Banbridge Hockey Club men’s first team are only getting stronger.
That’s their worrying message to opponents ahead of this Saturday’s crunch Ulster Premier League clash with title rivals Lisnagarvey at Havelock (pass-back 2.30pm).
*PLEASE NOTE, SINCE THIS WEEK’S LEADER WENT TO PRESS, PASS-BACK TIME HAS BEEN BROUGHT FORWARD FROM 4PM TO 2.30PM*
Bann have had an absolutely stunning first half of the season, winning all nine of their league games.
In fact, in 21 games since the start of the season proper, Bann have won 20 games and drawn one in all competitions. The only team to deny them victory? Yes. Garvey.
On their last visit to Havelock, they grabbed a 4-4 draw in the IHL but, as Bann Head Coach Mark Tumilty points out, his squad’s now in better shape.
As if they needed to get any stronger, Tumilty has a full squad to choose from for the first time this season.
“Eugene Magee hasn’t played against Garvey yet this year and Drew Carlisle missed the last Garvey game. We have played big games with big players missing but now we’ve got everybody available,” he said.
“Philip Brown and Owen need to be managed correctly but there is nobody who can’t play at the minute.
“Dane Ward came back in and played on Saturday, as did Ross Beattie. He’s a good guy to have about the squad.”
Garvey have played three league games less so far but, should Bann win on Saturday, even winning all of their matches in hand would leave Garvey eight points adrift.
“It’s a Cup final for them but it’s the same for us because if we can win it, we’d be in a very strong position.
“Of course, we still have tough away games to Cookstown, Annadale and Kilkeel and at home to Instonians but we couldn’t ask to be in a better position if we get a win.”
Lisnagarvey go into the game off the back of a crushing Irish Cup quarter-final defeat to Cork CoI last weekend but Tumilty thinks that can only make them more of a threat.
“That’s Garvey down to two trophies to compete for and if they lost on Saturday, they’d know we have a good advantage in the league,” he said.
“It’s always a tough game against Garvey, no matter what type of form the two teams are in going into the game.
“I was impressed with them in the IHL game against us. We have to match their work rate, that’s the main challenge for our guys.
“I’m always confident with the squad we have but at the same time, we have to perform. Garvey games are never easy and it’s down to the boys to produce a top level performance when it’s really needed. We have to be able to do that against Garvey.”
Bann are half way to achieiving the unbelievable feat of securing a 100% record in the Premier League but that’s not something that’s concening Tumilty. “As long as we win the title, I don’t care,” he says.
Would he, then, forego that record and accept a draw on Saturday?
“I probably would, but we’ll be going for the win.”
If the last meeting between the teams is anything to go by, it’s sure to be a cracker.