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Recovering Patterson is in Inst's thoughts as all-Ireland bid begins

By Graham Hamilton

The new EY Irish Hockey League campaign gets under way this weekend with a double-header programme - and newly-promoted Instonians couldn't have asked for a more difficult start.

Coach Steven Redpath and his squad cantered to the Ulster Premier League title last season and came through the lengthy play-off route to finally get their place at the all-Ireland top table.

But although they are delighted to be mixing it with the big guns - they face Dublin giants Pembroke on Saturday and Monkstown at Shaw's Bridge on Sunday - there is a deep sense of sadness that they won't have one of their main strikers in their ranks this term.

Alan Patterson, who scored 19 goals during their league success, is still confined to hospital after sustaining serious spinal injuries during a trampolining accident.

The good news on that front is that Patterson is now out of the intensive care unit after almost two months, but he's still in the High Dependency Unit and there remains a long way to go in terms of recovery.

Instonians president Tom Reid said: "We're looking forward to the IHL challenge and remain positive despite a really difficult start to our programme.

"But Alan's situation puts everything into perspective. We'll miss him dearly, on and off the pitch, and we hope that his condition can continue to improve over the coming weeks."

There are just three Ulster clubs in the IHL this season after Cookstown and Annadale suffered relegation, but Lisnagarvey and Banbridge are hoping to build on last year's successes.

Garvey finished top of the IHL, won the inaugural Champions Trophy and finished runners-up in the Irish Senior Cup, and coach Errol Lutton has added to his already strong squad in a bid to maintain their place at the summit.

They begin against newly-promoted UCD on Saturday and have a trip to Railway Union on Sunday

Meanwhile Banbridge - already preparing for the hosting of the EuroHockey League's first round next month - start against Three Rock Rovers on Saturday and travel to Glenanne on Sunday.

Meanwhile, the Ulster Premier League also gets under way, following the completion of the Kirk Cup pool phase - and the clash between Annadale and Cookstown is clearly the match of the day.

Both were relegated from the IHL and are keen to bite back, but it could be a case of one of them starting with a defeat.

Irish international Peter Caruth is now player/coach of his home-town Annadale club while Cookstown's co-captain Mark Crooks is happy with his team's Kirk Cup campaign but knows this league clash will be the biggest test yet.

With 11 teams in the Premier League this season, it means one will sit out the action each week - and for the opening day it couldbe newly-promoted Campbellians left ruing their mistakes afterwards.

Belfast Telegraph


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