EY Champions Trophy Weekend Preview
This Saturday and Sunday sees the biggest weekend in Irish club hockey return to Banbridge Hockey Club’s superb complex at Havelock Park after a 2 year break. The cream of both the ladies and mens teams will descend on Havelock Park for the culmination of the EY Hockey League season which will see the top 4 sides in their respective leagues battle it out in a semi-final and final format to be crowned EY Champions for 18/19.
On the ladies side league winners Pegasus will be first up in their semi-final and will be favourites to account for Cork Harlequins who finished 4th in their league by virtue of their final weekend win over Ards which ironically relegated the Co Down outfit. Pegasus, coached by Greg Thompson, romped to league success with 2 weeks to spare and with the likes of Shirley McCay, Alex Speers, and former Banbridge Academy stars Lucy McKee and Steph Thompson in their ranks they are a top outfit.
Cork will be waiting on the fitness of key defender Cliodhna Sargent who sustained a nasty knee injury several weeks ago. Cork however have already accounted for Pegasus in the semi-final of the Irish Senior Cup and will be a tough nut for the for the Belfast side to crack. However Pegs have been very thorough in the preparation and have had several run-outs on Bann’s excellent new surface and will be favourites to progress to Sunday’s final.
The other semi-final is a closer call with Dublin sides Loreto and UCD clashing in the second semi-final. Both will fancy their chances and have potential match winners in their ranks. Loreto came from nowhere last year to lift the title at Grange Road whereas UCD have enjoyed top billing for several seasons however the loss of several key players including Ireland captain Katie Mullan may just tip the scales in Loreto’s favour.
All 4 sides will feature players from Ireland’s historic World Cup finalists’ team and all will be giving their upmost to land the premier title in Irish club hockey. The Pegasus Cork game hits-off at 10.30 followed by the UCD Loreto game at 12.30pm.
On the mens side league winners Lisnagarvey take on Glenanne in the first semi and given the way in which the Hillsborough side powered their way to the league title they will be clear favourites to make Sundays final. Two recent clashes saw them account for the Dublin side in the league and the Irish Senior Cup and Errol Lutton’s heady mix of youth and experience led by James Corry and Johnny Bell are the form team. Can they deliver when it matters most?
The second semi sees Bann, backed by Select Insurance and Hannath Estate Agents, take on old adversaries Three Rock Rovers in what should be a cracker of a game if any of their 3 meetings this season are to go by. Both have won a game and one shared in three thrill-a-minute games. Dublin kingpins Rovers will probably go in the game as slight favourites given their final league position above Bann and their recent European ventures which saw them exposed to 2 top class fixtures at the EHL.
However Bann at home in front of a hopeful full house are a different animal and Mark Tumilty’s squad will be going full out to reach Sunday’s final. Driven on by the likes of their talisman Eugene Magee, and Petey Brown and Johnny McKee they will be looking forward to knocking Rovers off their perch as defending champions.
A classic encounter is on the cards again and while the head says a close Rovers win, the heart is firmly on Bann’s side and what price a Garvey Bann shoot-out in Sunday’s final! Glenanne and Three Rock will be out to ruin the script. The Garvey Glenanne game is at 3pm followed by Bann Rovers at 5pm.
The ladies final is scheduled for 2.30pm on Sunday followed by the mens final at 4.45pm. Aside from the 2 finals on Sunday, also being played is the ladies relegation play-off between Queens, beaten in the straight promotion play-off by Catholic Institute from Limerick last weekend and Muckross who finished in 9th place above Ards in the play-off place. The start time for this match is 11.30am. Ticket prices for the weekend have just been announced with adult admission per day being £15, children aged 12-18 set at £6, and under 12s free. Family ticket options are available, and supporters are encouraged to take in more than 1 game to get value for money and enjoy the full spectator experience. With a spectator stand, Bann’s “Havelock Hut” food court serving hot food and freshly ground coffee and tea, and a tuckshop all in operation it promises to be a full-on weekend!
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