The talking is now over!
The meetings are all completed, the votes have all been cast, the majority decision has been implemented, the planning has been undertaken, and now it’s just down to what the sport is all about – competitive hockey. Much has been written, talked about, tweeted, emailed and texted but now it’s down to business and this Saturday at 5pm at Havelock Park sees history made with the opening round of games in the new EY Irish Hockey League.
Bann, backed by Swallow Transport, take on fellow Ulster side Annadale in the revamped EY IHL which will see the top sides in the country compete against each other on a regular basis to find the top club side in Ireland. The season long competition will see each side play in the 10 team league and fulfill home and away fixtures from September through to next April. The 4 Ulster sides in Ulster will battle it out with 5 sides from Leinster and 1 from Munster.
The locals have chosen to opt for later start times to attempt to maximise their gate and open up top class hockey to the local community and the wider hockey family. Saturday’s game hits off at 5pm and will see Bann seek to open up their account with a victory over their Ulster neighbours Annadale.
Bann will seeking to go one better than the previous two seasons which has seen them lose in the final on both occasions to Dublin kingpins Monkstown. Bann enjoyed a league double over the Lough Moss outfit last season but had to rely on a late goal to sneak a 3-2 win at home. The corresponding away fixture saw the locals secure a comfortable 5-1 victory en route to their GOC Estates Ulster Premier League title win.
Bann have lost the services of the retired Scott Forbes but regained the talents of Josh Moffett who has returned from a year in the USA. These two changes aside it is the same squad that came so close last year to a place in the history books with the IHL final defeat to Monkstown denying the locals the much vaunted grand slam of 5 senior trophies.
Bann coach Mark Tumilty has been putting his squad through their places and will be pleased to have his senior internationals back in the fray after their exploits in Belgium and London over the summer. Bann warmed up for their opening fixture with wins over Garvey and Dubliners Pembroke Wanderers at a preseason event at Garvey last weekend.
Annadale coach Andy Smyth has recruited the services of a talented Australian forward for the season but ironically he doesn’t arrive until Sunday therefore missing the Bann game. It is likely to be something similar for Smyth again this year with his squad with their game plan likely to be structured around the talents of senior international Michael Robson who was in London with Bann’s Matthew Bell and Eugene Magee.
Robson combined with the services of the experienced ex internationals Davy Smyth and Chris Jackson combined with flying winger Matthew Allister, and the Edgar twins could prove a tough nut to crack for the locals. So why not come down to Havelock Park to be part of history, see what all the talk is about, and above all enjoy the top hockey players in the country in flat out action!