Men’s Premier League Campaign Gets Underway
The new premiership season hits off this weekend and it promises to be a close contest at the top of the table, with defending champions Cookstown hoping to retain their championship crown.
The next few months promises to be full of twists and turns – willUlsterhockey continue to bring Irish trophies north, and will Banbridge win the Premiership for the first time since it was created twelve years ago?
Lisnagarvey’s return to European hockey after an absence of six years will be a highlight of the season. This time they make the short hop over to English sideEast Grinstead, who will host the October Euro League round.
There are a few notable absentees this season and non moreso, than the departure of Irish hockey’s young international star Ian Sloan who has left his beloved Cookstown. Sloan is off to Loughborough in England to start his university career.
Two Annadale vets, David Smyth and Gareth Kidd have stepped down from the top flight with Annadale, and will now be helping develop up and coming players through their second string.
Inst’s Nigel Skillen has called it a day between the sticks at Shaw’s Bridge. After making 600 appearances for the Inst, Skillen has stepped aside for the trio of keepers to make their claim for his number one shirt.
The Irish team are in a state of flux since the departure of Irish coach Paul Revington toMalaysia. It is not known when the new coach will be announced, but Revington will be a very hard act to follow no matter who gets the nod.
Ireland have reached the second round of the inaugural hockey world league competition which will be played in February/March and as yet they do not know where they will be playing, as it could be either India or Brazil.
In November the Irish squad is off toArgentinafor the Champions Challenge.
So it promises to be another disruptive season on the domestic front with so much international activity.
We take a look at the Ins and Outs at the clubs during the summer
Position last year: Champions
Coach: Stephen Cuddy and Michael Haycock
Captains: Greg Allen; Keith Black
Ins: Simon Todd (Mossley); Stuart Smyth (back from injury)
Outs: Ian Sloan (LoughboroughUniversity); Mark Crooks (ChesterUni); Timmy Smyth (LondonUni); Raymond Millar (LiverpoolUni)
Prediction: Life without Ian Sloan is a massive void, but the capture of Simon Todd from Mossley will go a long way to filling it. Can never be ruled out of winning a trophy.
Position last year: 2nd
Coach: Kyle Lunn and Errol Lutton
Ins: Peter Bland (Civil Service); Jonny Quigley (Annadale); James Lorimer (Mossley)
Outs: Michael Harte (retired)
Prediction: With very little change atComber Roadthey must be favourites to capture one of the major Irish trophies again. Looking forward to their return to the European stage in October.
Position last year: 3rd
Coach: Mark Tumilty
Captain: Colin Dowds
Ins: None; Josh Moffet (back after long term injury)
Outs: Ross McCandless (retired from 1st XI hockey); Scott McCandless (coaching) Errol Lutton (coach) to Lisnagarvey
Prediction: Can never be ruled out of winning a trophy but may miss out on a major Irish trophy this season. It will be unusual to see only one McCandless name on the Bann team sheet and not the normal three.
Position last year: 4th
Coach: Andy Smyth; Chris McCandless
Captain: Peter Purcell
Ins: Richard Kerrigan (Queens); Michael Gilmer (Civil Service); Paul Montgomery (South Antrim)
Outs: Peter Caruth (Braxgata,Belgium); Gareth Kidd and David Smyth (both retired)
Prediction: This young side is capable of winning a major Irish trophy this season and could even lift the Premiership title.
Position last season: 5th
Coach: Mark Irwin
Captain: James Corry
Ins: Richard Johnston (Mossley); Andrew Corry (North Down); Alan Patterson (Raphoe)
Outs: Nigel Skillen (retired)
Prediction: May finish in the top four this season but can not see any silverware heading to Shaw’s Bridge this season.
Position last season: 6th
Coach: Gareth Grundie
Captain: Thomas Priestly
Ins: No new faces at Stormont but David Bradley, Andrew Simpson and Aaron Gill will be all back after missing most of last season.
Outs: Peter Bland (Lisnagarvey)
Prediction: Even with former Scottish international Alan Hay establishing himself in the squad it looks like another mid table finish for Service.
Position last season: 7th
Coach: Harry McNeil
Ins: Michael Dorman (Lisnagarvey); Niall McGoldrick (Larne)
Outs: Richard Johnston (Inst); Simon Todd (Cookstown); James Lorimer (Lisnagarvey)
Prediction: Losing Todd,Johnston and now Irish Under 18 award nominee James Lorimer is a major loss for Mossley. Five players with an average age of 18 will form the back bone of the Mossley side and they will do well if they can remain out of the relegation dog fight.
Position last season: 8th
Coach: Robbie McMinn
Captain: Gareth Russell
Ins: Eddie Agnew (Queens)
Prediction: Now under new coach Robbie McMinn who switched fromArmaghduring the summer, Kilkeel will be hoping that they can break into the top half of the premiership, but that is a massive ask.
Position last season: 9th
Coach: Jonny Caren
Captain: Chris Lemon
Ins: Karl Patterson
Prediction: Poor Kirk cup results show the massive gap between the top premiership sides and the bottom sides. They could be very quickly sucked into a relegation battle if they do not get some early points on the scoreboard.
Position last year: Promoted from Senior One
Coach: Jonathan McMeekin
Captain: Alan Mullan
Prediction: They will not find it as easy as they did last season. Even though it is great to see Antrim back in the top flight, they could drop back very quickly if results against the bottom teams do not go their way.
Taken from The Newsletter
Written by Philip Allen