Men’s 1st XI Preview

The jostling, preseason friendlies, transfers, tinkering and tactic changing are all complete and next weekend sees the start of the EY Hockey League and it’s straight in for the 10 teams with a double header schedule of games this Saturday and Sunday. Bann will be hoping to start off in positive fashion with it being a massive season for them on and off the pitch.

Early October sees them venture into Europe again and this time there will be no need to plan any foreign trips as they will be hosting round 1 of the European Hockey League at Havelock Park.  First of all though they will be striving to wrestle the EYHL league crown and play-off title away from their neighbours and fierce rivals Lisnagarvey who stormed to a double success last season.

Bann start their league campaign on Saturday with a tricky home tie against Dublin side Three Rock Rovers who just missed out on the play-offs last season.  The locals enjoyed a comfortable home victory last season but were held to a scoreless draw in the corresponding game in Dublin.  The youthful Dublin side were denied a play-off place in the final weekend and will prove a tough nut to crack for the locals.

Both squads are still settling in after the summer break but Rovers are expected to be along the same lines as last season with ace keeper Jamie Carr between the sticks and the youthful work of Jody Hoskins combining with the experienced Peter Blakeney going forward.  They traditionally have been able to raise their game for the big games and have been a bit of a draw specialist over the past few seasons.

Bann, backed by Swallow Groupage, have seen a change in personnel with Stephen Dowds move to work in London but they have recruited the services of Matthew Allister, son of former Bann ace Colin, from Annadale.  With Eugene Magee hoping to make a return to the fold after his Olympic exploits the locals will be looking to chalk up two opening wins.  Coach Mark Tumilty has lost the services of utility man Ross Beattie with a hamstring injury but he should still have the nucleus of last season’s squad available.

Their preseason form has seen them notch up wins over Kilkeel and Instonians before losing two tight high profile games in England against top sides Beeston and Loughborough University.  They then completed their preseason programme with an excellent victory at Monkstown last Saturday.  The hard work is now over and it’s down to fine tuning their plans as the serious action begins in earnest.

There is no chance of resting on their laurels as Sunday sees Bann head off to Tallaght to take on Glenanne in their second game.  Tallaght is always a difficult ground to get a result and Bann will have to be weary of the Dublin’s side’s pride in home advantage.  The locals will be regarded as favourites however the locals only scrambled a draw in the same fixture last season with the Glens possessing a good keeper and an expert drag flicker at corners.

Saturdays game at home hits off at 2.45pm and the Sunday game starts at 3pm in Tallaght.  Bann will be hoping to go one better than last season when they lost in the final of the playoffs and an opening double success would start them off on the right foot.