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Buoyant Banbridge are striving to bag their place in Europe

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Key role: Fully-fit Dane Ward is back among the goals

Key role: Fully-fit Dane Ward is back among the goals

Key role: Fully-fit Dane Ward is back among the goals

It has been an agonising 29 years since Banbridge last won the Irish Senior Cup but they head off to Dublin this week believing they are better equipped than ever to finally end the wait.

Mark Tumilty and his players are in a buoyant mood, with the Ulster Premier League title almost within their grasp and an Irish Hockey League semi-final place assured after their 5-2 win over Three Rock last weekend.

And now their attention turns to world hockey's oldest knock-out competition, which they haven't won since 1986 in the heyday of players like Frankie McGladdery and Mark Sinnamon.

It's Dublin giants Pembroke who stand in their way in Saturday's semi-final at UCD (3.15pm) and if they can clear that hurdle, then it's the winners of the Cork C of I and Railway Union semi who they would face in Sunday's decider (3.30pm).

With a place in Europe at stake, Bann are keen to land the prize and bring the 122-year-old trophy to Havelock Park.

Tumilty was well pleased with his team's result and performance against Three Rock last Saturday to book a second showdown with Pembroke, this time in the Irish Hockey league semi-final.

"If we play our A-game, then we are capable of beating anyone in Ireland," he said. "We achieved that level against Three Rock and that's our target again.

"It was a great team performance and I'm really pleased for Dane Ward who was out of action for over a year through injury but is back to form and scoring goals again."

Bann have a potential matchwinner in striker Stephen Dowds who has knocked in over 50 goals already this season, while Jamie Wright, Owen Magee and Neil Gilmore all get among the goals too, let alone the threat from midfield where skipper Eugene Magee and Johnny McKee regularly chip in.

And, of course, both Dowds and defender Matthew Bell represent a major threat from set-pieces.

Bann may never have a better chance of breaking their Irish Cup hoodoo and become only the second Ulster team to land the trophy in the last 10 years.

Belfast Telegraph