Tumilty takes the positives from EHL trip for young Bann side

Banbridge were unable to produce the heroics of 12 months ago as they fell to slightly inflated 6-0 and 6-2 defeats to WKS Grunwald Poznan and Racing Club de Bruxelles over the weekend in Barcelona.

Slightly inflated because of the new Euro Hockey League ruling of field goals counting double, it left Bann with a few sorer than usual wounds to lick.

With Matthew Bell and Kyle Marshall moving on to European clubs in the summer and Jonny McKee and Eugene Magee injured, Bann were always going to be in transition mode.

But, with just one Irish league match under their belt due to the umpire’s strike, Bann arrived in Barcelona under-cooked. Despite the results, coach Mark Tumilty looked to the positives for the remainder of the domestic Irish season.

“I didn’t think the Poznan match was a 6-0 game or anywhere close to it if we had taken our chances,” he reflected, pointing to a glut of chances when the game was in the balance before the Poles added three to their score in the closing four minutes.

“They were very clinical so there’s disappointment that way. The positives are it was good to get away together; we have definitely developed on the pitch and we will take that into the double-header next weekend.

“It’s been difficult because of our preparations but over the weekend, we have grown into games. We definitely need to have better preparation coming into this tournament which is something Irish hockey need to look at.

“But with the age of the group, the new guys have come in from schools hockey and the Ulster Premier League last year – some being relegated from that – to coming in now against seasoned internationals, it’s a definite positive for us.”

Bann fell behind very early on to Jerome Truyens goal but got back on terms when Jamie Wright was felled from a great counter with Philip Brown scoring the stroke. Gareth Lennox made some brilliant saves but he was unable to stop Tom Boon’s drag-flick – another of their Rio silver medalists to get on the mark.

Wright’s skills did cause plenty of problems, one bouncing run setting up Bruce McCandless whose sweep was saved by Jeremy Gucassoff.

The game was finished off, though, when Max Lootens got away down the left and centred for Truyens to arrive at the near post to tip in. Bann had a couple of corners repelled before the cards started coming thick and fast for both teams, making for a messy end to the tie.

Indeed, both sides ended with nine players with four yellows – two of them worthy of ten-minutes – dished out.

Cork man Conor Harte fired the final nail in the coffin with a corner drag-flick, one which looked suspiciously like it was stopped inside the circle. When asked, the man closest to the action said “who knows?” saying his only focus was on getting his shot away.

For Harte and Racing, it meant they advance to next Easter’s KO16 with something to spare, joining his twin brother David – with Dutch club SV Kampong – in the knock-out stages of the competition.

Reflecting on the weekend, Conor said it was a matter of “job done” despite what he described as “two mediocore performances”.

“I don’t think we got anywhere near to our level,” he told the Irish Examiner. “We showed glimmers of it in patches but it’s not good enough for 10 or 15 minutes out of the 60.

“You know what you are going to get with an Irish team, especially Banbridge who are going to fight until the last minute and that’s what they did. In fairness to them, it wasn’t ideal prep. I felt for them missing out on two weeks of the Irish Hockey League.”

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