Ulster chiefs in new drive to help our kids flourish
More than 10,000 kids are getting the chance to take part in a new Ulster Hockey initiative which will see 24 youth tournaments staged around various venues over a two-year period.
The mini-tournaments, often referred to as blitzes, are being aimed at nine to 13-year-old boys and girls and will be delivered through financial support from health food firm Linwoods.
Youth development is key to the province's governing body and is part of their Strategy Plan, with the vision being 'more people, more hockey, more fun'.
Among the venues for the blitzes are Lisnagarvey (Comber Road), Banbridge (Havelock Park), Cookstown (Steelweld Park), Annadale (Grosvenor Grammar), Belfast Harlequins (Deramore), Ards (Londonderry Park) and Ulster Elks/Mossley.
Jill Poots, the branch's executive manager, said: "This partnership will help Ulster Hockey to provide fun, enjoyable and quality opportunities for boys and girls to participate in our sport at venues across Ulster."
Armagh-based Linwoods have a reputation of supporting youth sport in the province and they see the link-up with hockey as a natural progression.
Head of marketing Sarah Shimmons said: "We see the importance in investing in our young people in sport and encouraging active lifestyles."
Each year the various blitzes will culminate in the Under-12 and Under-13 Finals Days.
Meanwhile, the EY Irish Hockey League resumes after the Halloween break with Saturday's one game seeing Lisnagarvey chase a fourth successive win when they host Cork C of I.
The remaining four are on Sunday, with Ulster clubs Cookstown, Banbridge and Annadale all facing crucial games.
The Tyrone side take on Railway Union in the bottom of the table clash and skipper Jonathan Ames is aware they can't take the Dubliners lightly, after under-estimating them two years ago.
"We cannot make that mistake again," he said. "Railway are past masters at survival in this league and it will take an almighty effort for us to get a win."
Annadale have a difficult trip to current leaders Glenanne but with Australians Rhiley Carr and Oliver Flack among the goals as well as player/coach Peter Caruth, they're optimistic.
Banbridge go to Pembroke looking to bounce back from defeats to Garvey in the cup and Monkstown in the league.
There's a big derby in the Ulster Premier League on Friday between Kilkeel and Newry.
Saturday's programme sees the current top two, Bangor and North Down, meet in another derby while Instonians should maintain their good start when they host Raphoe.