After the Lions clinched the NIHL Division Two North title last weekend, James Morton caught up with assistant captain Gareth O’Flaherty and asked him his thoughts on the season so far.
Q: After the disappointment of last season, how was it winning the league on Sunday?
A: It was an awesome feeling winning the league title on Sunday especially after the tough time we had last season. It was an up & down season that ended with the loss to Sutton and getting relegated, it just left us all feeling gutted really. So to bounce straight back in the first time of asking really gave winning the league that extra buzz. There’s no doubt it meant a lot to all the new guys who came to the team this year, but I suppose it was extra special for the guys who were here last year. Overall I think it’s a great achieve from the lads, coaches and all the off-ice staff who make the team tick.
Q: With this being your highest points scoring season how has the season met your expectations?
A: This season has gone better than I originally thought it was going to, for me personally. I always knew the team would do well as a whole but with Deeside, Solihull and Sheffield all putting together strong line-ups it’s been great to get some points on the board. With the amount of talent around the league to be up in the top 10 for most of the year has been great. I set myself a 50 point target so at 45 I’ve still got a bit of work to do.
Q: How much have you enjoyed playing with former professionals Simon Hunt and Stuart Parker this season and what have you learnt from them?
A: It’s been great, they both bring a lot of experience to what’s got to be one of the youngest teams in the league. When your 23 and considered to be one of the older boys you could say the team lacks experience, so they really help out with that as they know what to say and when to say it. Also their presence on the ice is great, they create so much time and space for themselves and can both bury the puck still. I would have liked to see Hunty drop the mitts but I think his reputation precedes him.
Q: How influential have Sam Gospel and Alan Levers been to the team this season?
A: They’ve both been outstanding at the back and I’ve said previously it’s great to have a solid netminders between then pipes when we’ve stumbled defensively. Gozzy was great for us at the beginning of the year and I think getting Levers back really help out as you can’t expect one goalie to stand on his head all year. They’re both great lads off the ice as well so its been pleasure playing in front of them.
Q: How well has Matt Bradbury brought the team together following relegation last season?
A: Yeah Brads done a great job this year, we lost a lot of guys last year so he had a challenging summer having to build a team and get everyone focused and motivated but he obviously put together a great team and it paid off. Bringing in Hunty, Stu and Branny as well as securing the return of Joey and Woody are just a few examples of his good judgement and work. His dedication to player development is also great and shows with players like Bingo (Dan Hazeldine), Steeps, Illsley and Cam all icing for us this year and putting points on the board which has been great to see. However you can’t overlook the work that Glossy and Danny put in besides Matt, they make quite the trio!
Q: With three games to go, will you be looking to keep away complacency and add even more points to the table?
A: Definitely, we’ve got it in the bag now but its important that we finish strong, it would be nice to win the last 3 games but we’ve got Solihull twice at the end I’m sure it will be tough. However, it gives us the opportunity to perhaps have a say in who gets the second place spot.
You can see ‘Flatsy’ and the rest of the champions in action at the National Ice Centre this Sunday against the Fylde Flyers. Click here for ticket details.