Get down to Havelock this weekend

This Saturday provides a great opportunity to see both ladies and mens 1st XIs in respective league action as both seek to pick-up points for different but equally very important reasons.  The ladies will be looking to pick up another win in their quest to continue their climb into mid-table safety when they take on Ballymena in the Ulster Premier League while the men will be seeking to maintain their challenge at the top of the EY Hockey league with a victory over Dublin side Pembroke Wanderers.

The ladies 1s, sponsored by McCormick Fleet Solutions, will be hoping to find the form that saw them clinch a very impressive 5-1 victory recently over Dungannon when they take on struggling Ballymena where a win would take further away from the wrong end of the table.  Defeat to a strong Queens outfit and a disappointing defeat last week at Mossley followed that but Bann coach Phil Rankin will be more focused on picking up the 3 points on offer this week to ensure his side consolidate their mid-table place in the league.

Irish Under 21 stars Olivia Berry and Nadia Benallal are injury doubts due to a hand and knee injuries respectively and their possible inclusions would be a real boost for Bann but an assessment of their injuries will be made nearer the time. Aside from these two the locals will broadly stick with the same squad that has served them well since Christmas and will continue to rely on the talents of their schoolgirls, students and experienced players to hopefully notch up a vital win.

The men 1s, sponsored by Hannath Estate Agents and Select Insurance, will be chomping at the bit to get back into EY All Ireland League action after the winter break having only had a handful of meaningful games, including their Boxing Day Kirk Cup victory, since the league went into hibernation last November.  The locals currently sit in 2nd place on goal difference from Dubliners Glenanne but crucially have a game in hand.

This Saturday they entertain Pembroke Wanderers who are level with Bann on points but are behind them on goal difference with an extra game played.  This will be the first meeting of the sides this year with the Dublin side picking up the 3 points on offer when the teams last played albeit last season.

The Dublin side have lost the talents of Irish internationals Alan Sothern and Kirk Shimmins who are both now plying their trade on the continent with professional contracts in Belgium.  They have however found a system that appears to be working well and have already claimed the scalp of Lisnagarvey this season and have proved a tough nut to crack.  They have been relying on the prowess of Keith O’Hare from penalty corners and Bann will need to limit these if they are to be successful.

Bann coach Mark Tumilty will await news this week on the hand injury sustained  by Olympian Eugene Magee at the World Cup in India before Christmas.  Tumilty will be hoping that Magee gets the all clear to return to the fold and lead his side as the business end of the season approaches. Bann are a different animal with Magee in the side and his experience along with the likes of Johnny McKee, Jamie Wright, Bruce McCandless and Peter Brown provide the backbone of the team.

The locals have also been boasted by the return of Peter Brown after a niggling hamstring injury and it is also pleasing to see Phillip Brown back to playing again after a long term injury.  Hopefully Phillip’s return continues as he plays for the 2nds and will shortly aim to be included in the 1st XI squad again.  His defensive abilities along with his prowess at short corners would certainly add to Tumilty’s options.

Bann will need all their playing resources as they embark on a possible 8 or 9 games this month depending on how the Anderson Cup pans out as they will do battle on three fronts with key games coming up in the league, Irish Senior Cup and Anderson Cup.  This will stretch the squad resources to the limit but Bann are fortunate to have a strong wider playing squad and everyone will be up to ensure Bann stay competitive on all fronts.

Saturdays games hit-off at 2.30pm for the men and 4pm for the ladies, weather permitting, and with Ireland taking on England in their Six Nations opener at 4.45pm live on the big screen in the club, Havelock Park will be the place to be for all avid sports fans.