Raphoe Hockey Club compete in a final of any sort for the first time in their 122-year history when they take on University College Cork in the showpiece of the Irish Men’s Hockey Trophy at the National Hockey Stadium at Belfield on Sunday (tip-off 3.30pm).
The club has existed in a number of different guises since its 19th century formation and on a week of possibility the only real source of disappointment for the team is the unavailability of Alan Patterson, who scored four goals in Saturday’s 5-1 romp over Queen’s, which cemented Raphoe’s third place in Senior One.
“It’s unfortunate that Alan is not allowed to play as he lined out already for Instonians in the Premier Division and is effectively cup-tied,” said David Buchanan, the club’s former goalkeeper who career famously spanned four decades from 1989 to 2010, who now is part of joint-management team with Richard Eaton.
“But the fact he’s a forward means when don’t have to re-jig the whole team. We can still use the same goalkeeper, defence and midfield and just pop in a replacement for Alan. Our panel concentrates a lot on rotation anyhow so that’s what we will continue to do. Simon Goudie or Alan Meehan will come in and they, like Alan, know we want to play a tight, pressing game from the front.”
Aside Patteron’s news, the glasses are certainly half full for the club. On Monday they made their way to Lisburn for a training session and internal game, mindful of the pitch they will encounter on Sunday.
“The pitch at Belfield is water-based in comparison to our own which is sand-based,” Buchanan added. “That means there will be a bigger bounce and that can unnerve someone unfamiliar with it. UCC actually have the water-based as well so at least we’ve had an experience of it now.”
The road to Belfield began with Raphoe one of the four sides of the 18 in the competition without a bye. William Kilpatrick and Trevor Patterson were the goalscorers in a 2-1 win when Newry came to the Royal and Prior Grounds on the first Saturday in November.
Three weeks later at the same venue, Gavin Lecky scored the only goal in the 1-0 win against Suttonians from Dublin. In the quarter-finals in February Raphoe enjoyed a fine 4-1 win away to Catholic Institute in Limerick with Gavin Lecky, Matthew Lecky, Richard Patterson and Trevor Patterson on the mark in a 4-1 win and it was the same score in the last four win against Portadown four weeks ago.
On that occasion, captain Ian McGonigle, Gavin Lecky, Lee Coll and Richard Patterson were on the mark. UCC lost last year’s final 2-1 exactly 12 months ago against South Antrim but they avenged that result in last month’s semi-final, winning 3-2 in Cork.
In the preceding rounds they beat Bangor 2-1 away and Antrim 4-3 at home. Fionn O’Leary is their top scorer to date with four of their nine goals in the competition.
“This competition was established four years ago for the teams from outside the top flights in both Ulster and Leinster plus the whole of Munster,” Buchanan continued. “Therefore, UCC are in the Premier League in Munster and are currently third behind the real powerhouses Harlequins and Cork Church of Ireland. That, to me, would suggest they are favourites but our run in the competition has kept things going. Some seasons just fizzle out but the cup run has kept everyone on their toes this year.
“I was down at the National Hockey Stadium only last week for the Olympic qualifier between Ireland and Korea and it’s unbelievable to think Raphoe will be competing there this weekend.
“Both the Irish women and men narrowly failed to qualify for London, which was a real shame as the exposure would’ve been great for the sport but from our point of view, we’re just happy to be involved and it’ll be a great occasion for people who have been involved with the club for so long.
“We’ve been getting good luck wishes on facebook from former players from people from Dublin as far as Australia. We’re somewhere we’ve never been before and the fact it’s two teams from the Republic of Ireland is also unique.
Raphoe squad: Johnny Rankin; William Wauchope, Rodney Bates, William Kilpatrick, Matthew Lecky; Ian McGonigle, Richard Patterson, Geroge Patterson, Keith Meehan; Gavin Lecky, Simon Goudie; Alan Meehan, John Watt, Lee Coll.