Four Banbridge players helped Ireland U21s to gain promotion to the top flight of European hockey at the weekend.
The Green Machine cruised to victory in the EuroHockey Junior Championships II to secure their spot in Division A for the next tournament in 2016.
Matthew Bell, Owen Magee, Johnny McKee and new-signing Jamie Wright were all in action alongside former Bann men Ben Cosgrove and Pete Brown.
The team took home the gold medals after winning two of their three group games and then thrashing Italy 9-2 and beating Scotland 3-1 in the classifications games.
That was enough to secure top spot and promotion alongside hosts Portugal, with whom Ireland drew 1-1 in the group.
“We went in there with pretty high expectations of ourselves and our goal was always to get promoted up to the top division in our first attempt. Winning the whole thing was a real bonus for us though,” said Banbridge and Ireland’s Matthew Bell.
“Ireland had an U21 team years ago, which was scrapped. When we started up, we had to go from the bottom tier, which we won two years ago.”
The Banbridge lads helped Ireland U21s to a successful campaign that saw them score 23 goals and concede just seven.
“It’s always great to get away on a trip like that with the lads, especially getting away to good weather like we did last week,” said Matthew Belll.
“ All these lads have played together since U16 level so it’s always good craic when we get away together.
“We drew 1-1 with Portugal early on but I think that gave us the kick up the backside that we needed to get our act together, which we did.
“I’m happy enough with the way I’ve been playing and I got one goal from a short corner so I can’t really complain.”
Owen Magee also got himself on the score-sheet, netting twice including “one of the best goals I’ve ever scored!”
Next up for him is getting on the field for Ireland’s senior side, a run-out that surely isn’t far away.
“Getting away with the U21s was a great week and a great tournament,” he said. “We played well and developed as a team.
“Hopefully I can now make the step up and get the break-through to the senior side. That’s my next goal but I’ll just keep doing what I’m doing and hopefully it will come.”
The lads were also impressed with the showing of their new Banbridge team-mate Jamie Wright.
Bell said: “He’s a very good forward and will be a great boost for us, especially after we lost Josh Moffett, who is taking a year out in America, and Simon Magowan.”
After their hard week’s work in Lusada, Bell is even campaigning for a late start to pre-season (Are you readin, Coach Tumilty?):
“We’re due to be back in pre-season at the start of August but maybe we’ll get a bit of a break after just coming back from the tournament. I haven’t had a real break this year at all.”