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Garvey and Bann fear departure of their star players

 

By Graham Hamilton

Ulster's top two clubs - Banbridge and Lisnagarvey - are bracing themselves for an exodus of top players over the summer.

Garvey duo Neal Glassey and Michael Robson and Bann's Matthew Bell are currently negotiating with Belgian and German clubs with a view to spending at least a season abroad.

And Bann's Kyle Marshall is Nottingham bound as he moves to over for university.

The proposed moves are a blow to both clubs as it weakens them as they seek to keep the all-Ireland league crown in the province for a third season.

Bann coach Mark Tumilty admits the loss of Bell and Marshall would mean a drastic change in a defence which conceded fewer goals than any other in the season just finished.

Bell has arguably been the province's player of the year, with sublime performances at the heart of the defence but also with the ability to attack and to score from set-pieces.

Not only did he help Bann to all-Ireland league and cup glory, but also excelled in their run to the EuroHockey League's KO-16 round, and of course featured for Ireland as they won the World League 2 series at Stormont.

And schoolboy Marshall has been outstanding as sweeper, belying his age but surprisingly overlooked as a member of the Irish senior training panel.

In fact, he hopes to join English Premier League giants Beeston, who are based in Nottingham and already have Ulsterman Mark Gleghorne in their ranks.

And that could make him a target for the Great Britain set-up, as he has yet to be capped at senior Irish level.

"I have had Nottingham Trent university confirmed and I hope to join Beeston," said Marshall.

"It has been a memorable season at Bann and I wish them well."

The loss of Garvey duo Glassey and Robson would require a reshuffle in midfield where both have excelled for the Blues, although admittedly Robson's involvement was curtailed following his move from Annadale through injury.

Hockey Ireland, of course, established the full-blown all-Ireland league, hoping that one of its benefits would be to try to entice back home-grown players who were playing abroad.

But naturally, the trend of gaining valuable experience at a higher level remains an enticing carrot.

Ulster will have four all-Ireland teams next season, with Annadale and Cookstown -who face Kilkeel in tomorrow evening's Anderson Cup final at Banbridge's Havelock Park (7.30pm) - joining Bann and Garvey at the top table.

Meanwhile, Queen's kept alive their chances of reaching the Ulster Premier League when they beat Antrim 2-1 in the play-off to decide who finished Senior One runners-up.

The students will now face Campbellians, who finished second bottom in the Premier, to decide who will play in the top flight next season and who will be in Senior One. The play-off is scheduled for Shaw's Bridge on Wednesday evening (7.15pm).

Finally, there were victories for Lisnagarvey IV, Cookstown III and Raphoe IV in the McClements Cup, Junior Shield and Minor Cup finals on Saturday.

Results: Senior One promotion/relegation play-off: Queen's 2 (C Anderson, G Leckey) Antrim 1 (J McMeekin)

McClements Cup final: Lisnagarvey IV 2 (J Lynch, I Getty) Bangor II 1 (C Campbell)

Junior Shield final: Queen's II 1 (R Blair) Cookstown III (R Donaldson 2, D Atkinson)

Minor Cup final: South Antrim IV 0 Raphoe IV 0 (Raphoe won 3-1 on shoot-out)

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