Eugene Magee will be missing from the Banbridge squad for the Boxing Day Kirk Cup final clash with Annadale due to injury.
The Ireland star has not fully recovered from a hand injury sustained in the build up to the World Cup in India.
So, with the EYHL resuming in the new year, the 32-year-old won’t be risked although he played through the pain barrier at the showpiece with two broken fingers.
In addition, Ross Beattie and Eddie Rowe are unavailable but Bann coach Mark Tumilty is hoping that Pete Browne will be fit for the final after a hamstring injury.
Tumilty is delighted his team are back in the competition after two seasons out in the cold when the EYHL teams were excluded.
“It’s is great to be back in the final as I feel it is very important for younger players to get experience of playing in cup finals in front of larger crowds,” said the Bann boss
However, Tumilty expects a tough contest against an Annadale side boasting Rio Olympian, Peter Caruth, and penalty corner expert Ryan Burgess.
Dale go into the final on the back of an excellent 3-2 away win over Cork C of I in their last match in the all Ireland league
“Annadale have developed well this year with their younger players coming through. They have made a solid start to the EYHL, and got a great result in Cork in the last round of matches,” added Tumilty
Annadale player-coach Peter Caruth is confident his team can pull off what would be a slight upset against Bann, pointing to recent results, including that epic 3-2 EYHL win in Cork.
“For me, the boys fully deserve to be back here and shows that we are still one of the top teams in Ulster Hockey. We have a good history of Kirk Cup wins and the boys have worked hard to get to this one as well,” he said.
“The Kirk Cup needs these teams as it draws bigger crowds and better quality. The four best teams in Ulster at the minute played against each other in the semi finals. And now the two best teams are in the final in ourselves and Banbridge.
Caruth refutes any notion that his team’s narrow 2-1 EYHL loss to Bann will have any bearing on the Boxing Day rematch
“Not at all. Finals are totally different from a tactics perspective. We know Banbridge will be a quality side but they have their weaknesses,” he added.
“The last game came down penalty corners and, at the moment, we’re firing, with Ryan Burgess scoring for fun. They know this and will have to do something good to stop him from scoring on Boxing Day.”