Murugappa Cup: Impressive Indian Railways wins title

Goals by Malak Singh and J. P. Kush helped Indian Railways beat defending champion Indian Oil Corporation in the 90th All-India MCC-Murugappa Gold Cup title clash.

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Indian Railways pose with the trophy after an impressive victory against Indian Oil Corporation.   -  R. Ragu

It’s is not every time that a team which plays exceptionally well in the group stages, wins the tournament. But, Indian Railways, barring the lone defeat to Punjab & Sind Bank, dominated till the last match.

At the final of the 90th All-India MCC-Murugappa Gold Cup hockey tournament here on Sunday, Railways, the underdog, defeated defending champion Indian Oil Corporation (IOC) 2-1 to lift the trophy.

IOC was definitely handicapped without its star forward Deepak Thakur, who had injured his right knee in the semifinals. Without such an opportunistic and senior pro, IOC lacked the sting in the forward-line.

Prabhjot Singh and Sanjay with the support from Roshan Minz could only try breaking through the Railways defence. In such cases, the team relies on penalty corner specialist V. R. Raghunath—and he has almost always delivered in the tournament—this time, he, too, couldn't do much.

After Raghunath opened the account for IOC early, the first session was evenly balanced with both teams creating chances and missing them.

Railways was on the ball from the first minute of the second session. Affan Yousuf, who was largely contained in the first half, threatened to break free in the second. His fierce shot from the right missed the stick of J. P. Kush by a whisker.

This time, Railways equalised after a neat pass from the right by Raju Paul was gently pushed home by Malak Singh.

Pretty soon, Railways had two penalty corners; one was saved by IOC ‘keeper Baljit Singh and the other one went amiss.

IOC moved ahead with confidence, and possibly its best chance emerged when Roshan Minz dribbled from the right and passed to Prabhjot. But the forward failed to connect it.

It was the move, with 10 minutes remaining for the hooter, that created the match-winner for Railways.

Amit Rohidas's wonderful pass from right to Ajmer Singh resulted in an infringement and a free hit. From 25m, Talwinder received a pass and his drive was deflected home by Kush.

IOC was desperately pinning its hopes on Raghunath to equalise, with two minutes remaining for the final whistle, to convert a penalty corner. His drag flick, however, was gloved away by the 'keeper Jagraj Singh.

R. Suresh Babu, chief coach of the Railways, credited the success of the team to its superior fitness. “Our fitness level were our strength. At the death, we always win because of our fitness. Our one month camp at Kapurthala also proved to be of immense help."

Suresh, an employee of Integral Coach Factory, further said it was a wonderful feeling to win a prestigious tournament in front of the home crowd. “After Surjit Singh memorial, National championship, this is my third National title as a chief coach,” he said.

Railways received a prize money of Rs. 5 lakhs while IOC had to be content with Rs. 2.5 lakhs. A. Vellayan, Chairman, Murugappa Group, gave away the prizes.

The results (final):

Indian Railways 2 (Malak Singh 42, J.P. Kush 60) bt IOC 1 (V.R. Raghunath 16). Man of the match: Malak Singh.