Garvey and Bann must put big cup clash on ice
The All-Ireland League teams begin to clear up the backlog caused by the dispute between Hockey Ireland and the Irish Hockey Umpires Association by playing back-to-back fixtures over this weekend.
Saturday would normally have been Irish Senior Cup first round day, but these fixtures have been put back 24 hours to Sunday afternoon, leaving the way open for a full programme of Irish Hockey League fixtures to be squeezed in on Saturday.
The big game over the weekend is unquestionably the cup tie between arch-rivals Banbridge and Lisnagarvey at Havelock Park, but both teams will now have to put thoughts of an epic derby clash on the back-burner as they first must concentrate on the rearranged IHL games against Annadale and Pembroke respectively.
Holders Bann will be the happier of the two in that both their weekend games are at home, whereas Erroll Lutton's lads must regroup after a Saturday trip to Dublin where they face a Pembroke team that has made an unbeaten start this season.
"We must focus on Pembroke and try to get three league points before we can even start thinking about going to Bann in the cup," insists Garvey captain Daniel Buser.
Bann are the cup holders, but they too must concentrate on facing Annadale in the league before turning their attention to what should be a cracking cup tie at Havelock Park.
There's a second all-Ulster clash in Sunday's cup programme with Cookstown taking on Instonians at Shaw's Bridge, but in this case one team has a Saturday game and the other doesn't.
Cookstown, in fact, are faced with the lengthy trip to Cork C of I on Saturday in the rearranged IHL game whereas Inst sit out their Ulster Premier League opening fixture against Kilkeel as the Mournemen's cup tie at Avoca is listed for Saturday.
"We have had slow starts in our first two league games but if we can get up to our full capability earlier, and put Cork under a bit of pressure, I think we can get those all important first points on the board," said midfielder Greg Allen.
"Then we'll think about the cup tie."
Annadale's tough start to the IHL continues with that trip to Banbridge on Saturday, but Peter Caruth's lads could well return across the border on Sunday with a cup win at Dublin University.
Meanwhile, the Ulster Premier League programme gets under way following the conclusion of the Kirk Cup pool phase, with the big game at Bangor where Civil Service bid to curb the Seasiders who have been scoring for fun in the Linden Cup.