Munster’s Peard Cup final will see one long wait end for either Cork Harlequins or Bandon on St Stephen’s Day as they battle it out for the midseason silverware at 2pm at Garryduff.
For Quins, they will bid for their first victory in the competition since 2008 but they take on a Bandon side who have never won the competition.The Farmers’ Cross side do so with Julian Dale in fine form, scoring his 11th goal since returning from Belgium in a 3-0 win over Catholic Institute last Saturday.
And he could play a fuller role than expected for Quins following an administrative problem with the Belgian federation means he will likely be Cork-based for the remainder of the campaign.
From August to October, he was based in Molenbeek having signed pro terms with Royal Daring. On completion of the first half of the season, he sought clearance to keep himself sharp and help Quins, coached once again by his father Stephen, until the end of the Belgian winter break.
Daring had no objections and the club president signed off on a temporary release which Hockey Ireland accepted provided he only played in regional competitions and not the EYHL.
Such releases have been cleared from other countries with German-based Megan Frazer helping out Ulster Elks, Katie Mullan lining out for Ballymoney and Neal Glassey with Mossley already this winter. But the Belgian Federation informed the striker this was not allowed under their local rules.
“It’s an awkward one and I am now not able to go back,” Dale told the Examiner. “We were told after I played a Munster league match that the Belgian federation have that rule to block this. The Dutch leagues, the German leagues, the English league all allow it.
“Myself and the club have been fighting it for over a month but the federation are taking a strong stance on it.
“You can’t really prepare for it but no one died either. Daring have said I am welcome back any time which is nice but it is a real shame.”
He added that it is a blow not to be playing in a professional environment as he pursues his main goal of becoming a central figure in the Irish senior squad.
His return to the club of his youth has coincided with one of their best seasons in recent times. The win over Insta made it four from four in the league in addition to their cup run.
“Quins have been in transition for a number of years. The older generation, the guys from 2006 to 2012, had their kind of last hurrah with the Irish Senior Cup win.
“The last few years, the youths have come up through the second team and are now 17 or 18 and getting their chance and if they can get into EYHL2, that would be a big step and throw the name back into the hat [on the national stage] because it is a club steeped in tradition.”
For the Peard Cup decider, Bandon finally broke their silverware hoodoo last season, landing Munster Division One and the Irish Hockey Trophy.Colin Kingston had been part of many near misses with the club but missed out on those glories – getting a name check for in the victory speeches for his influence over the years – as he took in a year with UCC. With the students, he did win the Peard title last term.
Back in Bandon, he is hoping to play a part in a breakthrough win with his home club. His side lost 2-1 on the opening day of the Munster season to Quins but says that will have little bearing on this date.
“It would be no exaggeration to say we had 75 to 80% possession,” Kingston said. “They sat back like they have done for years, played inside their 25 with great flat-stick tacklers who are very cute to break you down in the right areas and then counter.
“They were ahead of us for God knows how long but, for the past five or six years, we have been all over them. They have had that good second team coming through, though, and Julian Dale [that day] will give that bit extra from play. They didn’t have that element of a guy who can beat three or four lads and score a wonder goal.
“But maybe that would mean they try and attack more which would suit us, getting higher up the pitch. He is undoubtedly a very good player but it might work into our hands.”
The west Cork side have had a frustrating season thus far in EYHL2, picking up four points out of 12 in their group after one-goal losses at Bangor and against UCD before coming from 2-0 down to draw with Railway Union.
Nonetheless, Kingston is drawing the positives from their performances.
“Every match, we have improved – we lost the opener to Bangor who are probably the weakest in the group. Then went to UCD, lost by a goal but if we played like we did that day against Bangor, we probably would have won.
“At Railway, we came back from 2-0 down to draw. You do wonder if things were in reverse, would things have gone differently. Playing alright but we don’t have the points to show for it.”
They do know how to land trophies now, though, and Kingston says the mentality for big occasions has changed markedly.
“We were maybe a team that didn’t know how to win these big games. We had an excellent panel but didn’t know how to grind out results. Everyone’s older and a bit cuter, there’s no two ways about it. We have learned how to stick in games and that will stand to us.”
They beat UCC in the semi-final despite the absence of Clinton Sweetnam and Ali Smith while Kingston is coming back into action after the birth of his daughter.
St Stephen’s Day fixture
Peard Cup final: Bandon v Cork Harlequins, 2pm, Garryduff