Harlequins finally get their reward


Men's Hockey/ Irish Senior Cup Final Cork Harlequins 2 Lisnagarvey 1: Finally Cork Harlequins got what they deserved. Having lost three of the last four Irish Senior Cup finals, the talented side yesterday beat holders Lisnagarvey and denied the Ulster team their 11th cup victory in 18 years.

An average of once every two years is not a bad return for 'Garvey but yesterday the neutrals were unequivocally with Harlequins, who bring the trophy to Farmers Cross for the first time in their history.

It was a lively game that didn't drop in tempo from start to finish. Indeed in the dying minutes as 'Garvey chased the match two goals adrift, it became more frenetic than ever.

But thanks to former Ireland goalkeeper Wesley Bateman and the classy defending of Jason Black, Seán Nicholson, Mark Black and John Hobbs, Harlequins saw off the 'Garvey challenge, Jonathon Bloomfield's goal one minute from the end just coming too late for a final Ulster push.

Harlequins' first score came after a scoreless first half but with plenty of goalmouth incidents to satisfy the crowd of over 1,000.

Both Batemen and David Williamson were kept busy by both attacks throughout. But on Harlequins' fourth corner a switch left to John Hobbs gave the defender just enough space for his first-time flick for 1-0.

While Timmy Cockram led a lot of the 'Garvey attacks and generally had Harlequins scrambling, the Cork side were also buzzing around the Ulster goal and on 52 minutes when Paul Lombard rolled on for Richard Gash, he found himself in space. David Eger threaded through a pass and Lombard finished delightfully. His reverse stick flick past the advancing Williamson effectively sealed the win despite the holders throwing everything at Harlequins in the final 15 minutes.

Inevitably, last-gasp defending and plenty of chances characterised the final sequence of playtime as David Lombard was sinbinned but Harlequins were up to it, Bloomfield finding his range from 'Garvey's fifth corner of the match.

Too little too late for 'Garvey and a coveted place in Europe for Harlequins next season.

In the morning Test against France at Belfield, Ireland finished 3-3 in a match they most certainly should have won. Two lapses in defence allowed the swift French attack score too easily as Ireland generally controlled the game.

Justin Sherriff took Ireland's first goal with a textbook pick up and run, going wide of the goalkeeper for 1-0 early in the second half before Frederick Soyez equalised for France on 40 minutes.

One minute later Eugene Magee stroked the ball past Maxime Wilson for 2-1 before two soft goals made life difficult for Ireland.

Mathieu Durchon floated through for 2-2 before John Jermyn hit back straight away for 3-2. Ireland seemed to have the match won until Thomas Raisin ran 30 yards without being tackled and pushed past Charlie Henderson in goal for the equaliser.

No doubt Ireland's attack can be sharp but so, too, will the collective defence need to tighten significantly if they are to earn a top-five place in China next month and qualify for the World Cup finals.

CORK HARLEQUINS: W Bateman, J Black, P Hobbs, S Nicholson, C Harte, B Hayes Curtin, D Egner, P Lombard, R Gash, D Lombard, M Black. Bench: P O'Driscoll, P Chambers, E Gash, J Aherne, M Lombard, D Harte.

LISNAGARVEY: D Williamson, I Davidson, E Lutton (c), J Bloomfield, B Waring, A Arbuthnot, I Steen, P Sterling, M Robinson, T Cockram, M Raphael. Bench: C Black, J Gray, M Tumilty, K Lunn, M Lappin, N Brazil, C Gregg.

Umpires: G Quail, C McConkey