Banbridge and Lisnagarvey clash head-on at Comber Road in the most intriguing tie in round three of the EY Irish Hockey League on Saturday, writes John Flack.
Banbridge will be aiming to make it three wins in a row to consolidate their position at the top of the table while Lisnagavery will be out to secure a second successive victory.
It promises to be a cracking game between two teams who won the regulation season in years one and two of the expanded national league format. Banbridge have marginally the more experienced squad, with Eugene Magee always a potential match-winner as the proved in the opening 4-3 success over Three Rock Rovers.
Lisnagarvey, in contrast, have lost several Irish internationals, who are now plying their trade on the continent, including Michael Robson, Neil Glassey, Paul Gleghorne and Mark Murray. However, they recovered from a 2-1 loss to Pembroke on day one to comfortably beat Cookstown 4-0 last weekend.
Banbridge coach Mark Tumilty will, in no way, be underestimating the challenge that lies ahead of his team on Saturday after they followed up the win over Three Rock with a 3-1 success over Cork C of I.
“We didn’t start the game well against Cork but improved as it went on. They are a difficult side to play against and it took us time to adapt,” said Tumilty.“I was pleased with our final quarter performance and winning the game was important. We are improving but still have plenty more to do, and there is no bigger challenge than away to Garvey.
“Garvey is the biggest game of the year in my opinion and I still see them as one the sides that will be in contention for trophies this year. They have a strong squad with plenty of experience plus a good mix of youth.
“They will be disappointed with the Pembroke defeat but had a good result on Saturday and I am sure they will be looking to build on that against us this weekend.”
Tumilty’s opposite number Errol Lutton has been happy with the way his younger players have been stepping up to the mark in the two opening games. “As always we look forward to welcoming Banbridge to Comber Road. Both teams have a mix of youth and experience and it should be a exciting game,” he stated.
“I’ve seen both Banbridge’s EYHL games this season and they’ve made an been impressive start. We were delighted to get off the mark last week against a Cookstown team who had enjoyed an excellent opening day victory against Dublin YMCA.
“What was especially pleasing was the performance of the under 18 players who we’ve recently added to our training panel. It’s an exciting time for them to be playing in the EYHL and that has showed in their performances so far.
“We will look to build on last week’s performance over the next number of weeks with further games away to Three Rock Rovers and Dublin YMCA.”.
Cork C of I and YMCA face a formative match for their respective concerns as they both look to land a first win of the campaign. For C of I, there are doubts over the availability of John Jermyn after he sustained a knock a week ago against Banbridge while Jonny Bruton meets one of his former clubs.
Both sides were content to sit half-court and try to counter-attack hockey last time out with C of I effective for the guts of an hour against Bann before succumbing to three late goals.
The Y, meanwhile, struggled to get out of their half against Three Rock but did score from their one circle entry of the first half. Grant Glutz and Ben Campbell do give them a sharp edge in front of goal if given the opportunity.Pembroke’s perfect record will be put to the test by Annadale at Serpentine Avenue where the hosts will hope to make it three wins from three.
Cian Murphy has hugely impressive in midfield as he continues to grow at this level while Spanish defender Andreu Gomez looks set to be an important player at the back for Paudie Carley’s team.
Cookstown have witnessed wildly conflicting outcomes from their two games already this season ahead of the visit of Glenanne.
The Irish Senior Cup and Irish Hockey Trophy both get under way. A highlight in the former is the meeting of Kilkeel and Bangor who finished first and second in the Ulster Premier Division last season.
Two other sides with ambitions of getting into the EY Hockey League are Instonians and UCD who meet at Shaw’s Bridge. The students have whipped up 16 goals in two outings so far but will find Inst a much tougher rival with Mikey Watt now back at his original club after many years on the road.
Men’s fixtures (all Saturday)
EY Hockey League: Cookstown v Glenanne, 4pm, Steelweld Park; Cork C of I v YMCA, 3pm, Garryduff; Lisnagarvey v Banbridge, 3pm, Comber Road; Pembroke v Annadale, 4pm, Serpentine Avenue
Irish Senior Cup
Round 1: Clontarf v South Antrim, 2pm, Mount Temple; Kilkeel v Bangor, 2.45pm, Kilkeel HS; Railway Union v Queens, 1pm, Park Avenue
Round 2: Avoca v Belfast Harlequins, 1pm, Newpark; Instonians v UCD, 2.30pm, Shaw’s Bridge
Irish Hockey Trophy
Round 1: Ashton v Newry, 3pm, Ashton School; North Down v Portrane, 2.40pm, Comber LC; Raphoe v Rathgar, 2.30pm, Royal & Prior; UCC v Cork Harlequins, 2pm, The Mardyke; Waterford v Dublin North, 2.30pm, Newtown