Derby Time at Havelock Park!

This Saturday sees the Swallow Groupage and Shoefair Sports backed Bann return to their Havelock Park base for the 1st time in 4 games with a mouth-watering clash with neighbours and fellow Ulster Premier League challengers Lisnagarvey. This fixture continues to be the most eagerly awaited fixture within both camps and despite being only the 2nd game of the new campaign will go a long way to deciding who will take the initiative in the league title race. Bann being reigning champions and on home turf will be earmarked as favourites.

Saturday’s game hits off at 5pm at Ulster hockey aims to showpiece their key fixtures and none come bigger than the clash between these two heavyweights. Everywhere you look on the pitch next Saturday there will be internationals on show with Bann expected to include no fewer than eight current or ex internationals. None come bigger than Eugene Magee, one of Irish hockey’s leading cap winners, and his return to Bann has created a frenzy of interest in the local game.

Eugene’s burgeoning understanding with another one of Bann’s stars, Bruce McCandless, has already seen Bann chalk up 21 goals in their opening 3 games of the season. These pair along with Ulster hockey leading goal scorer last year, Stevie Dowds, should ensure that the large crowd expected to head to Havelock Park will be in for a game of high quality.

Garvey will not be coming along just to make up the numbers and with players of the quality of Tim Cockram, Jonny Bell, Mark Raphael, and James Lorimar will be looking to shock Bann in their own backyard. Both games last season ended in stale mate with the respective home teams having the upper hand but unable to find the killer blow.

Both teams are well placed in the Kirk Cup and are expected to make the semis and both enjoyed opening wins in their league campaigns. Garvey overcame Cookstown at their Hillsborough base while Bann enjoyed a 6 goal romp at Lough Moss against Annadale. Last season saw both sides in a two horse race for the title with Bann just edging their oldest rivals in a thrilling campaign and Bann will be out to defend their hard earned title.

Bann coach Mark Tumilty will take stock of his troops after a tricky midweek trip to Instonians at 8pm on Tue night in the Kirk Cup but is expected to name a full strength squad for the big game. Schoolboy Johnny McKee is the only doubt in the Bann set-up while Garvey coach, former Bann assistant , Errol Lutton, will also be hoping his players come through unscathed in a midweek game at home to Harlequins.

Hopefully the weather will stay kind and allow the expected bumper crowd to enjoy this much eagerly clash of two of Irish hockey’s oldest and much decorated clubs. Hot food will be available in the club house prior and during the game and Bann will be hoping that this hot reception is replicated on the pitch whereas Garvey will be looking to put this fire out! One thing is for sure Havelock Park will be no place for the faint hearted come 5pm!