Borland’s Bulls hold nerve to break Bandon hearts

Men’s Irish Hockey Trophy
Clontarf 3 (K Mullins, L Hayden, G Borland) Bandon 2 (D Beamish, G Kingston), after silver goal extra time

Clontarf claimed their first national title on Saturday as they landed the Irish Hockey Trophy title in hugely contentious circumstances ahead of Bandon at Belfield.

It was hugely fitting that Gareth Borland was the man to apply the critical touch, the player-coach who has done so much for the club scoring a penalty stroke in the dying moment of the first half of silver goal extra time.

It capped a comeback from 2-0 down to win 3-2. While the decision to award that stroke was hotly contested by the Munster side, it was not the decision that will rankle most for the west Cork side as an officials blunder played a massive part in denying them the title.

They held a 2-1 lead – courtesy of Darren Beamish and Graham Kingston’s first half efforts – with 45 seconds remaining before goalkeeper Ian Hosford was sin-binned for deliberately slowing the game down. It also saw a free out reversed to a penalty corner to boot.

At corner time, substitutions are not allowed for outfielders but there is a dispensation, under rule 2.3 of the FIH rulebook, for goalkeepers to be replaced in cases of either injury or suspension.

But the umpires and technical bench did not allow the waiting Conor Robinson to enter the fray after a couple of attempts to go on to the pitch, forcing Bandon to defend the corner without a padded goalkeeper – Sean Nyhan donned just a face mask and kicking full-back privileges.

Tarf duly scored from Luke Hayden from the corner rebound to send the game to extra time. And the Bulls duly prevailed when Mullins’ drag-flick was deemed to have a defensive body on the line illegally.

Rob Kelly battles for a high ball. Picture: Adrian Boehm

Rob Kelly battles for a high ball. Picture: Adrian Boehm

Bandon unsuccessfully argued the shot was going wide and Borland had the chance to win the tie and duly obliged.

Early on, Bandon were in the box seat for much of the first half. Stephen Cairns made three great saves in the opening ten minutes before Beamish put the Munster side in front, diving on to Matthew Jennings right wing cross.

The second originated from Clinton Sweetnam’s raking ball from the back to Ali Smith who reeled the ball in before lining up Graham Kingston at the front post. He met it at full pace to deflect home first time a stunning goal.

But the Bulls fought back strong in the second half and had their foothold in the game when both Callum Kingston and Smith were sin-binned in the same incident, reducing them to nine.

In their absence, Tarf won a corner which Hosford initially saved but Kevin Mullins grabbed the rebound. Sweetnam then took a yellow as Clontarf kept building the pressure and won another couple of corners.

They swapped out Cairns for an extra outfielder for the last three minutes but got their crucial corner in bizarre circumstances as confusion reigned.

Tarf kept their heads and the momentum, leading to the stroke and ultimate glory while Bandon were left to taste cup final frustration for a third time this season.

Clontarf celebrate their first ever national title. Picture: Adrian Boehm

Clontarf celebrate their first ever national title. Picture: Adrian Boehm

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