Tumilty calls on Banbridge to reserve seat at top table
Banbridge is a hockey hot-bed at the moment. Already the Academy girls have won the Belfast Telegraph School's Cup and the Kate Russell all-Ireland championship double, and the Academy boys won the McCullough Cup and were beaten all-Ireland finalists.
Now it's the turn of the town's senior club, who hope to win silverware when they take on Monkstown in this Sunday's Irish Senior Cup final in Dublin.
Coach Mark Tumilty has challenged his players to qualify for Europe for the second season on the trot - and they can take the first step towards that by winning the Irish Senior Cup final against Monkstown on Sunday in Dublin.
The Cup winners automatically go into the end-of-season Irish Champions Trophy play-offs along with the top three Irish Hockey League teams, and from that the two European representatives will be decided.
And Tumilty, although delighted at how this campaign is going, wants his side to measure up now that the business end of the season has arrived.
"We've only lost one game this season to date, but it all counts for nothing unless we get across the line," he contended.
"First up we have the Irish Senior Cup on Sunday, followed by Lisnagarvey in the Irish Hockey League in midweek. Then it's off to Eindhoven for the EuroHockey League knockout phase over Easter, and then we've to complete our Irish Hockey League programme and at the moment we're handily placed.
"Finally, there are the end-of-season play-offs from which Euro spots are handed out. It's essential we make it through - at the moment we're doing great, but we've won nothing yet."
There's good news for Tumilty in that he has a full strength squad for probably the first time this season.
"Fraser Mills returned from injury last week, and this week we have Owen Magee returning - he hasn't played since Christmas," said the coach.
"But we have to be careful. Monkstown have an excellent pedigree in finals, and they're probably looking revenge for the 5-1 defeat against us earlier in the season."
Meanwhile, there are just three games in the Irish Hockey League, with leaders Three Rock likely to extend their lead to four points by beating third-bottom Railway Union, although Bann would have two games in hand.
And bottom club Instonians need something from their home game against Cork C of I if they are to close the gap on the pack, especially as two of the other struggling teams - UCD and Glenanne - face one another.
Also, the Senior One title race continues, with the top four involved in their round-robin series to determine the champions, who will get automatic promotion to the Premier League, and the runners-up, who will take on the Premier's second-bottom team Campbellians in a promotion/relegation play-off.
Title favourites South Antrim go to Bangor on Saturday hoping to bounce back after their Irish Hockey Trophy final defeat to North Down last weekend, while Antrim face Queen's aiming to consolidate the runners-up place.
MEN’S SENIOR FIXTURES
TOMORROW: Senior One: South Antrim v Antrim (Friends’ School, 8.15pm)
Ferris Cup final: Friends’ v Sullivan Upper (Upper Malone, 2pm)
SATURDAY: EY Irish Hockey League: Instonians v Cork C of I (Shaw’s Bridge, 3pm); Three Rock Rovers v Railway Union (Grange Road, 1pm); UCD v Glenanne (Belfield, 1pm)
Premier League: Annadale v Raphoe (Lough Moss, 2.30pm); Civil Service v Campbellians (Stormont, 2.30pm)
Senior One: Bangor v South Antrim (Aurora, 2.30pm); Antrim v Queen’s (Antrim Forum, 1pm)
Sussex Cup: Ballynahinch v Cliftonville (St. Colman’s HS, 1pm)
SUNDAY: Irish Senior Cup final: Banbridge v Monkstown (UCD, 3.15pm).