PETER Caruth timed his return to action perfectly as his double strike powered Monkstown to the Irish Hockey League title, seeing off hosts Banbridge in the final for the second year running.
Caruth played just six games this season after a foot injury but was the star all weekend and his goals proved critical in a tight battle with few quarters given.
His thunderous slap-shot was the difference between the sides in a cagey tie that lacked the pizazz of last year’s vintage, owing a huge amount to defensive rigidity.
To that end, Lee Cole and Richard Sykes excelled to lay the base for the forward runners to pick up on two horrible Banbridge defensive errors.
The first came 24 seconds into the second half when Kyle Good’s pass skipped over two defensive sticks which could easily have intercepted. They did not and Caruth was left with a close-range chance he dispatched with minimum fuss.
Bann got back on terms with the move of the game with 18 minute to go. Eugene Magee’s weighted ball allowed Stevie Dowds to open his legs before picking out John McKee. He controlled, turned and pushed past David Fitzgerald.
The winner, however, came soon after as Davy Carson’s ball into the circle was miscontroled by Scott Forbes onto his own foot, leading to a penalty corner.
Caruth duly slapped home via a deflection to totally wrong-foot the immaculate Gareth Lennox in the Bann goal. From there, Monkstown looked the more likely to kill off the tie but the hosts did cause them discomfort with a last-second corner, but Kyle Good’s save meant the title was heading back to south Dublin.
It also means that Monkstown will have their 2014/15 European fate in their own hands when they head to Cagliari in June. Should they win that competition, they may take part in the Euro Hockey League next season.
On Saturday afternoon, Monkstown had seen off arch rivals Three Rock Rovers 2-1 after extra time as Good got the key goal off the back of Caruth’s excellent inside pass.
Earlier in the tie, Andrew Ward had knocked in Gareth Watkins’ cross for a fourth minute lead only for Harry Morris to smash home from mid-circle to equalise.
Thereafter, the game was a tight, tactical battle as both side tried to unpick an opponent they had played eight times in the past two seasons.
While Rovers had the better of the second half, Monkstown stayed solid and grabbed the winning chance when it came in the first period of silver goal extra time.