Dublin University Hockey Club (DUHC) produced a resilient performance in Blackrock this afternoon to inflict sweet revenge on Avoca Hockey Club, a week after losing 2-0 to the same opponents in Santry. In a tense game, Trinity survived several tricky periods to triumph 2-1, returning to winning ways after a run of three defeats in Division 1 of the Leinster League.
Despite some clouds rolling in from Dublin Bay, a calm breeze and blue skies above the ground in Newpark provided ideal conditions for a free-flowing game of hockey. It was Avoca who came out of the blocks the fastest, hitting the Trinity backline with a series of early attacks. Defender Kevin Mellot acted as an anchoring playmaker, spraying passes from midfield to the flanks, releasing his teammates to probe at the away defence. Supremely confident in their passing game, it was Avoca who drew first blood, the ball slipping through into the circle from where Jonathan Elms swept home.
Avoca looked to maintain their control of the tie following their race to an early lead. Attempts by DUHC to break forward were soaked up by the home side. Avoca continued to pass out of defence with precision, their resourceful use of the ball hindering any attempt by Trinity to get a foothold in the game. DUHC would finally have a period of offensive pressure moving towards the halfway mark of the first period, but a rare effort on goal from a short corner was well saved.
A lull during the final stretch of the first half was marked by a choppy period in play, the game punctuated with mistakes by both teams. Trinity finally got their break in the 28th minute, Alex Barlow assisting Daniel O’Donovan to level the sides. Immediately after O’Donovan’s strike, a fine block from the Avoca goalkeeper denied DUHC the goal that would have put them in front. The away side looked confident going into the break, the momentum with them following their equalising goal.
After the interval, DUHC looked to pick up from where they left off, with Barlow almost providing his second assist of the game following a skilful dribble down the left wing. His cross into the D failed to find a man in a green shirt, however. Both teams exchanged benign periods of possession, before a frantic scramble in the Avoca penalty area resulted in an infringement by the home defence. The umpire awarded a penalty stroke to Trinity, which was duly scooped into the net by Greg Arrowsmith.
A change in tone following the converted penalty was palpable. Spectators and players suddenly became more audible, screams of encouragement indicating the obvious: that the hosts needed a quick response to stay in the game.
Avoca would go on to completely dominate play for the final 20 minutes. Reminiscent of their early pressure in the first half, they continually built attacks from midfield, winning several frees and short corners in the process. When they did managed to win the ball back, Trinity struggled to move past the halfway line, with the only period of respite coming through attacker Eric Prehn’s run from deep towards the Avoca goal. A missed shot from a short corner, the result of Prehn’s grafting, would be DUHC’s last meaningful offensive move.
Avoca continued to press in the final stages, with moves from Oisin O’Sullivan and Andrew Meagher causing problems for the Trinity defence. However, like the rain threatened by the grey clouds above the Blackrock venue, the equalising goal Avoca were searching for never materialised. The final whistle confirmed a hard-fought victory for DUHC.
DUHC’s next test will be against league leaders Corinthians at home in Santry in two weeks time. With the chance to inflict a serious blow to the Rathfarnham side’s title challenge, they will look to take inspiration from today’s dogged victory against Avoca.