Historic year for Bann as 24 year wait comes to an end

This year marked the end of a 24 year wait for Banbridge Hockey Club.

They lifted the Ulster Premier League title for the 19th time but the first in almost a quarter of a century.

“The highlight of 2013 was definitely winning the league and to win it at Garvey was really nice for us as well,” said Head Coach Mark Tumilty.

Bann won the title back in March at the home of their rivals - second-placed Lisnagarvey. They finished off the season winning 16 o their 18 Ulster Premier League matches, dropping points only to Garvey themselves, whom they drew with twice.

“We had waited so long to get it,” said Tumilty.

“We didn’t play that well on the day but we scored when we really needed to and got the job done. The players deserved that. They were brilliant and it was an excellent achievement to go unbeaten through the whole league season.”

The last time Bann ended a 24 year period without the title, the won it four years on the trot (1986-1989). Currently sitting top of the table, they could win it again this year but Tumilty has his eyes fixed elsewhere.

“The two All Ireland competitions are our priorities looking forward. We want to get back into the EHL,” he said.

“I would love to win the Irish Cup. I’d love us to get our hands on it and tick it off.”

Last year, Banbridge went as far as the Irish Senior Cup semi-final but were undone by beaten finalists Pembroke Wanderers.

“The Irish Cup semi-final was probably a low point for us,” he said.

“We were 2-0 up with 15 minutes left to play so not to finish it off from there was disappointing. I got it wrong that day with the substitutions I made and the players didn’t show the maturity we needed to.

“That made it so pleasing that they did show that in the All-Ireland League semi-final. That was another big step for us.

“The 6-1 win over Cookstown in that semi-final was great. That was a really big step for us.”

That Irish Hockey League campaign didn’t end in glory either though as Monkstown defeated them 4-2 in the final.

Tumilty’s attention is now turning to putting that hurt to an end but he wants to do it playing the right way.

He said: “Our style of play was another plus point for me. We played the most attractive hockey in the country this year. Of course, I’d swap that for winning but I have my own ideas about how the game should be played. It’s about developing players as well as winning matches so it’s great that we’ve been able to do that.

“Individually, Petey Brown’s progress and playing with Ireland was a highlight. Josh Moffett and Hugh McShane have also progressed really well to become key members of the team and now the likes of Kyle Marshall and Jonny McKee are stepping up to take their chance in the team.

“2013 was a good year. The club and the supporters have both been fantastic. We can’t really ask for any more.”

Banbridge’s next game is their first match of 2014 and sees them travel to Mossley in the Ulster Premier League on Saturday 4th January.