Lisnagarvey were crowned EYHL champions for the second time in the competition’s four year history on Wednesday night when they got the win they needed to secure the trophy after an emphatic 6-1 victory over Annadale at Comber Road.
Their triumph means that, for the first time since the full season format was introduced, two Ulster sides have won the respective national titles, following Pegasus’ women’s success earlier in the month.
Garvey captain James Corry was thrilled with his team’s triumph, achieved with a largely youthful squad following the departure of several front line players for the continent and a couple of retirements.
James said: “It was another great performance from the boys tonight. Our young boys have fitted in really well this season and are a massive part of the team.”
“We have bonded very well this season and that is a massive part of the success so far. We will work hard towards the playoffs and Irish Senior Cup final. It will be difficult but we will go into these games with plenty of confidence. “
For Corry, it marked an incredible comeback. It was exactly a year to the day since he finished receiving treatment for testicular cancer.
Team mate Jonny Bell paid tribute to Corry: “Sporting comebacks have been a hot topic of conversation after last weekend, and in James Corry we have an incredible comeback story.
“For James to lift the trophy aloft, exactly one year to the day, since he finished his last round of gruelling treatment is testament to his character.
“As soon as his treatment was finished he was back on the pitch running, joining the Irish players for pre-training running. And his fitness levels were rock bottom.
“He now looks stronger than ever; he is a true warrior and a wonderful example to any aspiring sportsperson; it has been a joy to play for him this season.”
“No one gave us a chance at the start of the season, perhaps understandably so given we lost seven internationals and two Under-21 internationals over the summer.
“Back in September, we looked a bit thin on the ground but our coaching team put their faith in youth and we had seven or eight players playing their first season of IHL hockey.
“After a shaky start to the season, the winter break came at a great time allowing us some breathing space to have an intense physical and technical development phase equipping us for the second half of the season. This was the critical period in the season when we made a lot of ground.
“A key turning point, in terms of results, was our first game back after the winter break. We were 2-0 down to Glenanne after ten minutes, but we came away with a draw and were probably disappointed not to get three points.“At this point, there was a growing realisation that a top four finish was achievable. But going undefeated since then and winning the league with a game to spare, we have exceeded all expectations and achieved something special.”
Garvey went ahead through Andy Williamson in the second quarter and Wallace High School captain Johnny Lynch doubled the lead before Dale pulled one back through Kent Irwin before the long break.
Matthew Nelson made it 3-1 and then his older brother Daniel got number four after being set up by another Wallace student, Troy Chambers.
Williamson got his second of the night before Lynch did likewise to round off the scoring as Garvey kept on course for a national hockey treble.
For Bell, he said this was a particularly special league victory: “Winning the Irish hockey League this season has definitely been one of my proudest moments in club hockey. We lost our first game of the season at home to Pembroke.