As pre-season gets underway at Havelock next month, it’ll come with one notable omission from the men’s first team.
Banbridge Hockey Club stalwart Simon Magowan has hung up his stick after 14 years in the club’s senior side.
Magowan has been an integral part of the Banbridge squad since joining from Newry 14 years ago but ultimately, he says, his injury woes in recent years have caused his retirement from the playing side of the club.
“I had an injury a couple of years ago to my cruciate ligament and so it’s time to go. I’m just getting old!” he said.
“We have a lot of young lads coming through now. I’ve just got to the stage when it’s time to step aside but hopefully I’ll stay involved at the club.”
The 30 year-old’s retirement from playing marks the end of a career that brought three Anderson Cup titles, two Kirk Cup wins and of course both Irish Hockey League and Ulster Senior League medals.
“I won everything but the Irish Cup. Winning the IHL was a great achievement,” he said.
“It was even better to win it with all the boys that I had played with for so many years, like Dane Ward and Bruce McCandless and the rest of the guys.
“We got into the European Hockey League but I picked up my injury and I missed out on playing so that was a big disappointment for me.”
Even such a landmark occasion as the IHL win back in 2011, however, was eclipsed in 2013 when the club finally got their hands on the league tropyhy in Lisnagarvey of all places.
Simon sa: “That had to be the highlight of my career. Winning the league for the first time in 24 years was the thing we all really wanted to achieve for the entire time I had been playing. It’s my only league title and to win it at Garvey made it all the more special.
“There was a lot of pressure on us that day.
“We didn’t play all that well in the first half and Tum (Mark Tumilty) got us into the changing room at half-time.
“He didn’t usually do that. He usually just talks to the players on the pitch at half-time but he got us in and gave us a dressing down. Thankfully, the lads all responded in the second half, particularly a lot of the young players. Josh Moffett was absolutely outstanding. It was a great achievement for the whole team and a great day.”
During his time at the club, Magowan played under three coaches and it is one of those that he chose as the greatest player he ever played alongside at Havelock Park.
“I played with some great players, who helped me a lot,” he said.
“When I think back to my early days, Lee Tumilty was a brilliant player but Eugene Magee is a special player as well.
“Then lately Bruce McCandless has been brilliant and is right up there with the best players.
“Rory Madeley was up there as well. He wouldn’t be talked about as much but he was great to play up front with when I was starting out.
“If I had to single one out, I’d say it would be Lee. He was brilliant and was just an all-round good player.”
Although Lee’s brother Mark, Banbridge’s current Head Coach, wasn’t singled out for his playing talents, he was full of praise for his recently retired forward.
“Simon doesn’t get the credit that he deserves,” he said.
“Whenever I played against Banbridge, he would have been a tough guy to play against.
“He always did a lot of unselfish work but he also scored around 20 goals last season from open play which isn’t bad for somebody who isn’t known as a goal-scorer.
“He has done well for us over the years and also came back well from a few bad injuries that he had. That’s a credit to him and he’ll be missed about the group.
“He’s a great player and has been a great servant to the club over the past number of years.
“He won some of the bigger tournaments that he wanted to win. He had a good career and he’s a good lad.”
Magowan is likely to remain involved at the club in the manager’s role and he’s tipping Bann for more success going forward under Tumilty’s stewardship:
“Mark will be pushing on for an Irish Cup medal now. It’s still seen as the marquee trophy in Irish hockey.
“The IHL is a big tournament to win but boys still talk about how many Irish Cup medals they have won when they look back at their careers.
“That’s the one the boys want to win now after winning the league and the IHL in recent years.
“They have young players coming through and a good squad brought together with the two new signings coming in from Portadown.
“Gareth Lennox has a big role there. He’s one of the best keepers in Ireland and he’s a big influence on the team as well. He has a lot of experience and a lot of the guys look up to him.
“I’d like to thank the club for everything they’ve done for me over the last 14 years. They have stuck by me through thick and thin. I loved playing for Banbridge for so long and now I wish them all the best for the future. Hopefully I’ll be staying as part of the club. It would be too hard to leave altogether.”