Boxing Day sees Bann’s senior men side return to Ulster Hockey’s biggest day out at the Kirk Cup final against Annadale at Lisnagarvey’s new pitch at Hillsborough with a 3.15pm start time.  This season has seen the locals return to the competition following a 2 year period out of Ulster Branch activity after a rule change denied the All Ireland League teams a place in the domestic cups.


Bann backed by Select Insurance and Hannath Estate Agents returned to the fray along with the 3 other All Ireland League teams following a rescinding of the banning rule and these 4 sides unsurprisingly occupied the 4 semi-finals berths after a series of group games.  In the semis Bann overcame their local rivals Garvey and Annadale then accounted for Cookstown in the other semi-final to set up the Boxing Day shoot-out.


Bann coach Mark Tumilty has used the competition to showcase some of the talents of the Bann stars of tomorrow by giving them plenty of pitch time to become more accustomed to life in the big league.  Tumilty has used in excess of 20 players in the group and semi-final stages as the likes of senior players Eugene Magee, Peter Brown and Bruce McCandless have been rested.


The locals have injury concerns with Magee who is highly unlikely to feature having sustained a broken hand at Ireland’s unsuccessful showing in the World Cup in India and Brown who is still nursing a hamstring injury.  Their main aim will be to be back in shape for the resumption of the All Ireland League in early February with Bann sitting in a strong positon in 2nd place just on goal difference.


Tumilty will still be able to call upon the likes of internationals Johnny McKee and Jamie Wright and this duo along with McCandless should form the backbone of his squad as he looks to land the trophy last won in 2015 against Cookstown.  It will still be a strong unit that lines out for Bann and Tumilty is likely to retain as many of the new players as possible to give them a further taste of the big time.


Annadale will be a tough nut for the locals to crack having accounted for Cookstown in last week’s rearranged semi-final.  The sides have met already this in the All Ireland League with Bann coming out on top 2-1 in a very tight midweek game at Strathearn School.


The locals will be well aware of Annadale’s lively talisman Peter Caruth and their ability to limit his input will go a long way to deciding the fate of the final as Caruth is involved in the majority of Dale’s forward movement.  In Ryan Burgess they also possess a player in form as his prowess at short corners has come to the fore recently with a string of conversions in their past 4 games.


This pair along with a promising crop of young players and the experience of Johnny Moore in goals gel together to form a hard working unit that Bann will have to work hard to break down.  They have the ability to match Bann and the

big question will be whether they can maintain the level required over 70 minutes or will Bann’s greater passing ability wear them down.


A thrilling game is expected against two attack minded teams with Bann being labelled as slight favourites due to recent league form and the mens final will be preceded as part of a festive double header by Pegasus taking on Belfast Harlequins in the Denman Ulster Shield Final.