Garvey's big derby tops bill ahead of plans to double up
Lisnagarvey are preparing to stage several double-headers as they attempt to eat into their growing backlog in the EY Irish Hockey League.
But before Errol Lutton's lads can even think about two games in a 48-hour period at the weekends, they first have to negotiate a derby clash against fierce rivals Banbridge at Hillsborough this Saturday.
The Blues have three games to make up in the IHL, and that's as well as a delayed Irish Senior Cup quarter-final, all due to what has been a frostier than usual winter.
And they can't squeeze them in while the senior Irish team are out in Malaysia for the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup tournament early next month, as four of their players will be on international duty.
Already one double-header has been pencilled in - at home to Pembroke Wanderers on Sunday, March 25, a day after travelling to Cookstown - and more are a possibility, with midweek games also an option.
But first things first, and there's that little matter of the derby against Bann on Saturday.
Well, maybe not so little, because the outcome of the game will mean so much to both teams.
Garvey need a win to start reeling in unbeaten leaders Glenanne, while Bann need a win to overhaul the top four and get into the end-of-season play-offs.
Something will have to give, and indeed it could end up worse with both dropping two points if it ends up a draw.
Garvey are in the groove at the moment, with skipper Daniel Buser starring their 5-1 romp over Monkstown in Dublin last week, whereas Bann haven't played since January 23.
Cookstown captain Jon Ames is hoping his team could do both a favour by upsetting Glenanne when they travel to the Tyrone venue, but they'll have to improve vastly on their humbling defeat against Bann in late January if they are to achieve anything.
"Numerous times this year Glenanne have scored goals right at the death to win or draw games, and you have got to say 'well done' when you see that fighting spirit," said Cookstown skipper Ames.
"It is up to our guys to match or better that effort, and to show the killer instinct to execute our opportunities when they come about, to ease our position near the bottom of the table."
Annadale have a very good chance of picking off a win when Cork C of I make the long journey north.
But expect player/coach Peter Caruth to be warning his players to concede as few penalty corners as possible, as former Irish international John Jermyn remains as prolific as ever at set-pieces.
Meanwhile the Ulster Premier League splits into two, and the chasing pack of Kilkeel, Instonians, Mossley and Belfast Harlequins have the opportunity to close the gap on Division A leaders Bangor who are on Irish Hockey Trophy quarter-final duty against UCC.
The Mournemen and Inst are on their travels, to Portadown and South Antrim respectively, while Mossley and the Quins face up to each other.
The bottom two in Division B, Cliftonville and Antrim, meet at CIYMS.
The other Ulster teams bidding to reach the Irish Hockey Trophy semi-finals are Newry Olympic and Raphoe, who meet at the border venue, and Civil Service who must make the lengthy trip to West Cork to take on Bandon.