Banbridge Hockey talks to Bann man Aaron Appleton

 Throughout the season we will add a variety of posts to keep members and supporters up to date with the goings on in the club. Here is our first snippet, with a heart to heart interview with ex Ireland Under 21 goalkeeper Aaron Appleton…

1. You have had a medal-laden career to date in hockey, outline for us your honours and achievements with the pads?

Yes, I have been lucky enough to be part of a few excellent squads since I first started playing the sport 11 years ago!During my time at Banbridge Academy I won the Bannister Bowl, Ferris Cup, Richardson Cup, McCullough Cup, Burney Cup and most importantly the All Ireland Championships. The 1st XI Academy squad. I was involved in also finished runners up in the European Championships in Holland, a competition in which I was fortunate enough to win ‘Goalkeeper of the Tournament’. My representative honours include Ulster U16s in addition to Ulster and Ireland U18s.

2. At the Academy, what was your most memorable hockey moment?

Tough question! I absolutely loved school boy hockey and gathered many fond memories during my 7 years there, but if one was to stand out it has got to be the final day of the All Ireland Championships when I was in lower 6th. We drew 3-3 with Cookstown aet and eventually won 6-4 on flicks. We then proceeded to win the highly entertaining (and nerve racking) final against RBAI 5-4 on golden goal after being 3-1 down. It was a day every player on the squad will remember fondly and it certainly ranks highly amongst my other memories of school boy hockey! Of course, ‘Cordner moments’ such as screaming ‘Downey, self destruct’ and telling Scott Forbes he played like ‘sweetcorn’ won’t be forgotten easily either.

3. As a young first year, was there anybody in particular who you admired on the Banbridge first team?

As a first year I think I was in awe of anyone who was playing 1st XI hockey to be honest! Obviously, being one myself, it was the GK’s playing at the time who I tried to watch and learn from the most – Paddy Grimes for instance who was then succeeded by Lennox.

4. You were a member of the South Africa Banbridge Academy 2006 tour. Looking back, would you ever be able to top that tour?

 It would be an extremely hard feat that’s for sure – the 3 weeks we spent out there were absolutely amazing. We played 7 matches if I remember correctly, winning 6 and losing just one. The staff ensured we had the perfect mix of leisure time, sight seeing and hockey which kept everyone happy. Some of the highlights of the trip include experiencing the safari and a helicopter ride – on which we saw two whales and a shark!

5. Give us all a summary of how BHC preseason has gone so far?

 Preseason has been good! This is my first year since leaving the academy I have trained and completed a full preseason, so it’s good to be able to ‘hit the ground running’ when the season begins. The sessions have been tough but productive, and it seems the lads have thoroughly enjoyed them.

6. What of the new signings Ross Beattie and Scott Caruth, have they settled in well into the squad?

Yes, both seem to be enjoying playing for the club and are fitting in well with the rest of the Bann lads.  They are most definitely able replacements to fill the voids left by Colin Dowds, who has departed the squad for his travels and Simon Magowan, who is injured for the duration of the season.

7. Who do you think could be the key man this year in Bann’s EHL assault?

 It is very much going to require a massive effort from each member of the squad to progress deep into the tournament, however Bruce McCandless is the man with the most recent international experience under his belt, so if one person is to be highlighted it has got to be him!

8. Dougie Anderson has been influential in continuing developing of the 2nds in the past few seasons, what can we expect from a new look seconds team this year?

He will have his work cut out if last years achievements of 2nd in the league and runners up in the Irish Junior Cup are to be reached again, that’s for sure. We will have a similar backbone of myself, Junior, Dougie, McCague and Macco to provide some experience in comparison to the newer members of the team who will be replacing McKnight, Livingstone, Hutchison, Anderson, the Kelly twins and Smryll. However, I’m sure with the new 2nds/3rds training programme coached by Robin Madely, a new team can form and another successful season can be had.

9.How much of a blow will it be for our seconds with the departure of Ian ‘Taz’ Livingstone to New Zealand?

 None whatsoever, he is awful. The ‘galloping gazelle’ will be missed in the centre of the park. He was a big player for us at times last year with his powerful runs and quick hands whilst in the opposing teams circle, he scored a hatrick in the semi final of the IJC to provide a perfect example. Hopefully
whoever fills the position can be as influential as he was at certain stages of the season! However, his dodgey match reports will most definitely not be missed.

10. And finally, what are your realistic targets for this season?

I would obviously love to go a step further than last season and win both the Junior 1 League and Irish Junior Cup, but that will be a big ask with so many changes to the 2nd XI squad this summer. Personally, my only target is to improve on my performances last season and to take the season one match at a time. I had my best season to date last year, making just one error which is pleasing so hopefully I can continue improving and playing well!