Banbridge Hockey Club are targetting a perfect end to the season.
With their Irish Cup campaign long since brought to an end, all their eggs are in the IHL basket.
But already lagging eight points behind leaders Lisnagarvey, Head Coach Mark Tumilty knows his side need to win ALL of their remaining nine league games if they’re to stand any chance of snatching the title.
They kick-off the second half of the season on Saturday by hosting Dublin side Railway Union at Havelock Park (pass-back 2.45pm). While something’s got to give as Garvey take on second placed Monkstown, Tumilty knows nothing but a win will do for his side.
“We need to win all nine games to have any chance of winning the league,” he said frankly. “If we can do that, we might not be too far away. That’s the challenge to the group.
“We have spoken about it and we know what we need to do. I think the boys are capable of it. It’s not impossible but we need to get a few breaks which I don’t think we were getting before Christmas.”
This weekend, Bann have the added incentive of avenging their 3-1 Irish Senior Cup defeat to Railway Union back in November.
“That was a hammer blow in what was a disappointing first half of the season for Bann. Now they can kick-start their campaign by getting their own back.
“We’re all looking forward to getting back in after the break,” said Tumilty. “It’ll be a tough game for us, as we know all to well from the Irish Cup tie. We beat them 6-1 down there in the league though. That was probably one of our best performances of the season.”
Bann haven’t played since drawing with Glenanne before Christmas, a result that Tumilty knew put a huge dent in their title credentials.
Nonetheless, with the top three in the IHL joining the Cup winners for a European play-off weekend, the hard work has continued throughout January with Bann desperate to at least ensure they make it through to the end-of-season show-down.
“We need to make sure we make it through to the play-offs,” said Tumilty.
“It’s going to be tough. Clubs like Glenanne and Three Rock are growing in confidence and they’ll fancy their chances of getting into the play-offs. If Railway were to beat us, they’d be back in the fight for third too.”
Tumilty singled out some of his squad for special praise for their work over the mid-season break.
He said: “The guys have all been working very hard over January.
“I’ve been very impressed with Bruce McCandless and Kyle Marshall as well. He was probably one of our most consistent performers last season, even at such a young age but there’s been a real step up in his performances lately.
“Some of the work the forwards have been doing over the break has been very good as well.”
Bann will welcome back South African Brad Logan, who returns to Northern Ireland this week and will be available for Saturday’s match.