Banbridge are going to need ‘strong umpires’ if they’re to come out on top this weekend.
The EY Irish Hockey Champions Trophy Finals are coming to Havelock Park, hosted across Saturday and Sunday and coach Mark Tumilty is desperate to end it as champions.
Bann take on Irish Cup winners Monkstown in Saturday’s semi-final (pass-back 5pm) and will hope to come up against either IHL champions Lisnagarvey or Pembroke Wanderers in Sunday’s decider.
And Tumilty hopes his players will get the ‘protection’ they need to see out success.
“We like to play an attractive style of hockey and we’ll do that no matter who we come up against,” he said.
“In order to do that, we need our players protected. This is a weekend with international hockey players, so let’s umpire it like an international.”
Bann’s style of hockey will no doubt again attract a bumper crowd to their Lurgan Road ground, much like the 2014 IHL finals weekend, also hosted at Havelock and widely considered the best ever.
“Home advantage is a big boost,” conceded Tumilty. “We have a good record at Havelock.
“There will be a good crowd out and it will be a great weekend to be involved in. I wish I was playing, to be honest,” he laughed.
Even if he did make himself available, Tumilty might just have his work cut out to make it into the squad.
Providing Hugh McShane and Jamie Wright are passed fit, the boss will have a full quota to pick from.
And he’s confident that panel are good enough to upset the odds and seal the top European place in Irish hockey.
He said: “Our big players have to perform and the rest have to come in behind them. Can they do that? Yes. I’ve seen enough from our boys to know they can do it on weekends like this.
“We go in as massive underdogs. Garvey are heavy favourites and in our semi, Monkstown will be fancied.
“Our games against them (Monkstown) this year have been close though. We should have won the game in Banbridge and should have won the IHL final last year as well.
“The group is capable of getting a result. We’re hitting form at the right time. Getting Gareth Lennox back in is a bonus and we’ll have Philip Brown, who we didn’t have against Monkstown in the IHL final last season.
“It’s still a young squad. I forget that sometimes. They are still developing and I think we have a good chance but everyone else will be thinking the same. It really is down to whoever performs on the weekend.”
Bann go into the tournament in an upturn of form, beaten only once in their last seven matches. The boss is even ‘pleased’ with their short corners, which had given cause for concern earlier in the campaign.
And while it’s been an underwhelming season so far, Tumilty knows victory would change everything.
“Getting into the play-offs was always the goal and if we win this weekend, it will be a great season,” he said.
CHAMPIONS TROPHY SCHEDULE
The schedule for the EY champions Trophy Finals has been announced with a bumper weekend of hockey for local fans.
Saturday begins with the women’s semi-finals. Pegasus will face Railway Union at 10.30am while Hermes take on Ulster Elks at 12.30pm.
Then it’s onto the men’s games as Lisnagarvey take on Pembroke Wanderers at 3pm and hosts Bann face Monkstown at 5pm.
On Sunday, the ladies’ final is up first at 2.45pm before the men pass-back at 5pm.