BANN’S Men’s Firsts travelled to Dublin on Saturday for the first of two fixtures in Dublin last weekend, expecting a firm test from two strong and well established sides in the shape of Pembroke Wanderers and Three Rock Rovers.
Banbridge were determined to build on the games of the previous weekend against Belfast Harlequins and Fingal respectively, in order to complete a challenging pre season and prepare adequately for the imminent Kirk Cup under coaches Mark Tumilty and Scott McCandless.
The game started at a high pace and an early chance for the home side was foiled by a good stop by Gareth Lennox in the Bann goal.
This didn’t deter the visitors as they quickly found a foothold in the game on what was a very warm afternoon in south Dublin.
Possession was retained comfortably within the back four in the opening 20 minute quarter and several openings were created from midfield through searching passes forward by Peter Brown and Colin Dowds.
Indeed, a series of sharp passes between Owen Magee and Philip Brown led to Simon Magowan pulling the ball back to Peter Brown on the top on the circle who finished powerfully into the bottom corner via a deflection from Josh Moffett.
This early advantage settled Bann further and enabled them to establish a rhythm to their pass and move game within midfield and forward line. A second goal arrived shortly before the break with Peter Brown again involved, throwing in a dummy within the opposition 25 yard line before finding Simon Magowan to deflect home.
The second period produced more pressure for the visiting side aided by some strong running with the ball through Josh Moffett within the forward line. Pembroke won their first penalty corner after possession was turned over in midfield but this was well saved again by Lennox in the Bann goal.
Bann lost Stephen Forbes, Peter Brown and Owen Magee to illness and injury within the final two periods which saw few chances created and possession hockey being played by both sides.
The home team reduced the deficit after an attack down the left flank and a well deflected finish at the back post.
This signalled a sustained period of pressure for Pembroke towards the end of the game but this repelled convincing by some timely tackles and strong defending by Matthew Bell and Philip Brown in particular, as well as a number of saves from Lennox who had a fine game in goal.
Bann’s second game of the weekend started with the home side in the ascendancy, pinning Banbridge back deep in their own territory with a high press, rapid closing down of the ball and quick transfers across the park.
This pressure came to fruition after five minutes when an overlapping defender fired in a ball from the right flank which was deflected in at the near post beyond the outstretched leg of Gareth Lennox.
This breakthrough only served to fuel Three Rock’s ambition and they sustained their possession hockey high in the Banbridge half until the end of the first quarter. Credit must be given to the Bann defence for preventing further goals before the first break.
The second quarter brought more possession for Banbridge as they pushed higher up the pitch and put pressure on the home side’s back line and midfield, with Drew Carlisle and Colin Dowds winning some good ball in midfield and feeding the front three players.
A number of quick passes down the left flank saw Ben Cosgrove and Ian Livingstone combine to set up Dane Ward mid-circle who finished strongly into the bottom corner. Half time came with the score tied at 1-1.
The third quarter saw more aggressive play by Banbridge and a continued high press. This pressure paid off as good work from Ward led to dispossessing a Three Rock defender and feeding Colin Dowds.
His surging run continued into the opposing circle and he squared a pass to Josh Moffett who saw the ball home at the back post.
Ward soon completed a commendable afternoon’s work when Sturgeon – who had a fine game at left back – fed Livingstone down the left who breached the circle to find Ward and he showed great skill and composure to beat a defender and finish well. Bann led 3-1 after the third quarter.
The fourth quarter brought renewed impetus from the home side, who were determined to attempt to get something from the game.
Banbridge were tiring after a tough two days’ work in high temperatures and this resulted in them conceding two late goals to see the game end at 3-3.
This was by no means a disappointing result and the team can take a lot away from a valuable weekend as they entertain Glennane next at Havelock Park on Saturday August 8 in the last of their pre-season friendlies before their Kirk Cup campaign begins in earnest.