Best defence secures the honours for Instonians

 

Men's Hockey Irish Senior Cup final/ Instonians 1; Harlequins 0: A few sticks went through the air when the hooter finally blasted yesterday. Cork Harlequins' players owned all of them. It was as much a sign of their frustration at having finished off a match with four good chances to equalise, three of them short corners, as it was that they lost their second Irish Senior Cup final in a row.

To deny that Instonians deserved to win would be churlish, however. In a match that saw both sides create many chances, it was the Belfast team who made the most of theirs, a penalty from Chris Barnes in the first period of extra-time deciding the tight and evenly matched game.

While Cork goalkeeper Wesley Bateman disputed that he deliberately took down Barnes in the circle as the striker picked up a Mark Gleghorne pass, umpire Ray O'Connor, a veteran of Olympic, World and European finals, was not convinced.

O'Connor was on the spot when the two collided, the forward coming off the worst. Barnes, though, picked himself up and safely dispatched the stroke low and to Bateman's left to ultimately decide the outcome.

From the start it looked like a contest that would hinge on few scores, yet the amount of goalmouth action kept the match lively and always teetering.

For Instonians, Barnes, Gleghorne and Mark Irwin were the threats, Irwin sometimes too isolated to cause his usual mayhem. But dangerous he was and strong in the defensive set piece, his charged down block on Harlequins' seventh corner of the match, just one minute from the end, was as useful a contribution as any player made on the day.

The international experience of Paddy Brown and Neil Cooke, brother of former Irish striker and coach Paul, also added a savvy streak to an otherwise young Instonians side.

For Harlequins, David Eakins and Paul Lombard were causing the problems up front with Jason Black and Sean Nicholson in defence immaculately controlled in possession.

Both Bateman and Jonathan Burns were kept busy in goal, Burns forced to smother a couple of Lombard runs in the second half, with Bateman also asked questions - one fine save from Barnes on 58 minutes ensuring the game would go to extra-time.

It was then, in the closing 10 minutes, the Instonians' shape held in the face of repeated Cork attacks, a few crunching tackles from Brown and captain Mark Wainwright setting the tone.

Ironically, it was one of Harlequins' recognised strengths that let them down. Their fifth, sixth and seventh short corners in the closing three minutes came to nothing. Irwin blocked one, and 18-year-old Gleghorne took another off the line with his stick.

Unyielding all the way, Instonians' defence won this one.

HARLEQUINS: W Bateman; S Nicholson, P O'Driscoll, J Hobbs, J Black, P Chambers, J Aherne, P Lombard, E Gash, D Eakins, D Lombard. Rolling subs: C Harte, D Egner, C Daunt, R Hobbs, M Black, S Sweetman, L d'Alton.

INSTONIANS: J Burns; N Cooke, P Brown, T Taylor, M Wainwright, J Lewis, A Cousins, S Reid, M Irwin, C Barnes, M Gleghorne. Rolling subs: P Gleghorne, T Taylor, G Currie, A Lewis, S Redpath, C Kirk, M Watt.

Umpires: R Ewart, R O'Connor.