Hockey: Cookstown miss out on IHL semi-final with Lisnagarvey loss

Umpire Warren McCully tries to decide which card to show to Cookstown's Keith Black.
Umpire Warren McCully tries to decide which card to show to Cookstown's Keith Black.

LISNAGARVEY 3 COOKSOWN 2

Ulster’s top two sides - Lisnagarvey and Banbridge - will be going toe to toe in the semi-finals of the Irish Hockey League after the Hillsborough men put pay to Cookstown’s chances of a final four spot.

Simon Todd forces Jonny Bell to go wide.

Simon Todd forces Jonny Bell to go wide.

Newly crowned Ulster Premier League champions, Lisnagarvey looked to be on their way out of the competition until Daniel Buser had a say in the matter, as his two goals helped secure Garvey a berth in the last four.

Opponents Cookstown raced into the lead at Comber Road. Raymond Miller fired the visitors ahead with only 12 seconds on the clock.

And three minutes later, Miller became the provider this time setting up Stuart Smyth to crack home the Reds second.

Garvey were firm pre-match favourites to win this one and it seemed that Cookstown had their eye on an IHL semi spot. Their qualification hopes relied upon securing a victory, preferably with the bonus point, and Three Rock Rovers losing to Pembroke Wanderers.

With Cookstown still in the driving season at the end of the first quarter, the ‘Garvey faithful knew they were in for a fight.

And when Sean Murray cracked the ball off the crossbar in the 20th minute, it looked like the Reds could do it and secure qualification against all the odds.

However, as the minutes ticked down, and with Garvey nerves beginning to jangle, Buser pounced onto a loose ball to nip it home four minutes from the interval.

And seconds before the turn, Timmy Cockram settled Garvey nerves, when he drilled the ball home with inch perfect precision from their second penalty corner.

The third period was a more even affair and perhaps if Cookstown could have kept players on the pitch - at one stage they had three in the sin bin - it could have been them going to the semis.

But as the game went into the final quarter, Lisnagarvey went for the winner.

In a series of counter attacking breaks in the last six minutes, good saves firstly by Hughes then by Tormey denied good goal scoring chances at either ends.

Directly from Tormey’s save, Richard Arneill fed Sean Murray and he combined with Jason Lynch to set up Daniel Buser who slotted low across Hughes to make the final score 3-2 to Lisnagarvey.

Cookstown would not have qualified for the final four in any event as Three Rock Rovers’ hoodoo over Pembroke continued with a 3-1 victory at Wanderers’ Serpentine Avenue home. That result made it impossible for the Reds to finish in the top two with Three Rock going through on goal difference at the expense of Pembroke.

Lisnagarvey topped the group and now take on Banbridge in the IHL semi-final this weekend. Three Rock Rovers have a difficult assignment against Monkstown.