Barnes determined to resume normal Service in Linden final
Chris Barnes has been round the block in his two decades as a senior hockey player but now he is back where it all started and he's looking forward to Wednesday's Linden Cup final between Civil Service and Belfast Harlequins at Deramore (2pm).
The prolific Service striker had been scoring goals for fun this season before the festive break and has hit the target a staggering 38 times in just 10 matches so far.
Formerly with Instonians in two spells with the south Belfast outfit, he spent a season with Bangor in the Ulster Premier before moving back to Service for a second stint at the Stormont-based club.
He will obviously be a marked man in the New Year's Day showpiece although keeping tabs on him at penalty corners where he is especially effective will be a more difficult task for the Harlequins defence.
Barnes is happy to make his team's Belfast rivals favourites to lift the trophy in what will be a first appearance for both in the Linden Cup final.
That's because they were relegated from the Ulster Premier last season and while their objective will be to secure promotion from the Intermediate League, Wednesday's final is certain to be eagerly contested.
"I think Harlequins are big favourites, they have good players that have played Premier League hockey for many years," said Barnes.
"Our form has dipped a bit at the moment but I'm hoping because it's a final we can pick it up again.
"I think it'll be a very tough game and they pass the ball well and create good chances for themselves.
"Service is where I started playing and now being near the end of my playing days, I moved back to try and help get them back to the Premier League."
Harlequins captain John Medcalfe, at the risk of stating the obvious, says Barnes will be his team's main threat to their ambitions of lifting the Cup on Wednesday.
"We are aware of the threats they will pose, none more so than from their short corner routine, so we will need to ensure we minimise those opportunities," he insisted.
"Games against Service are always very competitive, which was the case when we played them in the league earlier this season and drew 3-3.
"There was huge disappointment as to how we performed last season, but it has been really pleasing to see how the team has reacted this year. In fact, the whole club has had a great start to the season.
"We have brought in some new players who have really added to the squad, and I think the team is actually a lot stronger than it was this time last year which has been shown in our results to date.
"I am really pleased with the hockey we are playing and the number of goals being scored by a variety of different players and I think it should make for a good game on Wednesday and one that, hopefully, we can come out on top of."