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Eugene Magee chasing elusive dream

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Banbridge's Eugene Magee wants to win the Irish Senior Cup before he considers retirement

Banbridge's Eugene Magee wants to win the Irish Senior Cup before he considers retirement

Banbridge's Eugene Magee wants to win the Irish Senior Cup before he considers retirement

Irelands's most capped player Eugene Magee has still a couple of targets to accomplish before he even considers hanging up his stick for good.

One of them, of course, is the much-publicised dream of playing in the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio. Another, but not so well known, is to add an Irish Senior Cup medal to his collection.

And the experienced midfielder, who has just returned from injury, is aiming to move a step closer to realising that particular objective when Bann go to Dublin at the weekend to take on double All-Ireland champions Monkstown in the quarter-finals.

Yes, it's hard to believe that the experienced midfielder, who has pulled on the green jersey more than 170 times and won numerous medals in various competitions at home and abroad, has never been a winner in what is world hockey's oldest knock-out competition, having been instituted back in 1894.

In fact, Eugene was only a new-born baby when Bann last brought the trophy back to the Co Down town, a frightening 28 years ago!

Indeed it used to be a regular occurance for Ulster teams to win the trophy but the stark truth is that it has come north just once in the past eight years.

Many will recall the days when Ulster clubs won the famous old trophy 16 years on the trot, starting with Belfast YMCA's success in 1980 right through to the Instonians success in 1995.

But even Garvey's recording-breaking magnificent seven successive wins between 1988 and 1994 is fast fading from memory, with their last triumph nine years ago.

Only Cookstown, in 2011, have managed to prise the silverware away from southern hands in recent years, so all these misfortunes has somewhat restricted Ulster's representation in Europe – which is something that doesn't go down well north of the border.

"It's something we'll have to put right," admits Magee, who is now captaining Bann since his return from playing abroad.

"Monkstown won the cup and the Irish Hockey League last season, and are strong opposition, particularly at their home base. But we are playing well again and are looking forward to the challenge.

"We should have a full squad available, which is a bonus. I've just returned from injury, so has ,my younger brother Owen, and Matthew Bell has also recovered, and last week's 4-1 win over Cookstown was encouraging.

"I was just a baby when Bann last won the cup in 1986, so a win at Monkstown would help us edge closer to our dream."

The reward for the cup winners is a place in Europe, and having sampled that while playing in Belgium and Germany, Magee would like another crack at that level.

Like Bann, Monkstown have a handful of Irish internationals in their ranks but Ulsterman Peter Caruth will still be missing as he continues his recovery from injury.

Garvey have what looks an easier task than Bann when they host a Glenanne side that are lying in midtable in Leinster's Senior One.

And the faithful Blues fans are hoping the club's 2nd XI's Irish Junior Cup 5-1 win over Glenanne II last week will be an omen for this Saturday's senior encounter at their Hillsborough venue.

Coach Errol Lutton has a good mix of youth and experience, with Wallace schoolboys Sean Murray, Daniel Nelson and Aaron Martin lining up alongside the likes of Mark Raphael, who was not only a member of their 2005 winning team but also picked up several medals as far back as the mid-Nineties and is playing every bit as well.

The other two quarter-finals are all-Leinster affairs, with Pembroke Wanderers and Three Rock Rovers both expected to won on the road, against Corinthian and Fingal respectively.

It was Pembroke who knocked out Banbridge in the semi-finals last season before losing in extra time to Monkstown in the decider.

And it's Monkstown who are looming large again ... unless Magee and Bann can topple the champions.

Belfast Telegraph


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