Kirk Cup final: Banbridge must hit heights to retain the trophy, warns Magee
Banbridge captain Eugene Magee is hoping his team can go the extra mile and make it third time lucky in the Millar McCall Wylie Kirk Cup final at Stormont on Boxing Day (3pm) having lost twice already this season to their arch rivals Lisnagarvey.
On both occasions, the Hillsborough team had to come from behind to grind out narrow wins, 2-1 in the EY Irish Hockey League and 3-2 in the Irish Senior Cup.
They go into Thursday's game as slight favourites having gone through the season unbeaten so far.
Bann are also in good nick ahead of the final, a repeat of last year's semi-final which they won before going on to comfortably defeat EY Irish Hockey League rivals Annadale 4-1 in the decider.
They have won their last two league games and defeated Annadale 9-0 in their last outing, with in-form Ireland striker Johnny McKee hitting a first senior four-goal haul.
"We have been a bit up and down after a very slow start but we are gradually getting back into it, and hopefully we can continue this form into the next part of the season, starting with the Garvey game," said Magee.
"It's always a bit special playing your local rivals and games between the sides are always tight, like the last two we played against them.
"They would have been great games for the spectators, with a lot of good goals and a lot of skill from both teams, so hopefully it will be the same in the Kirk Cup final, only with a different outcome.
"Garvey are a strong side and some people might underestimate them because they are young, but they can't be underestimated because their young players are very, very strong.
"The Kirk Cup is still one of the big trophies that we want to win, and because it's on Boxing Day with a big crowd it makes it extra special, even more so against Garvey."
Lisnagarvey defender Jonny Bell, Magee's former Ireland team-mate, has been delighted with his young team's form this season but expects a tough game on Thursday as they bid to regain Ulster hockey's oldest trophy after last lifting it in 2011.
However, the Ireland captain knows that Bann are capable of exacting retribution for those two defeats earlier in the season.
"Games between Garvey and Bann are always pretty close, with fine margins, but the fact we've done well when we've played them means nothing in the final," said the 32-year-old.
"When you look at their line-up it's one of the strongest in Ireland, with the amount of experienced internationals they have in their side.
"They maybe haven't had a great run this season until recently, but that's when they are at their most dangerous, and when you look at their team on paper, they're as good as anyone.
"We are still a very young team predominantly, probably one of the youngest in the country, but age doesn't mean anything.
"I think when you see some of our young lads' quality and the potential that they have, we are in a good place.
"For many of the guys, it'll be a first Kirk Cup final and a big occasion, so hopefully they will rise to it.
"We have prepared pretty well and everyone looks reasonably sharp, so we're confident we can do the job, but we are very aware that we are up against a very talented and experienced Banbridge team."
Banbridge: Gareth Lennox or Luke Roleston; Edward Rowe, Luke Witherowe, Alexander Tinney, Johnny McKee, Peter Brown, Hugh McShane, Bruce McCandless, Josh Moffett, Jamie Wright, Eugene Magee (capt), Sam Farson, Philip Brown, Mark Cowan, Drew Carlisle, Dane Ward, Owen Magee
Lisnagarvey: James Milliken; Jonathan Bell, Peter McKibbin, Mark McNellis, Andrew Edgar, Harry Morris, James Lorimer, James Corry (capt), Troy Chambers, Jonny Lynch, Scott McCabe, Ben Nelson, Andy Williamson, Daniel Nelson, Ollie Kidd, Cole Chambers, Conor Quinn, James Ritchie
Umpires: Warren McCully, Ian Strange