Men’s Irish Senior Cup final
Cork Harlequins 4 (D Hobbs 2, D Egner, C Ross) Railway Union 3 (R Abbott, K Chapple, C Ross)
There were admissions afterwards that as many as four Cork Harlequins’ players had named 2011/12 as their last. How many carry out that threat now remains to be seen as the impending EuroHockey League campaign is likely to extend lengthy years of service to at least October.
He told The Hook: “I was planning on retiring but we’ll have to revisit that one. Another year in us? The EHL should be interesting!”
That they managed to annex their second Irish Senior Cup title will be cause for great wonder for many years. Their only other win, back in 2006, was seen by many as the fruition of a golden generation, their third final in the space of four years, with a crop of players in their prime.
No fewer than nine of that side – many of whom are now well into their 30s – now have a second medal as their experience and corner efficiency saw off a Railway Union side at the opposite end of the spectrum.
Fielding four schoolboys in the match day 16, it made for a novel final pairing which few could have predicted at the season’s start. The tussle they served up was light on tactics but made for a thrill-a-minute contest.
Dan Hobbs double and a close-range volley from Colin Ross turned logic on its head as Railway – gunning for a first title since 1938 – bossed most of the play.
But they never found a smart enough pathway through John Hobbs’ defensive line while Chris Daunt picked off a string of top saves.
Their two early goals owed much to fortune as Mark English’s baseline pull-back found an inviting foot to deflect into Rob Abbott’s path for a simple finish.
David Egner equalised when Paul Lombard’s miscontrol fell his way but Railway had the lead when Daunt stood on a crash ball that Karl Chapple snapped up. With English inspiring much down the left wing, Railway looked well placed to push on.
But Quins’ ability to win corners, especially via former international David Eakins, allowed the Cork side to maximise their returns from what attacks they did have.
Dan Hobbs ripped home one low to level at 2-2 on 46 minutes and two minutes later he aimed one higher and further into the corner for the lead. Ross all but assured the result with ten minutes left when Hobbs’ drag was rebounded by Egner onto the bar.
Peter English got one back with three minutes to go from the penalty spot but Quins played the endgame well, skipper Mark Black – another former international – playing out time.
Reacting afterwards, Black added it was something he scarcely could have envisaged earlier in the campaign. “I can’t believe it. It’s amazing for the club, for the lads like David Eakins there who has been playing 14 years, in his fourth senior cup final and has never won one,” he said.
“It’s been a long journey for some of us but this is the prize.I never expected us to be back in this arena. If you said at the start of the year, we’d be winning the Irish Senior Cup, I wouldn’t have put money on it; it’s just amazing.”
He also paid tribute to coach Phil Oakley who has helped the club manage to get back Munster superiority from Cork C of I in the past two seasons, adding this cup title for good measure.
“Phil’s dedication with us has been massive. It’s been a learning curve for him, too, it being the first men’s side he has coached. We’ve worked well as a team together. A couple of the older heads have been helping Phil along, too, and he has a big future ahead of him.”
Both Black and Lombard brothers were said to be donning the black and white for a last time. With a EuroHockey League campaign to come, such threats may well be put on hold.
For Railway, it brought to an end a ground-breaking season, getting into the IHL places with a fourth place Leinster league finish and a first ISC final place since the 1970s.
Kenny Carroll afterwards spoke graciously and at length in the post-match speech, citing the incredible influence of coach Ian O’Keeffe, crediting him with “bringing Railway from the bottom of division one” to this point. With just two players at the 30 mark and the majority with most their 20s still to come, they could push on further if all stay together for a few more seasons.
Railway Union: S O’Keeffe, K Chapple, R Nair, K Carroll, M English, P English, R Forrest, R Abbott, E MacArthur, F Keaveney, J Duncan
Subs: R Devlin, D McCarthy, A Garcia, F Maher, R Boreland
Cork Harlequins: C Daunt, D Eakins, P O’Driscoll, J Hobbs, D Hobbs, J Black, M Black, P McLaughlin, D Egner, P Lombard, D Lombard
Subs: S Nicholson, R Hobbs, B Hayes-Curtin, S Ross, C Ross
Umpires: D Clarke, G Conn