Three Rock Rovers win maiden EY Champions Trophy
Mitch Darling wonder goal secures victory over Monkstown at Grange Road
Men’s EY Champions Trophy final
Mitch Darling’s wonder goal saw Three Rock Rovers land the EY Champions Trophy for the first time as they saw off Monkstown 2-1 at Grange Road.
The Olympian provided the moment of inspiration with 10 minutes to go, bursting forward from midfield and running 30 metres unopposed before smashing past David Fitzgerald.
That made it 2-0, adding to Kevin Mullins’ first half opener, and while Davy Carson pulled one back, Rovers saw out the tie for a 13th successive win and the silverware.
For coach Niall Denham, it was particularly pleasing having coached a dozen of the squad since they were 12 years old before taking up the head job two seasons ago. Captain Jody Hosking, meanwhile, said “we’re only getting started”, pointing to the side’s age profile with only four players over 23 in their panel as they seemingly came out of the blue this term to be national contenders.
They edged through Saturday’s semi-final against Lisnagarvey - as did Monkstown against Banbridge - after a shoot-out with both ties ending 3-3.
Sunday’s final was a more controlled affair. Mullins got on the end of a Hosking shot for the only goal of the first half, one which Rovers had much the better of with David Fitzgerald saving several times.
Town roared back in the second half with Luke Madeley required to take efforts from both Guy Sarratt and Geoff Cole off the line. Madeley had a goal of his own chalked off for a technical foul at a penalty corner in the 57th minute but his side only had to wait a few more before Darling provided his magic.
Lee Cole set Carson up for the lifeline with six minutes left but Rovers kept their defensive discipline for the closing stages - a hallmark of Denham’s side - to see out the match.
It means they will have two trips to Europe next season at least as they add this to their national indoor title won in January. Outdoors, they go straight into the Euro Hockey League KO16 next Easter, an extra challenge for the club’s fundraisers to try and puzzle out.
Monkstown: D Fitzgerald, N Dee, K Smith, D Carson, A Ward, D Cole, S Cole, G Cole, K Lynch, K Kenning, K Good. Subs: L Cole, G Groves, J Lynch, G Sarratt, S Hyland, R Quirke, M Maguire.
Three Rock Rovers: J Carr, L Madeley, M Darling, J Hosking, H Morris, M Samuel, K Mullins, B Walker, D Kane, R Nair, D Walsh. Subs: R McCollum, G Ringwood, R Canning, H McMahon, J Walker, C Empey, S O’Brien.
Umpires: R Donaldson, M Coombes