CUP FEVER GRIPS BANN

FOUR big games this weekend will see Banbridge sides hunting for success in league and cup competitions.

On Wednesday North Down provide the opposition (8.30pm) and then on Saturday the Firsts play in the Premier League against Mossley at 2.30pm, but the day’s big game sees Bann Seconds take on Lisnagarvey in the final of the Irish Junior Cup in Dublin (3.30pm).

Then, on Sunday, the firsts play Cookstown in the final of the Kirk Cup at Civil Service (2.30pm).

There will be relief that this is being played at long last, having been postponed from Boxing Day, but no doubt having to play three games in five days is not ideal preparation for Bann coach Mark Tumilty.

It also represents an opportunity for Banbridge to exact revenge on Cookstown for defeat in the final of the same competition last year when the Havelock Park side were beaten 2-0.

On that occasion David Ames and Ian Sloan were the scorers.

Bann’s injury problems have been well documented and while they will be without Stephen Dowds they will have been boosted by the news that he will be back in action within two weeks.

The Seconds have had a relatively straightforward cup run, recording comprehensive victories over Belfast Harlequins (3-0), Bandon (8-1) and Bangor (6-1) in the early rounds before a second half hat trick by Ian Livingstone in the semi final against Annadale at Lough Moss allowed them to recover from a one goal deficit to win 3-1 in what was their finest second period team performance of the season.

Bann will be looking to pick up the old and highly coveted trophy for the seventh time in the club’s much decorated history and for the first time since 2005, when a talented side which saw a mix of youth and experience lead by Roger Martin defeat a much fancied Cork Harlequins outfit by two goals to one. Indeed, there are three sole survivors in Saturday’s squad who hold winners medals from that day six years ago in the shape of Colin McKnight, Junior Burns and Ian Livingstone, and this trio will be determined to regain one of the biggest prizes in Irish hockey for Banbridge.

This time around, the side is captained by Aberdonian converted Banbridge native Douglas Anderson and he has at his disposal a highly talented team littered with a number of schoolboys who have been part of the Academy’s successful season seeing them lift the Irish Schools Championship as well as the Burney Cup at senior level.

This youthful exuberance in the form of the Kelly twins, Matthew Bell, Peter Brown, Robin Smyrl, Ben Cosgrove and Philip Doyle add to the backbone of the team of Appleton, Anderson, Burns, Livingstone, McAnulty and McKnight in an outfit which provides a fine balance of youth and experience.