on the bench.
Garvey, however, took just three minutes to respond and score the opening goal. Neal Glassey made the ground before passing to Mikie Watt who beat the Glenanne keeper Domachowski with a low cross shot.
The visitors struck back in the 10th minute when Glenanne forced their first penalty corner and Boucher Shannon beat Garvey keeper James Milliken with a low shot to his right bringing them back to parity.
Within seconds, Garvey had moved up field and scored their second goal; a pass from Daniel Nelson found his brother Matthew and his touch found the back of the Glennane net completely wrong footing Domachowski in the goal-mouth.
Glenanne had barely restarted the game when Garvey struck again; this time Andy Forrest latched onto a loose ball and with a half hit shot beat Domachowski inside the far right hand post.
The game had dramatically changed in the course on three minutes and at the end of the first quarter Garvey were leading by 3 goals to 1.
James Lorimer set up a chance on the left for Garvey early in the second quarter but it was Glennane who threatened with a second penalty corner in the 25th minute but James Milliken, starting his first full game for Garvey made a good save with his right foot but he could do nothing three minutes later.
The Dublin side were awarded a penalty stroke and David Keogh made no mistake with his strong flick bringing his team back within striking distance of Garvey with the score at 3-2.
The third quarter proved to be a poor one for Garvey and although they did not concede a goal they were prone to giving the ball away on too many occasions.
However, the Nelson brothers had a chance apiece to settle the match but both could not find the net as the third quarter was completed with the score unchanged at 3-2 to Garvey.
Domachowski had to make two saves in the 46th and 48th minutes from James Lorimer and Mikie Watt before Garvey sealed the game with two late goals.
Firstly Andy Williamson slipped the ball to Andy Forrest and his weak shot was enough to beat the Glenanne keeper in the 56th minute, and in the 58th minute Garvey completed the scoring when James Lorimer converted Garvey’s only penalty corner of the game with a well-placed low drag flick into the corner of the net to give his team the slightly flattering score-line of 5 goals to 2.
The IHL moved to Cookstown on Sunday for the second of the ‘double headers’ scheduled and in the penultimate game of the league, snatched a 2-1 win with just ten minutes left in a highly competitive match.
Garvey, playing without four of their current Irish players, Paul Gleghorne, Mikie Watt, Timmy Cockram and the injured captain Jonny Bell, were still good enough to see off a Cookstown team with plenty of fight but little finishing power.
With Bell suffering a badly cut head from Saturday’s game against Glenanne and Gleghorne missing, the Garvey defence had to be revamped but they were still able to cope adequately and scored the opening goal after just 5 minutes.
Daniel Buser carried the ball well on the left wing before Andy Williamson eventually supplied the pass to the far right hand post for James Lorimer to ghost in and tap it into the net from very close range.
Coach Errol Lutton quickly rang the changes with a selection of substitutes, Scott McCabe made his senior debut in the 12th minute and a number of the younger squad members filled the positions taken by much more experienced players without losing control of the match. Andrew O’Hare, Paul Ritchie and McCabe all put in useful shifts during the 60 minutes.
The first half ended with Garvey, playing with mainly a reserve squad, leading by a goal to nil.
A brilliant move in the 32nd minute between Andy Williamson, Daniel Buser and Sean Murray ended disappointingly when a goal looked likely while in the 40th minute after a few decent attacks, Cookstown grabbed the equaliser. It came from their first penalty corner which was switched to Ryan Millar who beat James Milliken with a good forceful shot.
The third quarter had proved to be a rather disjointed affair with neither side able to put together decent passing moves but Garvey did have a great chance to take the lead but three attempts to put the ball in the back of the Cookstown net all came to nothing as three quarter stage of the gamne was reached with the score still locked at 1-1.
With just seven minutes left the best move of the match gave Garvey the vital winner.
A fine pass from James Lorimer inside his own half set Daniel Buser on his way and he was able to transfer the ball to Andy Williamson who slipped it past the advancing Hughes for a very well executed goal.
Garvey had extended their winning streak to fifteen with just the single game remaining against Railway Union at Comber Road on Saturday at 3pm.
After the game the EYHL league trophy will be presented by Irish Hockey Association President, Richard Kendrick and Garvey can really celebrate their outstanding performance in the first season of the newly created All Ireland League winning it by a margin hardly even contemplated back in September.