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Kilkeel Cup champions keep their treble dreams alive.

Wednesday, 16 May 2018

IT has been a fantastic season so far for Kilkeel Hockey Club, having won the Kirk Cup and Premier League title for the first time, but they could yet make it better as they now look forward to a third consecutive Anderson Cup final this week.

Belfast Harlequins Men's 1s...2
Kilkeel Men's 1s...2
(Kilkeel win 3-1 on penalty runs)

First they had to overcome Belfast Harlequins in the semi-final at Deramore Park on Thursday night (10 May) which would be no easy task.

Kilkeel began the game with a good tempo, pressing at the right moments and controlling the game comfortably when in possession.

Penalty corners had been a big strength of Kilkeel this season and it proved to be their ally once again as they opened the scoring 12 minutes in.

The ball was inserted to David Rae who picked out vice captain Mark Stevenson coming in at the back post with pinpoint accuracy and the latter couldn't miss, as he deflected passed the defender on the line for 1-0.

A deserved lead for the visitors but they lost concentration almost immediately as just a minute later, the home side levelled.

It was straight from the restart and some poor tackling from both the midfield and defence allowed an attacker a free run into the area and in the end the ball fell to an unmarked winger at the back post to tap in for 1-1.

It was disappointing because Harlequins hadn't really threatened at all before this, but it showed the men from Mourne they had a real fight on their hands if they wanted to come away with victory.

The pace of Luke Russell, David Finlay, Jonathan Aiken and John Finlay was causing some problems for the Harlequins' defence as they have done to every team this year, with the defenders simply having no answer but to foul them to breakdown the attacks.

Both Sam Morris and Ian Kelly in the respective goals made a few good saves to keep the scoreline level but with just a few moments to go until half time, Kilkeel took the lead again.

Unsurprisingly it came from a penalty corner as the ball was inserted to David Rae, who this time went for goal with his drag flick flying past the 'keeper for 2-1.

It was a good time to score for the visitors who went into half time with a slender lead.

Kilkeel knew they needed to perform in the second half to keep hold of their lead and book their place in the final, but unfortunately this half proved to be a really difficult one.

Harlequins really took the game to Kilkeel and 10 minutes into the second half they equalised.

It was poor from the visitors, who paid the price for giving the ball away deep inside their own half and the attacker raced through to score past Sam Morris, who was left helpless to deal with the situation.

With the score now at 2-2 it did seem to wake Kilkeel up a bit from their early slumber in the second half, as they came close through brothers John and David Finlay, who both saw their efforts saved by Iain Kelly in the Quins' goal.

Sam Morris was also being forced into action on several occasions to keep the score level, especially in the final stages of the game when he produced some fantastic saves.

In the end neither side could find a winner so the game went to penalty runs, which was fine for Kilkeel with them having won two from two this season including their victory over Queen's in the previous round.

Kilkeel always had the confidence they could win the shootout and looked the more composed of the two.

It was no wonder they were so calm with Sam Morris once again playing a blinder to force his opponents either wide to a near impossible angle to shoot or saving them brilliantly.

Skipper Gareth Russell, Edward Agnew and David Finlay all registered a score which was enough combined with the heroics of their 'keeper to seal a 3-1 penalty runs victory and an Anderson Cup final date.

The final is due to be held this week at some point against Instonians, the club will update fans as soon as possible via the Facebook page once they find out a date and time.

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