Darling delights Rovers to land EY Champions Trophy title

Men’s EY Champions Trophy final
Three Rock Rovers 2 (K Mullins, M Darling) Monkstown 1 (D Carson)
Mitch Darling’s wonder goal saw Three Rock Rovers land the EY Champions Trophy for the first time as they saw off Monkstown 2-1 at Grange Road.

The Olympian provided the moment of inspiration with 10 minutes to go, bursting forward from midfield and running 30 metres unopposed before smashing past David Fitzgerald.

That made it 2-0, adding to Kevin Mullins’ first half opener, and while Davy Carson pulled one back, Rovers saw out the tie and the silverware.

For coach Niall Denham, it was particularly pleasing having coached a dozen of the squad since they were 12 years old before taking up the head job two seasons ago. Captain Jody Hosking, meanwhile, said “we’re only getting started”, pointing to the side’s age profile with only four players over 23 in their panel as they came from outside the playoffs last term to ending the league just three goals short of Banbridge this time around.

They edged through Saturday’s semi-final against Lisnagarvey – as did Monkstown against Banbridge – after a shoot-out with both ties ending 3-3.

Sunday’s final was a more controlled affair. Three Rock hit the front in the 15th minute when Jody Hosking cut loose down the left-hand side before firing a backhand shot to the right post where Kevin Mullins was on hand to guide home.

Monkstown replied by winning a penalty corner but could not trap it and, otherwise, spent most of the half on the back foot as Rovers enjoyed long spells of possession. James Walker was twice denied by David Fitzgerald at close quarters while the Town goalkeeper also kept out Hosking and Ross Canning.

Geoff Cole had the only shot in earnest for Monkstown but skewed his effort over the bar. Town stepped things up considerably in the third quarter with Andrew Ward making a number of strong runs, one of which just evaded Davy Carson’s dive.

Jody Hosking clears a first half corner. Pic: Adrian Boehm

Luke Madeley was required to twice clear off the line from a Guy Sarratt drag-flick and a Geoff Cole follow-up. Rovers thought they had a second goal on the three quarter hooter when Madeley dragged in from their first penalty corner but it was ruled out as the initial stop was ruled not to have left the scoring circle before the shot came in.

But three minutes after the resumption came Darling’s moment of magic, bursting through from halfway before unleashing a powerful shot past international team mate Fitzgerald.

Monkstown again summoned a big fightback and got on the board when Lee Cole’s crash ball was turned in by Carson. He went close to grabbing another soon after but Jamie Carr got down well to prevent the equaliser.

Mitch Darling embarks on the run that led to the Rovers’ second goal. Pic: Adrian Boehm

From there, Rovers held on for the victory, their first in the Irish Hockey League’s history having won the forerunner to the competition back in 2008 – the old Irish Club Championships.

It earns them a place in the Euro Hockey League’s KO16 next Easter, meaning they will play in Europe twice as they also won the National Indoor Trophy.

Banbridge, as EY Hockey League champions, will be the other Irish side in the Euro Hockey League and will contest ROUND1 next October.

Earlier, Cookstown came from 2-0 down in the first four minutes to beat UCD 4-3 and move back up to the EY Hockey League. Andrew Fogarty and Jeremy Duncan had UCD flying early on and they held the lead into half-time but goals in quick succession from Paul Thompson, Keith Black – a penalty stroke – and Ryan Millar swapped the lead around. Duncan levelled from a corner but Greg Allen scored a sublime winner for the Co Tyrone side.

Monkstown: D Fitzgerald, N Dee, K Smith, D Carson, A Ward, D Cole, S Cole, G Cole, K Lynch, K Kenning, K Good
Subs: L Cole, G Groves, J Lynch, G Sarratt, S Hyland, R Quirke, M Maguire

Three Rock Rovers: J Carr, L Madeley, M Darling, J Hosking, H Morris, M Samuel, K Mullins, B Walker, D Kane, R Nair, D Walsh
Subs: R McCollum, G Ringwood, R Canning, H McMahon, J Walker, C Empey, S O’Brien

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