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Banbridge still believe we can reach Irish Hockey League play-offs, insists Tumilty


By Graham Hamilton

Banbridge coach Mark Tumilty is refusing to rule out the possibility of his team reaching the EY Irish Hockey League's end-of-season play-offs - even though they are lying back in seventh place.

Saturday's 3-2 win at Annadale finally ended a run of seven games without a win, and with the Magee brothers Eugene and Owen back in their line-up after lengthy injuries, Tumilty is expecting his side to make its mark in the second half of the season.

It was a different set of brothers - Peter and Philip Brown - that inspired Bann to their first win since the middle of October, scoring a goal each on Saturday as they completed the double over their Ulster rivals.

And with the Magee brothers back in harness, as well as Johnny McKee who had shoulder and ankle injuries as well as sickness, it surely boosts attacking options.

With goalkeeper Gareth Lennox having shrugged off his finger injury and Philip Brown his facial injury, a full-strength squad now augurs well.

Eugene, the most capped Irish international, returned after sustaining a broken finger while younger brother Owen is relieved to be back in action after a knee injury that had kept him sidelined for most of the season.

"We're only eight points adrift of third placed Monkstown and we have two games in hand, so there's a lot to play for," insists Tumilty, who earlier won the Sports Institute for Northern Ireland's Club Performance Coach of the Year award, and is also nominated for the Belfast Telegraph Sports Awards' Coach of the Year later this month.

"We showed character in coming from a goal down at Annadale to win and with three home games in a row coming up (Cookstown tomorrow evening and then Lisnagarvey on February 2 and Railway Union on February 11), there is a belief we can make up lost ground."

Fergus Gibson had given the Dale the lead before the Brown brothers struck along with Jamie Wright to turn the game around, although a late goal from Rhiley Carr sustained interest to the end.

The frosty weather ruled out Garvey's home game against Pembroke and Cookstown's home game with Cork C of I, but leaders Glenanne stretched their unbeaten run to 11 games by scoring three times in four minutes right at the death to beat Three Rock 5-2 and open a sizeable gap at the top.

Monkstown's 2-0 win over Railway saw them climb to third but both Garvey and Bann have games in hand.

Kilkeel skipper Mark Stevenson helped his side close the gap on Ulster Premier League leaders Instonians and Bangor by claiming a hat-trick in the 3-0 win at Civil Service.

His first came in the opening half with a lovely shot on the reverse and the other two late on from penalty corner deflections.

The only other game to escape the weather was at Cliftonville where Mossley ran up a 4-0 win to stay in the frame.

Finally, Queen's will represent Ulster in the all-Ireland indoor championship finals after squeezing through against Antrim yesterday.

Just the two teams entered for the Ulster series, and both games ended in draws, with the students going through 4-3 in a shoot-out.

Finn Harkin was the Queen's hero, scoring a hat-trick in the second game.

EY Irish Hockey League: Annadale 2 (F Gibson, R Carr) Banbridge 3 (Peter Brown, Philip Brown, J Wright); Monkstown 2 (S Cole, G Cole) Railway Union 0; Glenanne 5 (G Shaw, R Couse, S Boucher, N Byrne, S O'Donoghue) Three Rock Rovers 2 (P Blakeney, L Madeley); Lisnagarvey v Pembroke Wanderers (postponed); Cookstown v Cork C of I (postponed)

Ulster Premier League: Cliftonville 0 Mossley 4 (M Sullivan, A Monahan, M Anderson , R McIvor); Civil Service 0 Kilkeel 3 (M Stevenson 3); Newry v Bangor (postponed); Belfast Harlequins v Instonians (postponed)

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