Formidable Three Rock Rovers aiming to retain the Neville Cup
Coach Dagg hoping in-form Corinthian can shock the unbeaten holders
Captain Jody Hosking lifts the trophy as Three Rock Rovers celebrate their EY Champions Trophy Final win over Glenanne last May. Photograph: Laszlo Geczo/Inpho
Corinthian coach Trevor Dagg knows that while reigning champions Three Rock Rovers may not be a front-line opposition, there is probably no better equipped side in Ireland to cope with the new rules when it comes to St Stephen’s Day’s Neville Cup final.
This season saw the competition’s regulations tweaked to limit EYHL clubs from using their top 13 registered players, allowing only those who can feature in Leinster league games to play.
It means Rovers will field largely a second team in the decider at Serpentine Avenue at 2pm. The adjustment has seen Leinster league clubs be far more competitive with three of the four semi-finalists coming from Division One.
Three Rock, though, won this title a year ago with a largely second-tier side with goalkeeper Shane O’Brien putting in a man of the match performance.
It kick-started a run of six trophies for the Rathfarnham club and, while they will rest their international players, the Rovers second team is unbeaten this season, averaging eight goals a game in Division 2.
As such, Dagg knows plenty about their strength in depth.
“Rovers are going through a real golden period at the moment and they probably have 30 to 35 players who can play first team hockey,” he said. “You have guys like Peter Blakeney and Garry Ringwood. They would get into any team, even at this stage of their careers and so this will be a very difficult game for us.”
Corinthian, though, are having a strong campaign with plenty of wins across the Leinster and EYHL2 leagues, as well as cup runs in the Neville, Mills and Irish Senior.
They have 15 wins out of 18 with Ian Stewart banging in over 20 goals while Conor Motyer’s return after a year out with an Achilles injury has been a massive boost.
It has been a gruelling schedule but Dagg says: “When you are winning, it’s not an issue. Thankfully we haven’t been too hamstrung win injuries and have built a broader player base. It’s a lot of hockey but, in fairness, we are having a cracking season.”
In Munster, Bandon are bidding for a first Peard Cup final success when they take on Cork Harlequins in their decider at Garryduff on St Stephen’s Day at 2pm.
Up north, Banbridge face Annadale at 3.15pm in the Kirk Cup final.