A sixth different men’s Irish Senior Cup champions in six years will be declared on Sunday as Railway Union, Cork C of I, Banbridge and Pembroke lock horns in the final four at Belfield.
For Railway, the wait has been the longest, dating all the way back to the pre-War years, a 1938 replay success against Cork Harlequins, succeeding 1-0.Since then, just three final appearances have followed, most recently losing to Quins in 2012 in a 4-3 battle.
They will have a degree of belief that they can reach Sunday’s decider, though, as they face a Cork C of I side they got the better of in the Irish Hockey League in Garryduff.
Far from having it their own way, though, David Bane’s team trailed 2-0 going into the closing 12 minutes before producing a stunning comeback to win 3-2, even managing to miss a stroke and hit the post in that spell.
The Park Avenue side go into the weekend at full strength, a rare luxury this season. Eoin MacArthur and Miguel Villar are available in midfield for the first time this term while Donal O’Mearain was back for the tie against UCD last week.
From what they saw, the midfield triangle of John Jermyn, David Hobbs and Simon Wolfe is certainly the key for C of I while the Cork men scored two from two corners that day.
As such, not conceding the set pieces is a vital part of Railway’s plan while their free-scoring forward duo Mark English and Rob Abbott – with over 40 goals between them this term – will provide a handful for Phil Smith et al.
Ten of the 18 Railway players involved in 2012 are back for another bid at national glory but, should they win, they will be the outsider in the final against either Pembroke or Banbridge.
Pembroke are the most recent winners of the final four. Their power lies in the collective, especially when the spread of goalscorers is looked at with the efforts spread across the board with Nick Burns (11) and Maurice Elliott (13) leading the way.
Their primary strength is in their resilience and battling qualities, typified by Tim Hill’s industry and a teak tough defence marshalled by Harry Spain, Ronan Flannery and Mark Ingram while Keith O’Hare has had a strong maiden season with the club.They ended up the tightest defence in Leinster, tied with Monkstown, showing the challenge for Banbridge in their final four tie.
Despite being a constant threat in the IHL, Bann are bidding for just a first final since 1993 and first victory in the competiton since 1986. Without that caveat, Bann would certainly look the clear favourites for the title having won both the Anderson and Kirk Cups up north while just a single draw blemishes their record in all competitions.
Coach Mark Tumilty, speaking to the Banbridge Leader as part of their excellent hockey coverage, said that they do have a big shout if they produce their best play, like they did at times last week against Three Rock in the IHL.
“We have an opportunity but we probably have had that over the last few seasons and fallen a bit short. We’re in a better position now with a better squad though. This is the best squad that I’ve worked with and people around the club are saying they have that bit extra.
“When we sat down at the start of the season, this is the one that we really wanted to focus on. It’s so long since we’ve won it and we’ve had a hard run to the final. The win over Three Rock was a massive one for us.”
Elsewhere, Clontarf’s pursuit of the Irish Hockey Trophy title sees them host north Dublin rivals Fingal in an all-Leinster division two battle with the Bulls the clear favourites in this national semi-final.
Four Leinster cup titles will be decided in Dublin 16 with Dublin University looking to add to their incredible season in the Railway Cup final at Grange Road.
The students dropped to division three last season but have rejuvenated brilliantly, winning that league with 18 wins from 18 while also ousting division two high flyers Three Rock Rovers II, 3-0, and Clontarf, 5-1, in comprehensive fashion in this cup.
Despite that relegation, they managed to add a wealth of talent including Philip Byrne (UCD), Robbie Clarke and Jonathan Lewis (both Corinthian) along with goalkeeper Niall Twaddell.Having also beaten IHL sides UCD and UCC during the season, they should probably the favourite’s mantle against a YMCA II side that struggled in division two.
But they have produced their best form in this competition and can potentially call on the likes of Kurt Hensburg and Dirk van der Spuy to bolster their ranks.
Both clubs will already have a men’s final behind them as Trinity’s seconds and YM’s thirds lock horns in the intermediate final directly beforehand at 2.15pm.
Wicklow have two finals, too, with both taking place up the road at Whitechurch Park. Weston III face Wicklow’s first team in the Junior Cup while Three Rock Rovers V take on Wicklow II in the Minor Cup decider.
Men’s Irish Senior Cup (all at Belfield)
Semi-finals, Saturday: Railway Union vs Cork C of I, 1pm; Banbridge vs Pembroke, 3.15pm
Final, Sunday: 3.30pm
Irish Hockey Trophy, semi-final: Clontarf v Fingal, 1pm, Mount Temple; Raphoe vs Bandon, 2.30pm, Royal and Prior
LHA finals (all Saturday)
Railway Cup final: Dublin University v YMCA II, 4.45pm, Grange Road front pitch
Intermediate Cup final: Dublin University II v YMCA III, 2.15pm, Grange Road back pitch
Junior Cup final: Weston III v Wicklow, 3.15pm
Minor Cup final: Three Rock Rovers V v Wicklow II, 1pm, Whitechurch Park