Fixture glut hits Banbridge and Lisnagarvey ahead of Euros
Banbridge and Lisnagarvey will attempt to achieve what no other Irish club has managed before by qualifying for the EuroHockey League's quarter-final stage over the Easter period.
The European set-up has been going since 2007 and southern clubs Monkstown, Pembroke, Three Rock and Glenanne and Ulster trio Bann, Garvey and Cookstown have all failed to make it into the last eight of the prestigious competition.
Admittedly many of the clubs taking part - particularly from Germany, Netherlands and Belgium - are either professional or semi-professional, and it's increasingly hard for the Irish representatives to make an impact.
But Bann and Garvey enjoy such a challenge and both have prepared hard for the KO-16 round which will take place at Eindhoven on Friday and Saturday, with the quarter-finals earmarked for Sunday and Monday.
However, both have injury worries after a glut of fixtures before Easter, with Bann's Hugh McShane, Peter Brown, Jamie Wright and Matthew Allister all trying to shake off problems.
With McShane and Brown midfielders, it puts an extra strain on the skilful Bruce McCandless.
Bann qualified through the pool phase by beating fancied French side St Germain and then drew 3-3 with Belgian giants Royal Leopold. This time they meet last season's semi-finalists Racing Club de France and coach Mark Tumilty isn't happy that four games in eight days prior to this Easter trip could cost them dearly.
Garvey received a bye to the KO-16 as last season's Irish champions but have a major doubt in international Sean Murray.
Spanish side Atletic Terrassa, who have a good pedigree in the competition, await them.
Should either Ulster club defy the odds and make it to the last eight, then even more difficult opposition lies ahead. It will be either Belgian giants KHC Dragons or Bruxelles for Bann or Dutch giants Oranje-Rood or Amsterdam for Garvey.
As it is Easter weekend, there are no domestic or national fixtures.
MEN’S SENIOR FIXTURES
TONIGHT: Anderson Cup second round: North Down v Bangor (Comber LC, 8.30pm)
Sussex Regiment Cup: Cliftonville v Armagh (CIYMS, 8pm)
FRIDAY: EuroHockey League (Eindhoven, Netherlands): KO-16: Racing Club de France v Banbridge (11.45am)
SATURDAY: EuroHockey League (Eindhoven): KO-16: Atletic Terrassa v Lisnagarvey (9.30am)
SUNDAY: EuroHockey League (Eindhoven): Quarter-final: Banbridge or Racing Club de France v KHC Dragons or Racing Club de Bruxelles (11.15am)
MONDAY: EuroHockey League (Eindhoven): Quarter-final: Lisnagarvey or Atletic Terrassa v Oranje Rood or Amsterdam (2.30pm).