With two final losses in the last three years, it seemed like they might be running out of opportunities to lift the premier men’s hockey competition. Yesterday, however, their day finally arrived when they beat a committed and talented Lisnagarvey with a performance that was underlined by their determination to finally break this duck.
Two second-half goals from John Hobbs and David Lombard sealed Quins’ victory, and though Garvey got a late consolation through Jonathon Bloomfield, on the balance of play this was a deserved victory for the Cork outfit.
This was truly a victory to savour, and it was appropriate therefore that Quins’ goalkeeper Wes Bateman not only collected the medal he has craved for so long but also won the man of the match award.
Bateman’s brilliance has long been a vital part of the Harlequins effort and his dedication to his club at all levels has been an inspiration. His emotion at the end was very understandable.
“This is better than anything else I’ve done in the game,” he said. “It’s the biggest thing ever for all the players and for the club as a whole. It is a victory that has come from the hearts of everyone involved.”
Watching Ireland coach Dave Passmore may well have had cause to rue Bateman’s decision to retire from international duty after Ireland’s victory in last year’s European Nations Cup in Rome, especially seeing how his inspirational performance so obviously lifted his team-mates during periods when Lisnagarvey had them under the cosh, particularly in the first period.
Harlequins more or less dominated the second period, having finally come to terms with the pace and aggression of Tim Cockram in particular, who caused havoc running at the Cork side’s defence from deep.
Harlequins coach Stephen Dale said they realised the threat Irish international Cockram posed early on, when he forced a brilliant save from Bateman on six minutes, and they worked hard thereafter to nullify that danger in a cat-and-mouse first period in which both sides had decent chances.
Lisnagarvey had the best of these in the opening period, but with Bateman on top form, notably frustrating Kevin Lunn late on, they could not get on the scoreboard.
The game really sprang to life in the second period, however, and while Bateman had to be on top form once more in the second minute to save from Brian Waring, this time it was Quins who exerted the most pressure.
Richard Gash was just wide with a powerful shot on seven minutes and then a minute later John Hobbs got the opener from a penalty corner, with a shot which deflected past unfortunate goalkeeper Williamson.
The Lisnagarvey netminder had to make a smart double save five minutes later as Quins piled on the pressure before Lisnagarvey captain Erroll Litton was sin-binned for shoving Eddie Gash.
Though Harlequins were unable to make their numerical advantage pay while Litton was cooling his heels, no sooner was he back than the Cork side had doubled their lead. Dave Egner made great ground through the Lisnagarvey defence before a neat pass found Paul Lombard in the clear and his finish was clinical.
With just ten minutes to go there was no way back for the Ulster champions, and though they lost David Lombard to a yellow card, Harlequins always looked like hanging on.
Lisnagarvey got a goal back through Bloomfield with two minutes to go, but it was too late and Harlequins finally collected the prize they have sought for so long.
“This has been a long time coming,” said Dale. “And the pleasure for us is that we have had to beat a superb Lisnagarvey team to win it.
“We had a game plan and largely it worked out for us. Cockram caused a lot of problems in the first half, but we countered that by marking him deep.
“But I’m delighted for the players who have worked so hard to win this trophy for the club. They really have put so much effort into this and for every one of us it is a dream come true,” he said.
: W. Bateman, L.d’Alton, J. Hobbs, S. Nicholson, J. Black, M. Black, C. Harte, D. Egner, P. Lombard, R. Gash, D. Lombard. Rolling subs: D. Harte, P. O’Driscoll, J. Ahern, E. Gash, B. Hayes Curtin.
: D. Williamson, B. Waring, I. Davidson, E. Litton, J. Bloomfield, T. Cockram, M. Raphael, I. Steen, M. Lappin, K. Lunn, S. Arbuthnot. Rolling Subs: M. Tumilty, M. Robinson, J. Grey, P. Stirling, N. Brazil.
: G. Quail, C. McConkey.