Rovers return ISC as penalty corner machine proves crucial

Men’s Irish Senior Cup final
Three Rock Rovers 5 (L Madeley 3, J Mullins, R Canning) Pembroke 2 (K Shimmins, A Sothern)

Three Rock Rovers’ penalty corner machine saw them land the Irish Senior Cup for the 11th time as Luke Madeley struck three times from the set piece to see off Pembroke 5-2 at Belfield.

It backed up their 5-1 Saturday win against Glenanne in the semi-final, making it their fifth trophy of the campaign already, adding to Mills Cup, Neville Cup, National Indoor Trophy and EuroHockey Challenge II crowns.

It might have been more comfortable but for Mark Ingram producing a series of good saves between the posts that kept them in the game until the closing 10 minutes.

Alternatively, though, the Dublin 4 side will rue a disallowed goal to make it 3-3 with the game in the balance when Alan Sothern’s ball across looked set to dribble over the line until Tim Hill tipped in with his back-stick.

It was initially awarded by the nearer umpire Russell Donaldson before getting a message via radio from the far end. The video afteward – and the lack of Pembroke complaints on-pitch – suggested the right call was reached.

It was a pivotal moment. Six minutes later, Rovers got the game-breaking goal when John Mullins deflected in another corner to put them out of range.

Early on, Pembroke – without the services of Harry Spain who was in a sling in the wake of the semi-final win at Lisnagarvey – showed nerves in defence in the first seconds with Kevin Mullins firing wide from a simple interception and Mitch Darling stung Ingram’s pads.

Rovers presented Sothern with a gift from a clearance down his throat on the left of the circle but his reverse went inches wide. It was an error-strewn start which led to many chances and Three Rock should have gone in front when Harry Morris had a lot of the goal to aim at but slapped off course from a Darling pull-back.

As it was, Rovers went in front in the 14th minute with Madeley shooting home the first corner at the second attempt. Three minutes later, he went direct to make it 2-0 and there was a danger of them running away with the game.

But, in Kirk Shimmins, Pembroke have a midfield machine capable of serious inspiration and he produced a glorious run down the left wing before flicking into the top corner from a near impossible angle.

During this phase, tackles flew in with a healthy dose of a physical edge and a series of green cards – some perhaps deserving harsher punishment. Pembroke got back level from their second corner via Sothern’s low drag-flick.

That made it 2-2 at half-time but Three Rock returned to the front within two minutes. Again, it was a corner with Madeley going down the stick side for 3-2 and his hat trick.

Ingram made a stunning low save from Kevin Mullins at close quarters as Pembroke hung in the contest and should have had their leveller in the 53rd minute but for the rogue backstick.

Pembroke coach Jonny Caren said to Dublin City FM’s Declan Hughes the disallowed goal was the critical moment: “At 3-3, we could have had the momentum there and gone on to do something special but that’s the way the cookie crumbles.

Rovers took the reprieve with open arms with Mullins deflecting in their seventh corner from Jody Hosking’s slap. A trio of chances to make it safer were spurned, Ingram sliding out to block Ben Walker one-on-one and intercepting a Daragh Walsh cross key.

When he departed for an extra outfielder, Ross Canning clipped in the fifth into an open net and Rovers had the title wrapped up.

Winning capatin Jody Hosking said afterwards: “It was very close. We started really well, took a bit of momentum from the semi-final where we finished on a high. Credit to Pembroke who fought really hard and came back into it; 2-2 at half-time and it was anyone’s game.”

It came a week on from the Euro Hockey League where Rovers were disappointed not to nick a place in the KO8, something that Hosking said was playing on his side’s mindss.

“Kicking on from the EHL, the lads were disappointed not to get a result there so it was nice to do this for our supporters. They deserve this; we had close to 200 people travelling with us [to Rotterdam] and results didn’t go the way we wanted so it was nice to bounce back and give them a trophy.”

Three Rock Rovers celebrate their Irish Senior Cup success. Pic: Adrian Boehm

Looking back on the weekend, coach Niall Denham added: “The two scorelines probably don’t reflect the full balance of play but you have to be happy when you score 10 goals in a weekend. We probably rode our luck a little against Glenanne in the second half after a good first half display.

“I think we were in a little bit more control today. We are in a good place, the squad is fit and playing well and all we can do is qualify for the final four and then focus on trying to retain the national title. The confidence we take from this can only stand us in good stead.”

For Caren, he says his side now need to bounce back quickly to make sure they get an EY Champions Trophy spot from the league, facing Three Rock next weekend.

“In the huddle at the end, we said we have to take this hurt and fuel the rest of the season. If we go inwards off the back of this, we are going to drop points that we shouldn’t be dropping so next week is the perfect weekend to put a few wrongs right and seal fourth spot.”

Three Rock Rovers: J Carr, D Kane, R Nair, J Mullins, M Darling, B Walker, L Madeley, D Walsh, K Mullins, J Hosking, M Samuel
Subs: C Empey, R Canning, H Morris, R Pautz, H MacMahon, B McCrea, C Quinn

Pembroke: M Ingram, K O’Hare, K Shimmins, S Sweetnam, K Crawford, J Ryan, A Sothern, N Burns, C Mushiete, R Sweetnam, R Flannery
Subs: R Lynch, P Shanahan, T Hill, M Treacy, S Sullivan, W Brownlow, S Thornton

Umpires: R Donaldson, K Cholewa

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