Willie Edgar produced two pieces of individual brilliance to win the men’s Irish Hockey Challenge final for Ballynahinch at Serpentine Avenue in a superb display of expansive attacking hockey against Limerick.
It saw them retain the title in style, making it three wins overall in this competition since 2012. Intent from both sides was clear from the very start with Max Clein deflecting just wide for Limerick in the opening seconds while ‘Hinch’s Alex Millar had two big chances almost immediately.
It went back and forth at break-neck speed with goals soon starting to flow. Limerick skipper Nathan Eacrett picked out a lovely diagonal ball into the path of Victor Biais who controlled on the spin to open the chance and then flicked in beautifully.
‘Hinch swapped the lead with barely 18 minutes gone as Matthew Martin’s thunderous shot equalised and then Scott Leetch finished off for 2-1 at the right post after a left-wing cross caused havoc.
Biais was not long waiting for his second goal, however, as Nick Lampp’s free just outside the 23m line opened the door and the striker picked out the top corner with a flick by Aaron Donnell – 2-2 at half-time. The Ulster side, though, always look the more composed side with former Inst man Martin and Edgar having that touch of class to go with it.
The second half was slightly tighter but ‘Hinch started to run up the corner count, necessitating lots of rearguard work from Justin Scheffel and his defensive team. Limerick kept out seven set pieces but parity ended when Edgar went on a virtuoso run down the right channel and pulled off an audacious scoop which went in off the stanchion of crossbar and post.
That was with 13 minutes to go and he made it 4-2 a minute later, this time weaving his way out of traffic and selling the goalkeeper a dummy before rolling into an open net.
Nathan Eacrett slammed in a reverse from Limerick’s only penalty corner with five minutes to go, making things lively for the latter stages. But Ballynahinch had the nous to see out the endgame and lift the crown for a third time.