Fixture madness for Bann with 10 games in under six weeks

Banbridge men's first team players face a fixture overload with international commitments also thrown in. Pic: Rowland White / Presseye.
Banbridge men's first team players face a fixture overload with international commitments also thrown in. Pic: Rowland White / Presseye.

Banbridge Hockey Club face a fixture headache in the coming weeks as the games mount up.

Bann had been due to play Cookstown and then NICS but the first scheduled game was postponed at Bann’s request due to four of their players jetting off with the Ireland team. Then NICS told Ulster Hockey then couldn’t fulfil Saturday’s fixture due to the short notice and that their players had already agreed time off work on Friday, when they were originally meant to be playing.

It all adds to fixture pressures as Irish Hockey have asked the provinces to ensure their leagues are finished by Saturday 7 March in preparation for next season’s full Irish Hockey League.

That’s because they have scheduled the IHL Wildcard Play-off weekend for 13-15 March.

That means Bann still have to play nine league fixtures before the deadline as well an IHL Pool B game in Dublin on 7 February. Factor into that Ireland commitments for Banbridge’s international players and it means a whole pile of hockey for the club’s top players.

Ireland Hockey told the Leader that “the fixtures won’t be changed as the calendar was created with all tournaments and international fixtures in mind.”

That means the heaving fixture list has precious little space for any more cancellations for poor weather, leaving Bann boss Mark Tumilty puzzled as to why more games weren’t played during the good weather before the turn of the year.

“It’s all been poorly organised, poorly managed and there could have been a lot more games played before Christmas,” he said.

“There could have been double headers and then you look at the 20th December when there were no games played. We wanted to play that day but other games wouldn’t play us.

“I think Irish Hockey is going to have to rethink that date because I don’t think it will be possible for the Ulster Premier league to be finished by then.”

Ulster Hockey confirmed the IHL Play-off weekend has been listed in the IHA Calendar since September 2014 and said they are “endeavouring to meet this requirement,” although admitted that “any period of sustained adverse weather leading to further postponements may necessitate a review of the fixtures.”

Bann were originally due to play Cookstown away on Saturday but, that such a key game in deciding the destination of the Premier League title, Banbridge coach Mark Tumilty was never keen on playing in Tyrone.

“I’d just be disappointed if we lost the league because we had to play without our players,” he explained.

“If it was one or two guys, I’d have no problem but four players of that quality would be a loss to any squad.”

Tumilty, however, was happier to host NICS in a game that he would hope to win with or without his international stars.