Bann on the brink of IHL semis

After their opening three wins in the IHL, Banbridge have all but secured their place in the IHL semi-finals.

They have won all of their opening Pool B matches to date and, although Bann need a monumental crash and goal difference turnaround to miss out, Head Coach Mark Tumilty wants to finish the pool campaign strongly.

“That should see us through but I would still like to go and win at Annadale so we can go to Monkstown with nothing to play for and not having to worry about our goal difference or anything,” he said.

“I have been pleased and we’re hopefully hitting form at the right time. Having everybody fit is helping. We’ve played with 12 senior players totally fit for a lot of the season but now I feel like we have 16 senior guys who have been playing enough hockey to be fully fit. They’re sharp and it makes a huge difference to the whole thing.

“We just have to get our shape and get other guys pitch time. There’s still work to be done. Our corners could be slicker and we can always improve at any stage of the season.

“It’s also about managing the players because there are Irish training sessions in between everything. The players were away on Sunday morning for a training session, which isn’t ideal.”

On Sunday, Bann travel to take on Annadale (pass-back 1.30pm), whom they have had mixed fortunes against this season.

He said: “We’ll always have it in the back of our minds that they beat us in the semi-final of the Kirk Cup. We won up there and they’ve struggled a bit in the IHL but they’re young and they’ve nothing to fear. They’ve nothing to play for which can make it harder but if we get ourselves in the right frame of mind, hopefully we’ll get the win to get qualification sorted.”

Tumilty, however, has reservations over the Lough Moss playing surface.

“It’s on a sand-based pitch. Personally, I don’t think the IHL should be played on that surface. This is the highest level of hockey in Ireland and that shouldn’t involve playing on a sand-based pitch but we have to deal with it.”

And as long as his side avoid defeat on Saturday, Tumilty already knows who his side want to face, or rather not face, in the semi-final at Havelock.

He said: “Last year worked out well because we avoided Monkstown, who had already won the Irish Senior Cup. That meant whoever won our semi-final was already guaranteed European qualification. If Three Rock Rovers get to the semi-final this year, we’d be guaranteed European hockey if we got to the final against them.”