Burgess all fired up for Boxing Day's Kirk Cup final
Annadale's Ryan Burgess is looking forward to Boxing Day's Kirk Cup final against Banbridge at Lisnagarvey (3.15pm) more than most.
It was last New Year's Day that the striker was playing in the second-tier Linden Cup final for Bangor but fast forward 12 months and he's now captaining Annadale and the chance of landing his first major cup final medal.
He made the move from the Seasiders to Irish Hockey League club Annadale during the summer to realise his ambition of playing at a higher level, and he has slotted in well, with six IHL goals to date and a further four in his club's run to the Kirk final.
"Playing in the final in front of a big crowd is a big step up for me after playing in the Linden Cup final last year with Bangor," Burgess said after Dale's 3-2 semi-final success over Cookstown.
"But I'm looking forward to the challenge against a team sitting joint top of the IHL."
Dale's player/coach Peter Caruth knows Burgess could be instrumental in bringing the trophy back to their base for the third time in six years
"Ryan is now scoring for fun, from open play or set-pieces" he said. "Banbridge know this and will have to do something good to stop him."
Burgess, though, isn't Annadale's only threat - Caruth is often at he heart of many of their goals, either scoring or assisting, and altogether they have had nine different players finding the net this season to date.
Pundits, though, suggest that Bann go into the final as slight favourites, mainly due to the fact they currently sit joint top of the IHL whereas Dale lie in mid-table.
But Mark Tumilty won't have Ireland's most capped player Eugene Magee available, due to the broken hand which hampered him during the World Cup finals in India, while Ross Beattie and Eddie Rowe - who scored in their 3-2 semi-final win over Lisnagarvey - are unavailable.
Tumilty is keeping his fingers crossed that midfield engine Peter Brown overcomes his hamstring problem in time but still has potential match-winners in Irish international Johnny McKee upfront, as well as Josh Moffatt, Jamie Wright and Fraser Mills.
The coach, though, intends giving some of his rising stars the chance to flavour what is Ulster Hockey's biggest day of the year, so all in all it's set up to be an intriguing affair.
ANNADALE: Jonny Moore, Peter Bland, Ryan Burgess, Chris Morrow, Tom Robson, Ben Wallace, Adam McAllister, Ryan Getty, Callum Robson, Andrew O'Hare, Cameron Ruttle, Peter Corrie, Peter Caruth, Rory Capper, Patrick Rose, David Tremlett, Paddy Crookshanks, Patrick Jack, Jonny Caren, David Smyth, Matty McRoberts
BANBRIDGE: Luke Roleston, Luke Witherow, Alex Tinney, Johnny McKee, Peter Brown, Zach McClelland, Bruce McCandless, Josh Moffet, Jamie Wright, Mark Cowan, Sam Farson, Fraser Mills, Luke McConnell, Dylan Cowan, Drew Carlisle, David Rae, James Hutchison, Mark Barlow, Scott Dale, Peter Bingham
Meanwhile, the Ulster Premier's big game between champions Kilkeel and contenders Bangor ended in a 2-2 draw at the Mourne venue on Saturday.
Luke Russell and Gareth Russell were on the mark for Kilkeel while Chris Campbell and Joel Easlie replied for the Seasiders but the main talking point was Bangor's David McClune missing out from a first minute penalty stroke.
Instonians took full advantage to move top on goal difference following a 4-1 win at Queen's where Stephen Kelso, Ross Blair, Gavin Leckey and Steven Redpath all found the net.
Mossley kept up the pressure with a 3-2 success over South Antrim and there were also important wins for Civil Service at Antrim and Belfast Harlequins against Newry to move them away from the trouble zone.
Ulster Premier League: Kilkeel 2 (L Russell, G Russell) Bangor 2 (C Campbell, J Easlea); Queen's 1 (F Harkin) Instonians 4 (S Kelso, R Blair, G Leckey, S Redpath); Mossley 3 (J Robinson, J Cathcart, N Glassey) South Antrim 1 (M Gray); Antrim 2 (A Mullan 2) Civil Service 4 (M Johnton 2, A Hagan, S Armstrong); Belfast Harlequins 3 (S McGrath, M Gray, R Quigley) Newry Olympic 1 (A Irwin); Portadown v Raphoe (postponed)