Men’s Irish Senior Cup final
Lisnagarvey 3 (B Nelson 2, A Williamson) UCD 2 (A Meates, S Byrne)
In the end, logic prevailed as the all-time record Irish Senior Cup winners Lisnagarvey prevailed against the first-time finalists UCD but, boy, did they get one hell of a scare.
Enter the Comber Road clubhouse and the walls are adorned with gold-leaf boards hailing the “magnificent seven” and pictures of incredible feats. Unbeaten since May 2019 and 6-0 winners the last time the two clubs met, surely the fairytale was set to be crushed with minimum of fuss, especially when they were one up inside 75 seconds.
But, with 12 minutes to go and a man down, Garvey were behind 2-1 with clean openings tough to come by; Jonny Bell admitted afterwards there was rising dread that “this was slipping away”.
Bizarrely, Andy Edgar’s yellow card – for a hard shoulder on the elusive Conor Empey – was the catalyst. Soon after, Max Maguire’s booted clearance was caught by Ben Nelson and he swooped to flick in his second of the game.
Andy Williamson then finished off the winner from Daniel Nelson’s cross, flicking in from a few yards. Williamson had been muttering under his breath at halfway as Edgar departed for the naughty chair, waiting to return to the pitch, but was soon gleefully fist-pumping.
He joked afterwards to the Belfast Telegraph’s John Flack the goal may earn him an extra “spud or two at Sunday dinner”; his girlfriend Katie’s father Ivan Morris has nine Irish Senior Cups to his name.
There was still time for more required heroics, James Milliken producing a remarkable save from Guy Sarratt’s drag-flick in the closing two minutes to tip the ball onto the post to safety.
Such drama seemed a world away when Garvey took that early lead, Bell stepping forward to feed Troy Chambers on the baseline, keeping it in play and finding poacher-supreme Ben Nelson to flick in.
But there was no capitulation; UCD replied immediately with Andrew Meates at the back post to flip home from a right-wing cross with three minutes on the clock
And, with Empey ghosting past players in midfield, UCD were good value when they took the lead before half-time. It was a scramble as Meates chip looped high, Guy Sarratt’s attempted slam-dunk bounced off the post and was eventually bundled in, Sam Byrne getting the official credit.
After the big break, the students sat deeper and deeper as Garvey ground away but without overly threatening, their biggest chances of the third quarter falling to defenders Johnny Lynch and Bell.
They kept at it and eventually got their reward, ending a relative drought going back 15 years.
Bell missed that last win; in the wider squad of 18 but not in the matchday panel, he decided to play underage international cricket instead, foregoing a medal.
This time, it was meant to be his wedding weekend but that was put on hold for six months, thrilled to be part of a different kind of celebration.
“They came out with amazing energy which we struggled to match and we weren’t good enough in the first half but what character to come back, for those young lads to take the game by the scruff of the neck and score two goals in that last quarter and then defend resolutely.”
Coach Erroll Lutton was the man to lift the trophy as Garvey captain in 2005 and he was happy to pass on the mantle to James Corry: “We knew it was coming around three or four months ago and gave us a chance for some recognition for all the work we put in for the year. It has been 15 years since we won it so I am glad someone else has that to their name.
“It was a proper cup final. UCD, a young team with a lot of representative players at Under-18 and 21, and some now in the senior setup, played their part and it could have gone either way.
“As the home team, perhaps we looked a little nervous but eventually dug it out. We got that brilliant start but they fought back immediately and played very well. It was fine details – we know Guy [Sarratt] is good off the top but our penalty corner team did so well and Milk [James Milliken] tipping it off the post, there was not much in it.
“Maybe not as much quality as both teams would like but that’s regularly the way – you don’t get the quality but you do get the drama, getting down to the last quarter 2-1 behind.”
For UCD boss Michael Styles, he could not have asked for more: “very proud of my team and our players. Tactically, they performed as we wanted to but ran out of gas at the end.
“With Garvey, you have to fight all the way to the end; a few lads played full 70 minutes and that showed in the last quarter. First half, I thought we were the better side and controlled it really well but not enough in the tank.
“It was a big performance and they can be proud of what they have done with the club. Hopefully this isn’t the end of UCD in national finals and we will see them in a few more!”
Lisnagarvey: J Milliken, J Lorimer, J Lynch, J Bell, M McNellis, J Corry, B Nelson, C Chambers, A Edgar, T Chambers, D Nelson
Subs: A Williamson, H Morris, M Aughey, M Morris, M Milliken, P Hunter, J Rithchie
UCD: M Maguire, A Flynn, C Empey, A Meates, D Nolan, M Samuel, E Ramsay, G Sarratt, Z Agnew, J Guilfoyle, S Byrne
Subs: J Pullen, A Keane, A Tutty, P Lynch, C Murphy, S Wells
Umipres: R Argent, I Strange