Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 13 July 2014

Bann can ‘bridge gap

Banbridge may have been gutted by the manner of their Irish Hockey League semi-final exit on Saturday, but they are already looking ahead to next year's competition.

And coach Suzanne Evans and her players won't be too unhappy with the announcement of next year's pools — they may be in the same one as newly crowned IHL champions Pembroke, but they seem to have avoided what some are already calling the group of death.

Bann join second placed Ulster team Instonians as well as Pembroke and Leinster's fourth placed team Monkstown, with the remaining two slots to be decided later today.

One will be either Munster champions Cork C of I or runners-up Cork Harlequins, and the other will be come from the wild card play-offs, either Lisnagarvey and probably Corinthian.

Ulster champions Cookstown and the province's fourth team Annadale join IHL runners-up Glenanne and last year's winners Three Rock, with the other Munster team and the other wild card winner completing the pool.

It proved a marvellous weekend of hockey, with Irish Senior Cup winners Pembroke beating Three Rock in their semi-final and then finally beating Glenanne 2-1 in a shoot-out after the game had finished 2-2 after extra time. Glenanne, though, will get the second European slot next season.

Bann captain Gareth Lennox believes the IHL has breathed fresh life into Irish hockey, but feels that the governing body need to address teething problems that have dogged the competition.

The Irish international goalkeeper and his fellow Bann players were gutted by the manner of their semi-final defeat at the

hands of Glenanne — a 5-4 thriller, Ross McCandless bagging a hat trick, that was a a tremendous advert for the sport on the pitch but a little bit of a disaster off it.

Bann had two goals disallowed in controversial circumstances and then conceded a goal at the end of the third quarter when time was already up according to the official timing clock.

"The IHL has given our sport a massive shot in the arm, but it's clear there are teething problems which will have to be sorted out promptly," said Lennox.

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