Bann coach Tumilty eager to prove point against rivals
Banbridge are riding the crest of a wave at the moment - unbeaten in the Irish Hockey League after five games, through to the EuroHockey League's knockout stages and a bye into the second round of the Irish Senior Cup.
But coach Mark Tumilty is just a little wary ahead of Sunday's derby clash against fierce rivals Lisnagarvey at Hillsborough, a game that brings together the current joint leaders of the IHL.
Tumilty recalls all too well how the wheels came off against Garvey last season - they lost THREE times to the Blues, home and away in the IHL and then in the end-of-season Irish Champions Trophy final.
Last year's game at Hillsborough is one he particularly wants to forget as Garvey romped to a 4-0 success. And that's something he wants to avoid this time round.
"I think the league is a lot closer this season," he said. "Garvey don't have Mikie Watt who did so well in attack, and we've started quite well, with that EHL pool win very pleasing."
The two Ulster giants sit at the top of the IHL with just goal difference separating them, and so Sunday's showdown is crucial.
Garvey were without the influential Jonathan Bell last week when they drew 2-2 at Cork C of I but the Irish international defender is likely to take his place in the line-up this time.
Skipper Daniel Buser said: "Jonathan tweaked his calf, so it was more of a precaution, but he should be fit to face Bann. We've no other injury worries and are looking forward to the game."
Buser has a good record of scoring against his rivals - the midfielder got two in the 4-0 win last year, scored the only goal in the triumph at Havelock Park and was also on the mark in the 3-1 Champions Trophy final victory.
Instonians head off to Cork C of I hoping to get something from the long trip while Monkstown face another Dublin derby, this time against Pembroke.
Meanwhile, the Kirk Cup semi-final double-header is at Mossley on Saturday with afternoon and evening starts.
Most are expecting a Cookstown and Annadale decider, but whisper that in front of Portadown who face the Tyrone men at 5.30pm, while a rejuvenated Belfast Harlequins are hoping to cause a shock against the Dale.
There's no form guide in either game as they have not met each other this season and also avoided each other last year, with two of the teams being in the IHL.
The Ports will certainly have to keep an eye on Cookstown's Greg Allen, who is keen to maintain his record of having scored in each game in which he has played this season.
And Harlequins must curtail Annadale's player/coach Peter Caruth whose international quality is always evident, but they are a well organised bunch this season since the arrival of Fergie Cosgrove as coach and are keen to upset the odds and reach the Boxing Day decider.