Clean Sweep is ‘achievable’ for Bann

Dane Ward celebrates scoring the fourth goal in Bann's semi-final success.
Dane Ward celebrates scoring the fourth goal in Bann's semi-final success.

Banbridge’s dream of completing a clean sweep is now a real possibility.

As if it wasn’t before, the squad are now daring to dream that they could win all five trophies on offer.

Drew Carlisle and Bruce McCandless in jubilant mood during what turned out to be a comfortable victory on Saturday.

Drew Carlisle and Bruce McCandless in jubilant mood during what turned out to be a comfortable victory on Saturday.

“It’s the first time I’ve thought about the clean sweep. Is it achievable? Yes. It is now,” concedes Head Coach Mark Tumilty.

“Anything’s possible with the group we have. We’ve two Ulster Premier League games left and then the IHL finals. Tuesday (tonight) will be difficult against Instonians. They always give us a hard game but the group know what’s expected of them. I want the league title done and dusted and then we’ll work towards the IHL.

“I’d take defeat in the Garvey game (on Thursday) if it didn’t mean anything and we went on and won the IHL.”

It’s little wonder they’re beginning to believe a grand slam is possible. They’re still unbeaten this season and blew away semi-final opponents Pembroke Wanderers on Saturday.

Stephen Dowds celebrates scoring the opening goal of the final. Pic: Presseye.

Stephen Dowds celebrates scoring the opening goal of the final. Pic: Presseye.

Goals from Neil Gilmore, Drew Carlisle, Johnny McKee and Dane Ward secured a comfortable 4-0 win and, although the final was a far more closely run affair, Bann did what they needed to do.

That means they’ll again take a favourites tag into the IHL finals on the 11th and 12th April but skipper Eugene Magee agrees that they can secure all five trophies.

“It’s a possibility. Going through the season unbeaten is nothing to be laughed at so we want to achieve that now,” he said.

Magee was speaking after finally getting his hands on one of the oldest trophies in world hockey, dating back to 1894.

Banbridge's Stephen Dowds and Eugene Magee celebrate at the final whistle.  Pic: �INPHO/Ryan Byrne

Banbridge's Stephen Dowds and Eugene Magee celebrate at the final whistle. Pic: �INPHO/Ryan Byrne

“That’s the one we really wanted,” he said. “It’s a major accomplishment to bring that trophy back to the club.

“I was lost for words when I went to pick it up. I knew how much I wanted it, I knew how much the team wanted it and I knew how much the supporters wanted it.”

Magee has played in some of the world’s top hockey leagues in Holland, Belgium and Germany but says Sunday’s success was hard to top.

“It was up there with one of the biggest club achievements that I’ve ever had,” he said.

Goalkeeper Gareth Lennox celebrates after the game. Pic: �INPHO/Ryan Byrne

Goalkeeper Gareth Lennox celebrates after the game. Pic: �INPHO/Ryan Byrne

“It’s different when you’re at home and achieving with your home club. Hopefully we can continue it into the next few weeks. We need to maintain this momentum.”

Bann got off to a perfect start in Sunday’s decider against Cork C of I. There was just four minutes on the clock when Stephen Dowds smashed in their first penalty corner of the day.

It looked like their march to the trophy would continue unabated but Cork hadn’t come this far to roll over. They levelled with a short corner of their own four minutes from the break, Stephen Sweetnam souring the first half for Bann.

In the second period, Banbridge threw everything at their opponents with little success. Cork did cause a scare near the end when they broke through on goal.

That’s when Gareth Lennox earned his crust, closing the angle to deny the forward.

Within two minutes of extra time, Jamie Wright smashed home the all-important finish to ensure the Cup was coming back to Banbridge.

“It was difficult to watch,” conceded coach Tumilty. “Normally we’re free-flowing but it became very compact. They were defending their 25 for the last 20 minutes, which is difficult against anyone.

“They deserve a lot of credit for the effort they put in. We beat them 5-0 earlier in the season and they took us to extra time on Sunday.

“We were unlucky with corners but at the end of the day, the result was the important thing and making sure we won the Irish Cup. Thankfully, we have.

“We did focus on it this season. The Three Rock victory at Havelock was massive. When we turned them over the way we did, I think everyone believed that we could go on and be very competitive.”

So it’s now three down, two to go as Bann go in search of a five trophy haul.