Munster may not have had a team at the business end of the Irish Hockey League but some of the province’s exiles made key contributions to a dramatic finals weekend at Comber Road in Lisburn.
Cork native Julia O’Halloran, previously of Harlequins and UCC, hit the decisive strike for Railway Union in their 1-0 victory over Loreto in yesterday’s women’s final.
The 24-year-old former Irish international latched onto a pass that was mistrapped by the Loreto defence to first-time the ball past Louisa Healy in the 52nd minute.
That preceded a crazy final minute in which Nicci Daly — who had also struck the only goal in the semi-final victory over Pegasus 24 hours earlier — had seemingly equalised with a stunning roofed effort with 13 seconds remaining, only to be a victim of interpretation as it was ruled as dangerous play by the umpires.
Loreto still managed to win a short corner on the final hooter, but Grace O’Flanagan held her nerve in the Railway goal to keep the effort out and make it two titles in three years for Mick McKinnon’s girls.
Railway had overcome fellow Leinster rivals Hermes 1-0 in Saturday’s semi-final, with Zara Delany bagging the vital strike, and will now be Ireland’s first representatives in the new EuroHockey Club Champions Cup next season.
Meanwhile, Timmy Cockram was Lisnagarvey’s inevitable hero as they finally laid their Irish Hockey League hoodoo to rest with a 3-1 win over YMCA in the decider.
The Lisburn men have twice fallen at the final hurdle in recent years but their experienced Irish international talisman Cockram did most of the damage as they romped home here.
He hit a hat-trick and set up Mark Raphael’s gorgeous winner in the 4-3 success over Cookstown in the semi-finals, before notching two more in the decider.
YMCA’s Cork exile Stephen Parker, formerly of Church of Ireland, had scored the winning penalty one-on-one after his new side had drawn 2-2 with Monkstown in their semi-final.
Graham Woods, deputising for Irish international Iain Walker, was a revelation in goal for the Y in that game and brought his stunning form to the final as he denied ’Garvey time and time again amid a big defensive effort from the Dubliners.
But Cockram eventually broke through in dispatching a drag-flick to the roof of the net on 48 minutes, before ’Garvey worked a corner switch for Stevie Arbuthnot to double that advantage four minutes later.
YM hit back instantly with a memorable counter-attack goal, finished off by Jamie Tobin, but Cockram forced home from a goalmouth scramble to give the hosts the necessary breathing space.
YM could still join ’Garvey in European competition next season, should the latter complete a national double by winning the Irish Senior Cup next weekend.
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