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Preview: Two mouth-watering clashes await in Hockey Irish Cup finals

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It might not be the grand occasion that they imagined but this weekend, four clubs will battle it out in the Hockey Men’s and Women’s Irish Senior Cup Finals.

Lisnagarvey Hockey Club plays host to this year’s prestigious competition with their men’s team taking on UCD in the final at 4.30pm. That will be preceded by the meeting of UCD and Pegasus in the women’s final at 1pm.

While health guidelines have restricted the number of fans who can attend the finals, both games will be live-streamed on the Pundit Arena and Hockey Ireland Facebook pages for supporters across Ireland and abroad to enjoy.

Having endured months away from a hockey pitch, the Irish Senior Cup is an unconventional yet very welcome way for Lisnagarvey to return to play.

“It’s been great to get back to get back on the pitch”, said Ireland and Lisnagarvey defender Jonny Bell.

“We played the semi-final of the Irish Senior Cup a couple of weeks ago and we’ve played a few preseason friendlies and everyone has just loved getting back on the pitch. We’re really looking forward to the match on Saturday.

“It’s strange having such a big game so early in the season, usually at this point, we’d be playing a low preseason friendly with a view to kicking the season off next week. But with the way things have fallen, we have a crunch game this weekend and what an opportunity for us. So we’re really looking forward to getting back out there are trying to bring the Irish Cup home.”

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The Down-based club take on first-time finalists UCD in Saturday’s decider yet Bell is under no illusion as to the threats they will pose.

“Lots of energy. They’ve got a number of really handy players so they’ll be physical, they’ll be confident. They’ve got a really good short corner-taking routine and a really strong goalkeeper so we’re expecting them to come up to Garvey all guns blazing.

“So we have to weather that in the first part of the game. We’ll just back ourselves over the course of the 70 minutes and we should be able to get a positive result. But finals can go either way, they’re usually fairly cagey affairs and past results mean nothing.”

The 33-year-old does not expect home advantage to play too much of a role in the decider but maintains that the club’s history in the competition will drive his side forward.

Last year’s runners-up, Lisnagarvey, have had their name engraved on the Cup a total of 23 times, although 2005 was the last time they did so.

“We played Three Rock in the final last year and they had home advantage and they came away with the win. Yeah, it is lovely to be in your own home surroundings, familiar surroundings, and have that bit of home support as well. But at the end of the day, sometimes it’s nice to be underdogs coming in as well. Sometimes home advantage can add a bit more pressure, a bit more expectation.

“As a young player coming up at Lisnagarvey, you’re always aware of how much the Irish Senior Cup means to the club. We haven’t brought the trophy home in quite some time. Within our club, it’s very much etched in the history books of our club and we’ve had many great occasions with the Irish Cup. We’re all really keen to try and bring the trophy back to Lisnagarvey.”

Meanwhile, in the Women’s Final, 14-time winners Pegasus are on the hunt for their first title since 2011, however, they come up against a UCD side who have won the competition four times in the last decade.

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UCD’s Clodagh Cassin is expecting a very tough battle against the experienced Belfast side.

“They always a very tough side to play. They have a lot of experienced players on their team with Shirley McCay and Alex Speers but they have young guns as well so they’re always quite a difficult team to play.

“They always have a very successful set-piece, they always seem to score from their corners so the challenge for me as a goalkeeper is to keep that score as minimal as possible.

“We have youth on our side. We have a lot of young, athletic and talented players on our side so hopefully we can run them around the pitch, tire them out and make our mark. But they are always a great team to play so it should be a very good game.”

While the game will be played under unprecedented circumstances, Cassin is delighted that fans unable to attend will be able to tune into the action via the live stream.

“It really is brilliant for people who can’t get tickets or for elderly relatives who would usually travel but are now conscious and don’t want to go. People who play hockey and love the sport have an opportunity to watch it from their own homes so it’s quite exciting to be part of it.

“We’ve watched so much sport being live-streamed, GAA matches and such, so it’s nice that us in the hockey world are getting the same opportunity to broadcast our sport.”

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Author: The PA Team

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