Banbridge Hockey Club have completed a player swap of sorts with the city of London.
Star forward Stephen Dowds has ended his nine year spell in the first team as he moves across the Irish Sea for a work opportunity.
However, softening that blow for Mark Tumilty and his side is the return of Dane Ward, who moved back home last week and has already joined up with the squad for Saturday’ 7-1 friendly win in Kilkeel.
Next up, Bann take on Instonians at Havelock tonight (Tuesday) at 8pm as they prepare for life without Dowds.
“Stevie is heading over to England with work and I understand why he’s done it,” said Head Coach Tumilty.
“He has been involved for nine years now and he has scored a lot of goals for us. His corners have been important to us and he has always been great to have in the changing room as well. It’s a blow to lose him but we have to move on now.”
There is absolutely no doubt that Dowds has long been one of the club’s leading lights and was an integral part of their quadruple winning side in the 14/15 season.
That term, he netted over 60 goals in a record-breaking stretch.
Also set to depart the club is fellow forward Josh Moffett, who will leave in October.
However, Tumilty has moved quickly to bolster his panel and coupled with Dane Ward’s return is the arrival of Ulster and Ireland U21 player Matty Allister from Annadale.
His family needs no introduction to Banbridge HC as his father Colin is a former Bann and Ireland player and even an ex club President.
“Matty’s a forward, which was why I was keen to get him in,” said Tumilty. “He will give us something different. He has a lot of pace and he probably hasn’t yet played at the standard he is capable of. It will take him a while to get up to speed but the friendlies will help with that.
“Dane arrived home last weekend, played on in our friendly on Saturday and has been on a running programme this summer.
“We missed somebody like him last year. He’s a 20 goal a season man and he’s a forward who is happy to play at the back post. He gets deflections and scores goals that way. He will make a big difference to us.”
Meanwhile, at the other end of the pitch, back-up goalkeeper Peter Bingham has moved on to join Instonians, and he has been replaced byMossley goalkeeper Ben McMillen.
Bann’s EYHL season doesn’t start until September 24 but before that, they prepare with a few friendlies. They will host Garvey next Saturday at 2pm before games in Nottingham on the September 10 and 11 and a game against Monkstown on September 17.