Unpredictable men’s Senior Cup pits favourites against challengers in final four

With seven different winners in as many years, the men’s Irish Senior Cup remains the most unpredictable cup on the club calendar and while there are clear favourites in both of tomorrow’s semi-finals, the ability to shock is never far away.

Monkstown, winners in 2013, face Glenanne, victors in 2010, in Tallaght while Lisnagarvey – the tournament’s most decorated side – face Three Rock Rovers, 2014 cup winners, in the other semi-final.

Monkstown's David Cole tackled by Glenanne's Sam O'Connor. Pic: Adrian Boehm

Monkstown’s David Cole tackled by Glenanne’s Sam O’Connor. Pic: Adrian Boehm

Monkstown’s David Cole tackled by Glenanne’s Sam O’Connor. Pic: Adrian Boehm[/caption]For the Dublin derby, Town take the favourite’s mantle though they are facing probably one of their least favoured foes.

Glenanne have yet to face a side from the EYHL this term, seeing off Newry, Mossley on strokes and then YMCA. Nonetheless, they have a keen habit of causing Town plenty of irritation, drawing twice in the Leinster league last term while Joe Brennan’s outfit shaded a 3-2 win over Town in the EYHL in December in Rathdown.

Monkstown had five players called into the national panel with Lee and Stephen Cole, Peter Caruth, David Fitzgerald and Gareth Watkins all included for the Irish series against France.

Glenanne, by contrast, do not have any players part of that panel but their ability to sit tight and then counter – with the goal-poacher and drag-flicker supreme Shannon Boucher at the head of the attack – keeping them in games.

They have hit something of a sticky patch of late, losing to lower-ranked league sides Cookstown and Pembroke – both on home turf – but having to make less of the play will probably suit them with Brennan and Sam O’Connor able to pick top long passes.

In the other tie, Lisnagarvey have been the leading light this season and, with two wins under their belt against Three Rock Rovers already this term, they are heavy favourites on their home patch.

But the Senior Cup’s stand-out side – with 23 previous wins – are going through something of a drought in the competition by their own standards, one dating back to 2005. Two stalwarts remain from that vintage, Stevie Arbuthnot and Timmy Cockram, while Mikey Watt was in the Instonians line-up that they played that day.

Arbuthnot told the Belfast Telegraph’s Graham Hamilton this week: “Timmy and I are the only two in the squad who were in the team when Garvey last won the cup – now that’s scary!

“And Michael was in the Inst team that day – well, I’m glad he’s on our side now because he’s a handful for defenders at the moment!”

Three Rock's Peter Lynch gets away from Jonny Bell. Pic: Adrian Boehm

Three Rock’s Peter Lynch gets away from Jonny Bell. Pic: Adrian Boehm

The pair have been constants in a panel that has undergone large changes in recent times. Indeed, their last national title came four years ago in the Irish Hockey League – in which both Cockram and Arbuthnot scored – but just Jonny Bell, John Tormey, Richard Arneill, Andy Forrest and Daniel Buser remain.

Since then, there have been a spate of high quality arrivals, key additions like Watt, Neal Glassey, Paul Gleghorne, James Lorimer and Andy Williamson augmenting one of the most productive youth systems from which Sean Murray, Ryan Getty and the Nelson brothers have emerged in recent times.

For Rovers, their most recent Irish Senior Cup win was just two years ago but just six players are still around while Peter Blakeney missed last week’s game with a chest infection. He is still a doubt for this tie as is Alan White.

Since then, promotion has been very much from within with James Walker, Ben Walker, Peter Lynch, Luke Madeley, Harry MacMahon, Mark Samuel and Conor Empey rising through the ranks.

They were perhaps guilty of showing Garvey too much respect in their league meeting last Saturday but will draw confidence from their fightback, scoring three times in the last nine minutes.

The counter-point to playing a more open format, however, would be to allow Watt and Cockram greater space to attack at pace, the toss-up that Niall Denham will have to tease out.

Men’s Irish Senior Cup, semi-finals (Saturday):
Lisnagarvey v Three Rock Rovers, 3pm, Comber Road; Glenanne v Monkstown, 3pm, Glenanne Park

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