Bann back in the big time after 20 years

Men’s Irish Hockey League final
Lisnagarvey 2 (Timmy Cockram 2) Banbridge 2 (Ross McCandless 2), Banbridge win 3-1 on penalties

Banbridge claimed their first All-Ireland club title since 1991 as Owen Magee’s penalty shoot-out goal denied their Lisnagarvey hosts the men’s Irish Hockey League title on the Comber Road.

The teenager (pictured) repeated the feat of Saturday afternoon when he again held his nerve to score the decisive penalty after Bann had been pegged back just two minutes from the end of normal time.

Indeed, Sunday’s final narrative bore a striking resemblance to Saturday’s win over Glenanne. They never trailed but were caught late in the day when the hard yards seemed to have put them in a prime position.

Again, they were without forward threats Josh Moffett and Stephen Dowds, leaving Colin Dowds to plough a lone furrow up front with the energy of Dane Ward, Drew Carlisle and Bruce McCandless to join from deep.

That the final itself took a while to ignite suited their game-plan just fine as Ross McCandless’ block-busting drag-flick was the sole divider between the teams for a long time.

‘Garvey held the vast majority of play during this time but found themselves continually frustrated at the circle’s edge or around the 25-metre line. Timmy Cockram saw one rasping effort deflected over but other than that it was tight-knit with few openings.

Into the second half, the pattern continued. A skittering cross hopped just over the arriving Mark Daniel’s stick at the back post before ‘Garvey had a couple of corners around the 47th minute which went unconverted.

At the far end, Dane Ward went inches wide when Carlisle burst forward, fed Dermy Reay whose cross went through the legs of Ward and just past the post.

But the Comber Road host’s pressure told in the 55th minutes when Cockram’s amazing reverse-stick effort picked out the top left corner to level matters with 15 minutes to go.

And they almost were in front soon after when Daniel Buser deflected Jason Lynch’s cross at the near post, drawing the sharpest of reaction saves from Gareth Lennox.

Banbridge re-emerged from their shell to ensure a fascinating closing period. Bann got back on top, winning a debated penalty corner six minutes from time which Ross McCandless again slotted home to put his side in the driving seat at 2-1.

They were not able to hold out, though, as an attempt to block Mark Raphael’s flow by Scott McCandless coughed up a corner and a green card suspension.

’Garvey switched right and then into the centre where Cockram nudged over the line from six yards, forcing extra-time.

And his side might have had a winner when Lennox let a ball run only for Greg Thompson to dive in behind him. He got a hefty touch but umpire Colin Hutchinson deemed the ball fractionally over the line before the intervention.

It was the closest either side came to breaking the deadlock but Bann’s Saturday experience against Glenanne showed as they approached each penalty with more confidence.

Dane Ward and Bruce McCandless put them clear while Lennox kept three out, offering the teenage Magee the chance to win it.

His approach was smooth and his finish slick to bring the highest club honour back to Ulster for the first time since 2005 and they will now join Cookstown in the EuroHockey League in 2011/12.

Lisnagarvey: Alex McRoberts, Brian Waring, Johnny Bell, Richard Arneill, Jason Lynch, Mark Raphael, Mark Daniel, Timmy Cockram, Stephen Arbuthnot, Daniel Buser, John Gray (c)
Subs: Patrick Martin, Glen Whitten, Andrew Forrest, Greg Thompson, Michael Harte
Banbridge: Gareth Lennox, Stephen Forbes, Scott Forbes, Dermy Reay, Bruce McCandless, Colin Dowds (c), Philip Brown, Ross McCandless, Scott McCandless, Dane Ward, Drew Carlisle
Subs: Matthew Bell, Peter Brown, Simon Magowan, Owen Magee, Hugh McShane

** Video content and Adrian Boehm’s photos to follow in due course

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