Banbridge Head Coach Mark Tumilty was already turning his sights to the excitement of next season’s changes after defeat in Sunday’s IHL final.
Bann went down 2-1 to Monkstown, ending their hopes of a clean sweep but Tumilty was still full of praise for his young side ahead of next year’s full-season IHL.
He said: “Matthew Bell was fantastic all weekend and deserved to be Player of the Tournament. Eugene Magee was magnificent on Sunday too. I feel for players like that when we lose.
“Kyle Marshall’s performances, for a 16 year old in the IHL finals, were fantastic. He should be really proud of that.
“Ross Beattie shouldn’t be beating himself up for giving away the corner either. He put in a great performance and I really couldn’t ask any more from him.
“Our corners haven’t been slick enough so we have to go away and lose and those kind of things and what we can do better.”
“I’m really looking forward to next season. It will great for player development and will hopefully move us all on.
“We will face challenges in the new system but the next challenge is keep this squad together. Dane (Ward) is away but hopefully the rest will stay and go again next season.”
It was Richard Sykes’ penalty corner double that saw Monkstown win their third successive Irish Hockey League title, inflicting Banbridge’s first defeat in all competitions this season at Grange Road.
The south Dublin outfit were on the back foot for much of the tie, soaking up huge pressure from a Eugene Magee-inspired Bann, but their devastating set-piece proved the difference.
Sykes struck four minutes in with a rocket to the roof of the net. His second effort ricocheted off the crossbar soon after as Town made a great start.
Bann, though, were forcing the issue for the most part with David Fitzgerald making a string of saves, primarily from Stephen Dowds. One was particularly impressive from point blank range while he also slid out to keep his Irish international colleague Dowds at bay to maintain a slender 1-0 lead into half-time.
The Co Down side, though, did get back on terms in the 42nd minute as the irrepressible Dowds tore down the right wing and fired across goal. The cross made it all the way to Jamie Wright at the back post who managed to scramble home at the second attempt despite Fitzgerald’s diving lunge.
And they looked the more likely to snatch a second but Matthew Bell miscued a drag-flick while Dane Ward deflected a Magee pass but Fitzgerald moved quickly to his right to tip away. Monkstown rolled with the punches, however, and they won their first corner of the second half which Sykes planted into the unguarded bottom right corner.
It proved the crucial strike as Bann could not break through a teak-tough defence with Lee Cole and Fabian Wullschleger putting in big tackles. Magee once again produced some top skills for their last major chance. His shot at goal took a big deflection with Banbridge appealing vehemently for a penalty stroke, claiming it hit a defensive body en route to goal.
A consultation between the two umpires, though, only yielded a long corner. Jonny McKee won a last ditch corner for Bann but it also went awry and Monkstown had their three in-a-row.