Irish Hockey Trophy Final
NICS 1 (D Whittington) Waterford 3 (B Johnson 2, H McCarthy)
A blistering first half performance from Waterford saw the Deise club win their first national title since the 1922 Irish Senior Cup, completing a remarkable turnaround in fortunes.
The club was in the lowest tier of Munster hockey six years ago but their commitment to their youth section paid dividends with a fresh-faced side winning out against NICS 3-1 at Grange Road.
The vast majority of their side were winning their second All-Ireland title of the season having helped Newtown School to the Schoolboys Championships last October.
Irish Under-21 panelist Ben Johnson whipped home a drag-flick from their third penalty corner in a rousing opening. Harry McCarthy, another in that Under-21 squad, doubled the lead with a powerful tomahawk for a 2-0 lead and they were well clear by half-time when Johnson fired home another rasping corner.
They came mostly from a deep-lying defensive plan, using their pace and accuracy on the counter-attack to sting their more experienced opponents.
From there, Waterford lived dangerously at times and they were indebted to a brilliant Alistair Shute save just before half-time from Aaron Gill to keep the gap at three into the break.
Shute also brilliantly saved a double chance – following a good advantage by umpire Noel McBride – as NICS upped the ante in the second half. Gill was the focal point of the attack with his strong skills and he thudded some shots into the goalkeeper.
Johnson was superb, though, for Waterford with his glorious ball control in midfield and strength in the tackle helping to lift the siege on numerous occasions.
He also almost made it four but Sam Hamill saved brilliantly from another corner flick. The Belfast side’s pressure eventually told when David Whittington slotted home on the reverse with 13 minutes to go to raise a few chants from their crowd of “we are going to win 4-3”.
But Shute continued to be immense between the posts as Michael Johnston and Peter Humphreys went close.
Johnson went inches from tacking on another once NICS had pulled their goalkeeper but they did not need it as they were in dreamland with their 3-1 win.
NICS: M Bennett, R Cowden, M Trimble, T Priestley, D Robb, R Anderson, S Armstrong, A Hagen, M Johnson, D Bradley, M Vincent, J Anderson, P Humphreys, R Shiels, D Whittington, A Gill, S Hamill
Waterford: A Shute, I Johnson, E McInerney, I Balding, D Gahan, D Quinn, H McCarthy, C Wagenaar, B Rouhana, B Johnson, S O’Neill, P Cooke, S Johnson, D Twomey, N Quinn, R Treacy, B McInerney