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IHL season must start earlier to avoid Euro nightmare, says Banbridge boss Tumilty

 

By Graham Hamilton

Banbridge coach Mark Tumilty is calling on Hockey Ireland to seriously consider starting the season earlier to help their clubs put up a stronger challenge in Europe.

Bann head off to Barcelona next week for their EuroHockey League campaign and this Saturday's trip to Railway Union will be the only competitive match under their belt before they go.

Admittedly, the two-week delay, caused by the impasse between Hockey Ireland and the Irish Hockey Umpires' Association - which was finally sorted out last Friday - hasn't helped.

But Tumilty feels that more thought should be put into helping those clubs who represent Ireland in Europe, and getting the season started earlier, as well as putting an end to the stop-start format, would be beneficial.

"The way things have turned out, our first home game will be on November 5," said Tumilty.

"It's costing us £10,000 for the Barcelona trip but we end up not having any home games before we go, which means there is little income coming through."

It's not good news for Tumilty on the playing front either.

Striker Johnny McKee, just back from the collarbone injury received in Johannesburg with Ireland, went over on his ankle in a hastily-arranged friendly following last week's postponements, and will now be sidelined for up to six weeks.

Already, Ireland's most-capped player, Eugene Magee, is battling his way back to fitness following his ankle injury out in Johannesburg, while Owen Magee and Jamie Wright have hamstring issues and Peter Brown doesn't arrive back from his stint in Australia until next week.

It gives new signings Zach McClelland, Luke Witherow, Alex Tinney and James Hutchinson an early chance to shape up.

Lisnagarvey start with a home game against Dublin giants Monkstown, but coach Errol Lutton will be banking on his young stars coming of age, after the loss of Michael Robson to German club Krefeld, where he links up with Banbridge's Matthew Bell and Pembroke's Ronan Gormley.

Newly-promoted Cookstown are keen not to get into the relegation dogfight which cost them their all-Ireland place two years ago, and hope to start with a home win over Pembroke.

"We are a very different team now than we were back then; a bit tougher, a bit smarter and hopefully a bit more ruthless," said Mark Crooks.

Ulster's other promoted team, Annadale, have a tough start - home to all-Ireland champions Three Rock Rovers.

Meanwhile, Kilkeel and Instonians, and perhaps Mossley, can book Kirk Cup semi-final places on Saturday, with Civil Service likely to claim the last place next weekend.

MEN’S SENIOR FIXTURES

SATURDAY: IHL: Cookstown v Pembroke (2.30pm), Annadale v Three Rock Rovers (2.30pm), Railway Union v Banbridge (2.40pm), Lisnagarvey v Monkstown (3pm)

Kirk Cup: Portadown v Kilkeel (1pm), South Antrim v Mossley (2.30pm), Instonians v Queen’s (1pm), N Down v Harlequins (4pm)

Linden Cup: Armagh v Ballynahinch (1pm), Antrim v Raphoe (1pm), Cliftonville v Bangor (2.30pm)

SUNDAY: IHL: C of I v Glenanne (2pm)

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