Eugene Magee will be missing from the Banbridge squad for the St Stephen’s Day Kirk Cup final clash with Annadale due to injury, writes John Flack.
The Ireland star has not fully recovered from a hand injury sustained in the build-up to the World Cup in India. So, with the EYHL resuming in the new year, the 32-year-old won’t be risked although he played through the pain barrier at the showpiece with two broken fingers.In addition, Ross Beattie and Eddie Rowe are unavailable but Bann coach Mark Tumilty is hoping that Pete Brown will be fit for the final after a hamstring injury.
Tumilty is delighted his team are back in the competition after two seasons out in the cold when the EYHL teams were excluded.
“It’s is great to be back in the final as I feel it is very important for younger players to get experience of playing in cup finals in front of larger crowds,” said the Bann boss
“The Kirk Cup has been great to give us the extra focus during the winter break. It has also allowed the coaching staff to have a look in greater detail at some of the fringe players. These players have impressed me and I now feel they will force their way into the EYHL squad.
“It’s a great competition in its own right, usually producing the biggest crowd of the season in Irish hockey. It’s is a tournament that I have always enjoyed playing and coaching in and this year has been no different.
“It would be excellent for our younger players to achieve a victory in the final on Wednesday.”
However, Tumilty expects a tough contest against an Annadale side boasting Rio Olympian, Peter Caruth, and penalty corner expert Ryan Burgess.
Dale go into the final on the back of an excellent 3-2 away win over Cork C of I in their last match in the all Ireland league
“Annadale have developed well this year with their younger players coming through. They have made a solid start to the EYHL, and got a great result in Cork in the last round of matches,” added Tumilty
“I expect a very difficult game with them trying to catch us on the counter attack. We will try to play our own passing game and to be clinical in both circles. Hopefully our mix of youth and experience will give us the advantage on the day.”
Annadale player-coach Peter Caruth is confident his team can pull off what would be a slight upset against Bann, pointing to recent results, including that epic 3-2 EYHL win in Cork.“For me, the boys fully deserve to be back here and shows that we are still one of the top teams in Ulster Hockey. We have a good history of Kirk Cup wins and the boys have worked hard to get to this one as well,” he said.
“The Kirk Cup needs these teams as it draws bigger crowds and better quality. The four best teams in Ulster at the minute played against each other in the semi finals. And now the two best teams are in the final in ourselves and Banbridge.
“A trip to Cork is never easy and to come away with three points and be joint fourth in the league is exciting . We went down with 11 regulars due to injuries so we skipped the seconds and thirds and took boys from our 4th XI, which shows the strength and depth of the club.
Caruth refutes any notion that his team’s narrow 2-1 EYHL loss to Bann will have any bearing on the St Stephen’s Day rematch
“Not at all. Finals are totally different from a tactics perspective. We know Banbridge will be a quality side but they have their weaknesses,” he added.
“The last game came down penalty corners and, at the moment, we’re firing, with Ryan Burgess scoring for fun. They know this and will have to do something good to stop him from scoring on Boxing Day
“But, we’ve got to realise though Banbridge have been in the EHL and the EYHL finals for the last number of seasons. In their semi-final against Lisnagarvey they coasted easily to victory and that shows character but we’re going to push hard for another Kirk Cup success.”