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Bann captain Eugene Magee's men handed perfect incentive to reach EY Irish Hockey Champions Trophy play-offs

By Graham Hamilton

Banbridge have been given the perfect incentive to reach the EY Irish Hockey Champions Trophy play-offs - the hosting of the prestigious end-of-season series.

Bann currently lie third in the Irish Hockey League but could slip out of the play-off places this weekend if they lose to current leaders and derby rivals Lisnagarvey at Hillsborough (3pm).

Only the top three from the IHL will qualify for the series at Havelock Park, to be joined by the Irish Senior Cup winners over the April 30 to March 1 weekend to decide who will represent Ireland in Europe.

And Bann captain Eugene Magee wants his team to be part of the play-offs, not only because of what it offers, but as it will also guarantee sell-out crowds at the Lurgan Road ground.

Bann, though, are realistic and know Saturday's trip to Garvey will be difficult - they lost to the Blues early in the season and since then they have added international striker Mikey Watt to their squad.

Magee scored twice last week as Bann stormed back from two down to win 4-2 against Railway.

But Garvey have now won eight on the trot, with last week's single goal success at fancied Monkstown giving them a big seven-point lead at the top.

Meanwhile, second-bottom Annadale have a great opportunity to build on their first win last week and ease any relegation worries when they take on Cork C of I at Lough Moss.

Cork haven't won since they beat the Dale 2-0 in the deep south back in mid-October and Andy Smyth's lads are quite capable of reversing that result to close the gap on the pack.

Cookstown, though, have another toughie with a trip to a Glenanne side whose South African Shannon Boucher has scored 12 goals in his last seven games, mostly from penalty corners.

In the Ulster Premier League, Instonians take on Harlequins as they chase their 14th straight win while main rivals Kilkeel have the Mourne derby at Newry.

The big game in the Senior League sees leaders Bangor visit second-placed Campbellians with just three points separating them going into the final games.

Armagh, meanwhile, host Bray in the Irish Hockey Challenge with a place in the final at stake.

Finally, the provincial play-offs for men and women will be staged at Lisnagarvey and Monkstown's Merrion Fleet Arena from April 15-17.

The two pool winners will go forward to the knockout stages the following weekend at Three Rock's Grange Road with the winners gaining a place in next season's IHL and the runners-up facing this season's second bottom team in the IHL in a promotion/relegation battle.

Belfast Telegraph


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