Trio will miss Ireland duty to lead Bann's Euro glory bid
Irish coach Craig Fulton won't have his three Banbridge players on board when his squad take on Olympic champions Germany three times in Hamburg this weekend as part of their Rio build-up - because they have crucial club commitments.
Fulton would have preferred to have Bann trio Eugene Magee, Matthew Bell and Drew Carlisle, as well as goalkeeper David Harte, available, but all four are involved in European action.
Bann are off to Glasgow where they are hoping to land the EuroHockey Club Champions Trophy and possible promotion to Europe's elite next season while Harte is featuring with his Dutch club Kampong in the EuroHockey League's semi-finals.
The Irish games are part of the build-up to the Rio Olympics and the absence of the quartet gives Fulton the opportunity to use fringe players against one of the world's top nations.
The Green Machine - with Ulstermen Jonathan Bell, Paul Gleghorne, Timmy Cockram, Mikie Watt (Lisnagarvey), John Jackson (Reading), Chris Cargo (Racing Club Bruxelles) and Michael Robons (Annadale) in their ranks - face the Germans tomorrow evening (6.30pm), Friday evening (6.30pm) and Sunday morning (11am).
Bann, on the other hand, are facing four games in four days and Mark Tumilty's lads will have to reach the final if they are to improve rankings at this level which would warrant both Irish representatives getting into the top-flight EuroHockey League.
As if it wasn't difficult enough, Bann are facing three games in Pool A whereas whoever wins Pool B will go through to the final having played one game less, due to the withdrawal of the Azerbaijan champions.
It's hardly fair that the Pool B winners will get an extra day's rest but Tumilty remains optimistic despite being understrength.
Kyle Marshall, Josh Moffatt and Sam Farson won't be making the trip due to exams while Owen Magee and Jonny McKee will miss the opening game for the same reason before joining up in time for the remainder of the programme.
"It's going to be tough but we'll be giving it our best," assured Tumilty. "As well as those missing through exams, we've a few niggling injuries, but overall we've still got a strong squad.
"It's hard to assess the more difficult pool game - for example, you never know how strong the Belarus team is going to be and how many international players will be in their line-up."
Bann begin against Swiss side Rotweiss Wettingen tomorrow, continue against Minsk (Belarus) on Saturday and complete their pool programme against Scottish hosts Kelburne on Sunday.
Bann must top their pool to reach Monday's final against the Pool B winners which could be Slavia Praha (Czech Republic), BRA (Italy) or Cardiff (Wales), and if they achieve that, then it's surely the EHL next season.