Deserved victory for Pembroke
Heedful Pembroke Wanderers will not wish to over-expose themselves to the reality that they are now really in the running for a grand slam of hockey's major titles. Particularly, Leinster's leading side will want to play down their prospects as Lisnagarvey, in a similar position at the forefront of Ulster affairs, have re-emerged as their rivals for the most-prized of the trophies on offer, the Irish Senior Cup, at Belfield on April 15th.
Pembroke's 2-1 defeat of the holders, Cork C of I, in an absorbing semi-final at enfete Serpentine Avenue on Saturday was just about deserved because of an edge in technique.
C of I exerted the greater pressure through the excellence of their midfield trio, Mark Black, Carl Burns and Nigel Buttimer, plus the dynamism of Colin Hanna on the right wing. But the home defence largely withstood the pounding, with Paudie Carley having an outstanding game as the buffer in front of the back three, in which Duncan McKeen was especially composed.
Furthermore, Pembroke started to break effectively as the match developed and created more space for the front runners, notably for Gordon Elliott to fire open-play shots at Wesley Bateman. The 'keeper, though, was beaten only at close range as Justin Sherriff (following a thrust by Elliott) and Alan Giles (from Sherriff's rightwing cross) slipped home goals in the 22nd and 38th minutes, with C of I managing only to reply through Black from a short corner just before the interval.
Lisnagarvey, relentlessly aiming to recapture the trophy, broke Harlequins' resistance in the closing stages of the other semi-final at Farmers Cross. It was as late as the 58th minute before one of the accomplished visitors' more junior figures, Kevin Lunn, broke the deadlock following a corner and then Nick Bailie immediately finished off another attack before Lunn made the final margin 3-0.
Reverting to Leinster, Pembroke's hopes of retaining the league laurels were enlivened by Glenanne's 4-4 draw with Railway Union on Saturday. However, a last-minute equaliser by Keith Fishbourne means that one point in their final game against Pembroke next Sunday would still suffice for Glenanne to capture the title for the first time.