Madeley just the man to steer Newry to cup glory
Newry Olympic hardly know what it's like to reach a Kirk Cup semi-final but there's a growing optimism at the border club that they could reach those heady heights this season.
Now under the guidance of former Irish international Robin Madeley, Newry have opened the new campaign with a 4-3 away win over rivals Portadown and it has raised hopes that they can finally reach the semi-finals later in the year.
Keith McWilliams inspired them with a hat-trick at Edenvilla, and he believes that the coaching of former Banbridge and Three Rock star Madeley will give them a lift to realise their dream.
"Robin has joined us this season and is already making an impact," he said.
"A derby success away from home is a pretty good way to start the season, and with a handful of players due to return, it's a nice place to be.
"We often use the Kirk Cup as a pre-season to get things together, and don't think that far ahead about semi-finals.
"But we've had an encouraging start considering we were missing six regulars, either through holidays or attending weddings, so when they all return it will augur well for the campaign ahead."
The other teams in Pool A are Mossley and Kilkeel - who shared eight goals in a thriller at The Glade - and South Antrim who start their campaign this Saturday with a trip to the Mournes.
Instonians, now back in the provincial league after their Irish Hockey League relegation, began with a 3-0 win at Belfast Harlequins in Pool B, with Chris Kirk on the mark twice as well as William Robinson.
Civil Service could be their biggest threat, with Chris Barnes netting a hat-trick in a 6-3 success over Queen's at Stormont.
Next up for them is North Down on Saturday while Instonians to sit out the action.
There are no midweek fixtures this week, although Lisnagarvey and Banbridge are meeting in a friendly at Hillsborough tomorrow as both finalise preparations for Saturday's opening games in the Irish Hockey League.
Meanwhile, Queen's ladies have signed Irish international Erin Getty from Randalstown and, ironically, the teenager will make her debut against her former club tonight in the opening game of the Denman Ulster Shield at Upper Malone (7.45pm).
Getty, who made her senior international debut against Germany in Dusseldorf earlier this year, says she is looking forward to playing for the students.
"Queen's coach, Simon Bell, and all the girls have been very welcoming, even though I missed the pre-season due to the Under 21 Europeans," she said.
"It was a hard decision to make, especially having been at Randalstown from a very young age.
But it was logical with me planning to study at Queen's.
"It'll be strange playing against Town and not for them and it's an unfortunate coincidence that our first match is against them.
"However, I will approach the game like any other and I can't wait to get the season under way, hopefully picking up a few trophies along the way."
Meanwhile, Ards and Belfast Harlequins warmed up for this weekend's new Irish Hockey League campaign with a 2-2 draw at Deramore on Saturday afternoon.
Irish international Chloe Brown's late equaliser earned the Co Down side a share of the spoils.
Men's Kirk Cup Pool A: Mossley 4 (Robinson 2, McIvor, M Moreland) Kilkeel 4 (D Rae 2, Stevenson, Russell); Portadown 3 (Stevenson 2, Johnston) Newry 4 (K McWilliams 3, Andrews)
Kirk Cup Pool B: Belfast Harlequins 0 Instonians 3 (Kirk 2, Robinson); Civil Service 6 (Barnes 3, Hall, Johnston, Armstrong) Queen's 3 (Kelly, Keane, Anderson)
Linden Cup: Armagh 0 Antrim 1 (Murray); Ballynahinch 1 Bangor 5