HOCKEY: Banbridge coach fumes over fixture ‘shambles’

Banbridge coach Mark Tumilty. Pic: PressEye
Banbridge coach Mark Tumilty. Pic: PressEye

Banbridge coach Mark Tumilty is fuming at the fixture ‘shambles’ which has overshadowed the build-up to this week’s European game.

Bann travel to Eindhoven for the Knock-Out 16 round of the European Hockey League - the continent’s premier club hockey tournament.

They will take on Racing Club de France tomorrow but Bann’s squad are potentially four players light.

Hugh McShane and Jamie Wright are almost certain to miss the tie with hamstring injuries while Peter Brown is a major doubt and Matthew Allister has picked up an ankle problem.

Tumilty is pointing the finger of blame at a packed fixture schedule after Bann were forced to play Lisnagarvey, UCD and Glenanne in three important EY Hockey League games last weekend.

“It’s a shambles,” fumed the Banbridge Coach. “We’ve been asked to play three games in five days, which amazes me in an amateur sport. I’m very disappointed in how the fixtures have worked out.

“There has been no consideration given to us playing in Europe. I really feel for the players with the injuries and for the rest of the group who are now going to play a massive European game without some big players.

“The main thing, though, is the financial outlay that these guys and their families have made to get out there. Now their guys aren’t even going to get playing.

“Two of those guys are playing for Ireland and have played close to 15 or 16 games in the last six weeks. Jamie Wright plays for Ireland and doesn’t even have a physio to go to today.

“We only have 18 league games to play over the whole season - how did we have to play three in five days? That’s the question Irish Hockey have to answer,” he added.

“I don’t see how we’ve got to this stage of the season and that has been allowed to happen.

“EY Hockey League fixtures weren’t played one weekend because of a university tournament, which is basically a social event.

“Both Garvey and ourselves have fantastic opportunities to reach the last eight of the EHL. But now Garvey have their problems too because Sean Murray picked up an injury against us last week.

“It’s a shambles but we’ll go and give it our best.

“Are we still capable of beating the French side? Yes. There is a lot of character in this group.”

Bann will also be without goalkeeper Gareth Lennox as he remains in Ireland as his son is due in hospital with Luke Roleston coming in between the posts.

In response, Irish Hockey said: “The calendar is constructed in conjunction with high performance and works around competitions for the national teams. The men’s side of the calendar was constructed to facilitate clubs like Banbridge who have international team members and had a break for World League 2.

“While on the women’s side, the break this year fell naturally over the Christmas period. There were a couple of incidents of bad weather earlier in the season which then compounded the issue at the end of season.”

Lisnagarvey meet an Atlètic side who are aiming to reach the FINAL4 for the second successive season. Garvey also have to make a couple of changes to their squad with Michael Robson not eligible as he joined the club from Annadale after the European deadline.

Timmy Cockram is also unavailable. Irish internationals Paul Gleghorne and Sean Murray have knocks but are likely to play a part on Saturday at 9.30am (Irish time).

“It’s clear we haven’t yet hit the heights that we did last season but we have undergone a bit of transition with a number of players stepping down at the end of last season,” said Jonny Bell.

“The side is beginning to gel and its important to peak at the right time. We have plenty of quality and confidence is high off the back of a big win last weekend.

“Most of our guys are used to performing on the big stage and I’m confident we can rise to the occasion and put in a strong performance against Terrassa.”

Like Tumilty, Bell says that it has been a long time since Garvey found out their EHL fate but now the focus is firmly fixed on Eindhovem

“We have tried to put the EHL to the back of our minds to focus on the Irish Hockey League,” he said. “But the prospect of playing in the EHL always provides added motivation during the season. It creates healthy competition within the squad and the wider club members at Lisnagarvey always relish a trip to Europe.

“Terrassa are a side that have been performing at the top end of European club hockey for some time. We have a reasonable idea how they like to play and where their strengths lie. But we will focus on our preparation and aim to impose our personal and team strengths on the game.”