Bann ease to European title with 100% record

Banbridge Hockey Club celebrate their Champions Challenge success in the Czech Republic.
Banbridge Hockey Club celebrate their Champions Challenge success in the Czech Republic.

Banbridge Hockey Club have cruised to victory in the Champions Challenge tournament with a 100% record.

Bann blew away their opposition with ease, winning all four matches and netting 20 goals along the way, nine of those by the on-fire Stephen Dowds.

President Neil Madeley said: “We are absolutely delighted to have won all four of our games at the Euro Hockey Club Champions Challenge. The Men’s First XI has had another great season and winning this tournament is a real credit to the team and to coach Mark Tumilty and his assistants. On behalf of the whole club I want to congratulate the lads on this achievement and also to thank our club sponsors and all the supporters who encouraged the team to this success.

“This will bring Bann’s season to a close and is a fitting end to a season that didn’t produce any silverware in domestic competitions for our Men’s 1sts but was still a success on and off the pitch.”

Their assault on the third tier of European hockey began with a 5-2 victory over Gibraltar side Grammarians, largely thanks to a Dowds hat-trick.

As they did for the entirety of the weekend’s tournament, Banbridge dominated from the first whistle. An inspired performance by the Grammarians keeper, however, ensured the scores remained level at the break.

After half-time, Dowds got his eye in and netted a quickfire hat-trick from short corners to ensure Bann’s first points of the tournament were under wraps.

Josh Moffett fired home a fourth from the top of the D and Bill Malcolmson lashed the pick of the finishes into the roof of the net before the opposition scored two short corners to leave the score at 5-2.

Later that afternoon, host side SK Slavia Praha were next on Banbridge’s hitlist and they were duly dispatched 2-0 thanks to a Dowds double.

Five goals in one day’s work wasn’t bad for the forward. His fourth of the day also came via a short-corner and his fifth was a well hit flick that left the keeper with no chance.

Owen Magee could have added to the score, dancing past four defenders but the keeper kept his nerve, refusing to be mesmerised by the Bann man’s mazy run.

On Sunday, Banbridge only got stronger as they finished off their group campaign with an easy 7-0 win over Croatian side HKHC Mladost. Eugene Magee joined up with the squad for this one after university exams but he didn’t find the net. His brother Owen did, as did Fraser Mills while Josh Moffett netted a double. 15 year-old Kyle Marshall scored his first goal for the senior side while Bruce McCandless beat three players and rounded the keeper to score and Stephen Dowds took his total for the tournament to six.

The lads rounded off their campaign with a 6-3 victory over Azerbaijan side Akkord on Monday. Predictably, it was Stephen Dowds who opened the scoring seven minutes in with another penalty corner. Josh Moffett doubled the scoring but Akkord pegged Bann back to 2-2 by half-time as their title looked briefly in doubt.

That didn’t last long though as Dowds dispatched another short corner two minutes after the restart and from there, Bann coasted to the finish line.

Dowds then sealed his hat-trick and Bruce McCandless restored the two goal advantage after Akkord had made it 4-3. Philip Brown then got in on the scoring act by tapping home his side’s final goal of the tournament.

It was a series of routine victories for Bann and, along with Monkstown’s EuroHockey Champions Trophy victory, meant it was a proud weekend for Irish hockey, who make up for last year’s relegation.