Banbridge quickly adapt to life without top scorer Stephen Dowds
Fears that Banbridge might suffer following the loss of prolific scorer Stephen Dowds have been put to rest after they opened the new EY Irish Hockey League season with a win and a draw over the weekend.
Some felt Mark Tumilty's side would miss his striking prowess and penalty corner precision following his move to London for employment, but a 4-2 win over Three Rock on Saturday followed by a 2-2 draw in Dublin against Glenanne yesterday gave them a steady start to the campaign.
Yes, Tumilty would rather have Dowds available, but the return of Dane Ward from university and the acquisition of Matthew Allister from Annadale has redressed the balance while Matthew Bell showed too that he can put away set pieces with aplomb.
What might worry the coach, though, is that his team has conceded four goals already and that much tougher opposition has still to come, including current all-Ireland champions Lisnagarvey and Irish Senior Cup winners Monkstown, who have both opened with two wins from two.
Against Three Rock, Bann came from behind to secure their win whereas they twice led against Glenanne but drew.
Bell struck twice against Three Rock, the first a penalty corner rebound and the second a corner conversion while Jamie Wright scored twice from open play.
Against Glenanne, the goals came from Johnny McKee and Eugene Magee, and now it's on to this week's all-Ulster clash against newly promoted Instonians at Havelock Park.
Garvey struggled against UCD and had to settle for a 3-2 home win on Saturday, but Errol Lutton's lads were much more clinical yesterday as they romped to a 7-0 win to suggest they won't give up their title easily.
James Lorimer took his tally to three over the weekend and brothers Matthew and Daniel Nelson were both on the mark in the win at Railway.
Instonians have had a baptism of fire with two difficult games to open, but Steven Redpath's lads ran both Pembroke and Monkstown close before losing 2-1 and 3-1 respectively.
There was no doubting the big game in the Ulster Premier League and the Annadale and Cookstown clash lived up its billing, with six goals shared.
The Dale went behind, then were 2-1 ahead, went behind 3-2 and finally earned their point with a last gasp strike from player/coach Peter Caruth.
Ex-Raphoe star Ben Wallace scored on his competitive debut for the Dale while Cookstown's former German U21 keeper Tobias Depperman pulled off a series of outstanding saves, and Greg Allen scored his ninth goal of the season in just four games.
EY Irish Hockey League: Saturday: Banbridge 4 (M Bell 2, J Wright 2) Three Rock 2 (M Darling, L Madeley); Lisnagarvey 3 (A Williamson, J Lorimer, N Glassey) UCD 2 (I Styles, J Henry); Pembroke 2 (K O'Hare, A Sothern) Instonians 1 (W Robinson); Monkstown 3 (L Cole, G Watkins, K Lynch) Cork C of I 0; Railway Union 2 (P Catchpole, D Mills) Glenanne 0
Yesterday: Instonians 1 (W Robinson) Monkstown 3 (D Cole, D Carson, K Smith); Glenanne 2 (G Shaw, S O'Connor) Banbridge 2 (J McKee, E Magee); Railway Union 0 Lisnagarvey 7 (J Lorimer 2, M Nelson, D Nelson, P MacDonnell, D Buser, A Williamson); Cork C of I 3 (J Jermyn, P Sweetnam, J Dale) Pembroke 0; UCD 3 (B Campbell, B McCrea, R Browne) Three Rock 3 (L Madeley, R Canning, K Mullins)
Ulster Premier League: Kilkeel 2 (J Finlay, M Stevenson) Civil Service 1 (T Priestley); Raphoe 2 (A Tinney, L Witherow) Portadown 3 (N Gilmore, A Stevenson, J Brown); Newry 4 (D England 2, D Andrews, R Irwin) Harlequins 4 (L McClelland 2, N Anderson, S McGrath) North Down 4 (M Nicholls, G McKeown, J Gilmore, C Speers) Mossley 3 (S Todd, H Dow, M Moreland); Annadale 3 (M Robson, B Wallace, P Caruth) Cookstown 3 (A McWhirter, K Black, G Allen)