Lisnagarvey coach Davy Allen eyeing up play-off battle

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Lisnagarvey coach Davy Allen appears to have thrown in the towel as far as automatic promotion out of Senior One is concerned after Saturday’s defeat by Harlequins but he has certainly plenty of reasons to be cheerful.

‘Garvey have now dropped five points and ‘Quins have conceded none and those stark statistics mean that, as the two contenders appear to be so far ahead of the rest in standard, his assessment is a pragmatic one.

Allen will now try and embark on a few spying missions before the end of the regular season to run his eye over the two relegation candidates from the top flight.

Barring an unlikely sequence of results in either division ‘Garvey will be up against either Victorians or Portadown who are jostling for position at the foot of the Premier League table.

The side that finishes in penultimate place will meet the runner up from Senior One and while it looks like ‘Garvey will fill the latter slot it’s anyone’s guess who will avoid the automatic drop out of the top division.

So the ‘Garvey coach may have to wait a week or two longer until he knows which side to concentrate his attention on when it comes to that spying mission.

It’s likely he will have quite a few ‘al fresco’ viewing sessions to take in the action as there is simply no club in Ulster which can possibly match Lisnagarvey’s facilities at Comber Road in Hillsborough.

Unless you are a dedicated fan or reporter who doesn’t mind braving the elements to soak up the atmosphere then you can quite easily sit back in comfort at the palatial club house and watch from the lounge with your favourite tipple in hand.

Allen’s challenge is to produce a team to match the wonderful facilities and that, by definition means a swift return to the top flight where, if infrastructure is a factor, ‘Garvey should be.

After taking a year out following a stint at Randalstown Allen is positively revelling in his job at the Hillsborough club and it’s a happy bunch of campers typified by inspirational team captain and goalkeeper Caroline Reid.

But that is in sharp contrast to what her team’s coach found when he took over the post at the start of the current season as morale had hit an all-time low.

“The girls were totally disillusioned by hockey when I first met up with them having been relegated and there was evidence of that low morale even when we played a few pre-season friendlies.” Allen recalled.

“I think it was probably accentuated by the fact the men’s side have enjoyed such a degree of success traditionally and up to the present day.

“But since then things have improved dramatically and attendances and the level of commitment at training have been fantastic with 24 to 26 girls at most of our twice-weekly sessions.

“I remember saying to someone at the club that I might need some help with the sessions as the numbers were so big and they just laughed it off and said ‘wait and see’ it won’t be a problem but I am glad to say they were proved wrong.

“We do one night’s strength and conditioning with Gary Cliff from Peak Physique and one night on the pitch and so far it’s been going really well.

“Obviously we had that defeat on Saturday which has almost certainly left us facing a play-off with either Vics or Portadown so I will be taking time to go and watch them with that in mind.

“We dropped a couple of points against Cookstown about a month ago as well but I think that was a bit of a wake up call for us and it sort of brought us up a level.

“They are a very proud bunch of girls and very conscious of the club they play for so I’d be delighted for them if we were able to get back up to the Premier League.”