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  • Writer's pictureStruan Hope

16-09-2023 Match Reports: Banbridge Hockey Club kicks off their season.


Last weekend saw the start of competition for Banbridge Hockey Club with all nine teams in action. In a sharp contrast to last weekend, the weather did not cooperate with the first of the weekends matches on Friday evening being played in torrential rain. That did nothing to dampen the atmosphere as the Ladies and Men’s 4s took to the field to begin their campaigns against Bangor and North Down respectively. The majority of the travelling this weekend was done by the ladies with the Ladies 1s & 2s both playing away. The Ladies 3s and 5s were the only team on that side of the club to play in Banbridge as they faced Coleraine at Havelock and South Antrim at Banbridge Academy respectively.

The on the Men’s side it was a different story with all four sides playing at home. The only slight exception was the Men’s 3s who played their game at the Academy rather than Havelock.

Friday

On Friday Banbridge Ladies 4th XI played Bangor 3rd XI away in the junior 7 league. Banbridge started off in determined fashion, despite the poor weather conditions, and worked hard to put Bangor under pressure. Banbridge were unlucky when a free for Bangor resulted in an early goal for the home side. Bangor secured a second goal minutes later capitalising on a break in play.

Banbridge played well throughout the second quarter with Lucy Friar making some great tackles in the Banbridge back line. Halfway through the second quarter a strike from Cara Purdy from a short corner placed Banbridge on the score boards. Keeper, Danielle Black, had some great saves to help ensure the score remained 2-1 at the end of the second quarter.

Bangor tried throughout the third quarter to increase their lead however Banbridge worked hard to keep the score 2-1.

Bangor dominated the play throughout the final quarter and put the Banbridge defence under considerable pressure. Emma O’Neill and Cara Purdy worked hard in midfield to create chances for Banbridge. However, despite their efforts, the home side secured a further two goals from breaks in play. When the final whistle below, the score was 4-1 to the home side.

Thanks to Bangor for providing both umpires and hosting the match

Also on Friday, Bann Men’s 4s welcomed North Down for the first game of the season in the Junior League 3 Cup. Bann had an experienced squad with the youthful additions of Mills, Ewart and Ireland.

It was the 4s first game on the new pitch and they started brightly probing the North Down defence. Bann opened the scoring with Ireland tapping in a rebound from close range. Dean caused North Down issues with his pace and doubled Bann’s lead. As Bann continued to apply pressure in the first half, they increased their lead with a great drag flick from Fee into the corner of the net. Bann were dominating the midfield and Dean scored Bann’s fourth after good work from Ewart.

Bann continued where they left off in the first half with McCandless getting on the scoresheet and Fee and Ireland completing their braces. Final score Bann 7 North Down 0.

Saturday

The Ladies 1s’ season began against the very strong opposition travelling away to Belfast to play Queens University. Banbridge had a nervous start trying to settle into the game with a newly formed squad with many young debutants and a new coach. Queens were on the front foot from the start scoring 2 within the opening period. Banbridge won a penalty corner at the end of the first quarter and Cunningham scored a stunning drag flick into the bottom right hand corner of the goal. The remaining quarters followed the same format with Queens dominating the play with many short corners and goals. The game ended 8-1 to Queens. Banbridge ladies had a tough first match but will continue to work hard this season to improve results.



Banbridge ladies 2s took the trip to Deramore Park to take on Harlequins Ladies 3s.

Bann thought they’d scored early on from an excellent short corner, however it was not awarded due to a premature whistle from the umpire, awarding another short corner that they were unable to convert. Harlequins were first to score from a break down in play.

Banns opportunity to equalise presented itself in the second quarter from a short corner. A left slip allowed Sophie Mount in for the deflection into the back of the net.

After half time Warning took her chance on the left of the keeper to secure Banns 2nd goal.

In the final quarter Bann came out fighting and won a stroke, which was scored by Hewitt into the right corner. Bann fought with all their efforts to secure something from the game, but in the final minutes of the game Harlequins scored from a short corner making the final score Bann 3 and Harlequins 4.

The Ladies 3s opponents, Coleraine 2s, on paper posed a formidable challenge, having been a solid mid-table team in Junior 3 last season. However, the Banbridge Ladies were equal to the challenge and gained their first point in Junior 3.

Banbridge dominated much of the early play but failed to convert their chances, leading to a scoreless first quarter.

As the second quarter began, Banbridge Ladies started to find their rhythm, moving ahead with a well worked goal by Hewitt. The half ended with Bann 1-0 up.

The Banbridge Ladies continued their dominance into the third quarter, confining much of the play to Coleraine's half, but despite creating some great chances, Banbridge couldn't extend their lead, and the quarter ended 1-0.

Inevitably, in the fourth quarter, the visitors from the North Coast applied pressure on Banbridge. They won a series of short corners, and despite some great saves, they finally converted to level the score at 1-1.

The match ended in a draw, which, considering they were facing an experienced Junior 3 team, was probably an acceptable result. However, it was evident that the newcomers to the league were the stronger team, and Banbridge could have, and perhaps should have, taken all three points.

Banbridge Ladies 5’s started their league campaign with a home game against South Antrim. Banbridge started Q1 with only 10 players and as expected South Antrim had a lot of the ball, however the Banbridge defence held strong to keep the score level. By the start of Q2 Banbridge were up to 11 players and started to offer some pressure. Q2 was an even affair with the score remaining 0-0 at the halfway mark. Into the 2nd half and Banbridge started to push forward more. The best opportunity came with a big hit out from the Banbridge defence that was deflected by Mooney, but the South Antrim keeper was quick to react and made the save. Both teams pushed for the winner in Q4 with the Banbridge forwards having a number of shots in the circle, but all were defended well by South Antrim. The game finished 0-0 but Banbridge will take the positive of playing well with such a young team.

The Men’s 1s get their campaign underway at home to YMCA. YMCA came out of the gates fastest as they took an early lead through Marriott. They managed to hold on to this lead until five minutes into quarter three when they conceded a penalty stroke. This was converted by Jake Rowe to put Banbridge level. Louis Rowe gave Banbridge the lead shortly after this and Bann led 2-1 at the end of quarter three. Things remained tight until six minutes from the end when Moffett made it 3-1 to Banbridge. In an effort to get back on terms YM withdrew their goalkeeper in favour of another attacker and found themselves further behind when McKee scored a fourth. Magee made the final score 5-1 just on the hooter.


Immediately preceding that match, the Men’s 2s had welcomed Lisnagarvey in a highly anticipated meeting of the two rivals.

Banbridge Men’s 2s played their first game of the new season against a strong Garvey 2s side. With Banbridge lining up with Haw in nets and a back four of Brown, Stevenson, Best and Walker building tempo into the game and seizing control of possession early on, a midfield of Spence, Livingstone and Barlow working hard to break the deadlock and a strike force consisting on Mckee, Finlay and Brownlee causing havoc upfront with the added depth and strength to the squad with the bench with Gallagher, Reiner, Baird and Cowan. The first goal came from a rifled short corner by Brown in the third quarter to be followed by a carbon copy only a few minutes later by Brown again. The Garvey men fought back seizing 2 goals in the final quarter leaving the game 2-2 continuing the fierce rivalry into the new season.

It was a clash of the promoted sides in the Junior 1 League Cup as the Men’s 3s took on the Junior 2 champions from last season, Kilkeel. It was the first time out for the Bann side, and it showed in the first part of the match as they struggled to get rid of the cobwebs and went down by an early goal. Getting into the swing as the game progressed, Bann were the better team for large portions of the game, showing great promise for the upcoming season. A first goal of the season for new boy Tumilty was a highlight as he picked up a nice cross field ball alone in the D and finished confidently on the reverse. Kilkeel restored their lead in short order and despite a frantic end Bann were unable to get back on terms a second time. Final score Bann 1, Kilkeel 2, disappointing defeat but promising start to the season.

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