HOCKEY: Banbridge crowned as Ireland’s ‘best’

Celebrations begin as Banbridge are crowned EY Hockey League Champions. Photo by Freddie Parkinson / Press Eye
Celebrations begin as Banbridge are crowned EY Hockey League Champions. Photo by Freddie Parkinson / Press Eye

Banbridge’s Irish Hockey double surpasses the four-trophy haul of the 14/15 season.

That’s according to head coach Mark Tumilty, who helped his side across the finish line in a nervy final day of the EY Hockey League on Saturday.

Eugene Magee collects the trophy from Michael Kidd from sponsors EY. Pic: Freddie Parkinson / Press Eye

Eugene Magee collects the trophy from Michael Kidd from sponsors EY. Pic: Freddie Parkinson / Press Eye

Bann ended up level on points with second placed Three Rock Rovers but three better on goal difference.

The league trophy now sitting safely alongside the Irish Senior Cup, Tumilty is even more pleased than he was with the Ulster treble and the Irish Cup win two years ago.

“It surpasses that season in relation to winning both the EYHL and the Irish Senior Cup and in terms of some of the hockey we have played this season as well,” he said.

“I’m a firm believer that if you win the league, you’ve been the best team. The EYHL is the big one to win and I think we fully deserved it. I think we’ve been the best team, although Three Rock has been excellent since Christmas.

The corks are popped as Banbridge are crowned EY Hockey League champions. 
Photo by Freddie Parkinson / Press Eye

The corks are popped as Banbridge are crowned EY Hockey League champions. Photo by Freddie Parkinson / Press Eye

“That was the goal at the start of the year because we had come into the Irish Hockey League after such a great season in Ulster and didn’t perform last season. The whole club was trying to adapt to the new setup and we probably didn’t realise just how difficult it was going to be.

“We were able to address our issues over the summer and got a lot of momentum this season, which helps.”

Bann hosted Railway Union on Saturday and began the day six goals better off than Three Rock, who were at home to already-relegated Instonians.

At three quarter-time, Rovers looked like they could potentially close the gap fully before a strong late showing for Bann meant they kept the lead they had held for so long.

Head Coach Mark Tumilty celebrates another success. 
Photo by Freddie Parkinson / Press Eye

Head Coach Mark Tumilty celebrates another success. Photo by Freddie Parkinson / Press Eye

“I probably turned up thinking that as long as we got the win, we would be ok,” said Tumilty. “It didn’t cross my mind that we wouldn’t but then we heard after eight minutes that it was 3-0 at Three Rock and we had missed a few early chances. I was wondering if it was going to be one of those days.”

Fraser Mills bagged a double and Matthew Bell added a penalty stroke to put Bann three up at the break but Three Rock were already 6-0 ahead. Things got worse when Railway pulled a goal back in the third quarter, although Bell made it 4-1 with another stroke and Ross Beattie put Bann four goals up. Meanwhile, Three Rock were EIGHT goals to the good and Bann’s lead was down to just two goals.

“We didn’t say anything to the players until after the third quarter,” said Tumilty. “They asked and at that stage we still had a two goal advantage.

“We scored a couple more after that to give ourselves a bit of breathing space then Inst scored against Three Rock and Eugene (Magee) got a goal basically at the same time so it was a case of defending it out at that stage.” sighed Tumilty, reliving the nerves.

And that, indeed, proved enough as Bann ran out 6-1 winners, topping the table by three goals for an Irish Hockey double.