Preview – Mens 1st XI vrs Monkstown – Sunday 16th Feb

Big time EY All Ireland League hockey returns to Havelock Park next week after the winter break with a Sunday fixture against old rivals Monkstown from south Dublin.  Sunday’s game is a key fixture for both clubs as they strive to maintain their challenge for a top 4 league finish and a ticket to the glamorous end of season play-offs with Bann’s Havelock Park base amongst the front runners to be hosts.

The sides met in the first match of the season back in late September at Monkstown’s Merrion Fleet Arena and the 2 sides slugged out a classic 2-2 draw.  The 2 sides have enjoyed some classic encounters over the years with the 2 clubs coming up against each other in no fewer than 3 successive All Ireland finals with ‘Town winning all 3 pulsating encounters.

Games over the past few seasons have been more even and the draw earlier this season proves again that the sides are well matched.  The clubs enjoy a healthy rivalry and with both clubs being well supported there has been a great atmosphere at the games between the 2 clubs.

Monkstown have enjoyed a good 1st half of the season and sit in 2nd place behind leaders Lisnagarvey while Bann are the form team over the past few weeks and have moved steadily up the table into 4th place after a slow start that actually saw them sit in last place after 4 games. 

A lot of hard work from the coaching team and the players has seen them find their form again and their defeat of league leaders and neighbours Lisnagarvey in Boxing Day’s Kirk Cup final showed how far they have progressed in a couple of months.  Their 8-0 thumping of Dublin YMCA in the opening game after the winter break has showed they have maintained this form and will be looking to push on as the 2nd half of the season really begins in earnest.

Monkstown will be a tough nut for the locals to crack with the talents of Irish keeper Dave Fitzgerald, player/coach Gareth Watkins and the corner prowess of Rory Nichols sure to test the Bann defence to the limit.  They will however miss the guile and experience of the injured David Cole and Jason Lynch who are both out until March.

Bann will be looking to the talents of Johnny McKee rapidly racing up the goal scoring chart with a 4 goal haul against YM and his striking partners the mercurial Magee brothers Eugene and Owen to do the damage against the Dubliners.  Coupled with the defensive exploits of Phillip Brown, Alex Tinney, Luke Witherow and Drew Carlisle and the silky skills of Peter Brown and Co in midfield, the locals are getting back to somewhere near their best.

Sunday’s game has a 2.30pm passback with refreshments and food available in the Clubhouse.  Saturday’s hockey at the club will see the ladies 1st XI continue their quest for Ulster Premier League points when they entertain Randalstown at Havelock Park at 2.30pm.