Banbridge coach Mark Tumilty is hoping for a strong display by his side in this weekend’s Champions Challenge tournament in Rakovnik, Czech Republic.
Tumilty will have a strong squad at his disposal for the tournament with only Jonny McKee, Drew Carlisle, Colly Dowds and Aaron Reid missing. Eugene Magee will miss the start but will join up with the squad mid-way through the tournament.
Having been less than excited about the trip after a disappointing end to the domestic season in the IHL final defeat, Tumilty’s players have picked up their boss’ spirits with their strong European preparation.
“I’ve been really impressed with the boys’ attitude in training,” he said. “Some of the sessions were done at as high a level as the guys have been at all season. It really is a huge credit to them.
“I was a bit sceptical about it at the end of the season when I found out where we’d be going but now I’ve seen how much the lads have applied themselves and I’m excited about it.
“It’ll be good to get away for a bit of banter but it’ll be very worthwhile too.
“It’ll be a good team-building excercise for us as well. It’ll be good craic and that will all help us as a team next year. The boys are all looking forward to it and so am I.
“We fly out on Thursday morning and then we’re playing on Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday. We’re in good shape. I can’t really complain at all.”
Banbridge’s performance won’t have any huge impact on the club itself with Monkstown and Three Rock Rovers confirmed as next year’s European competitors but the boss is keen to help the Dublin sides’ cause with a strong display in the third tier of European hockey.
“I’d be pretty confident going in to the tournament. I’d be disappointed if we didn’t do enough to get Ireland promoted up a level in European Hockey.
“Ireland got relegated last year, which shouldn’t have happened. If Monkstown can do well enough in the Champions Trophy, Ireland will have two teams in the European Hockey League next year. That will be Monkstown and Three Rock Rovers.
“Our performance doesn’t affect EHL rankings points but if Monkstown didn’t do well enough, we could at least ensure that both them and Three Rock will be in the Champions Trophy next year and no Irish team will be in the Champions Challenge.
“It won’t affect us but we want to help them and help Irish hockey by ensuring the teams will go in at a better level next year.”
Banbridge open up their programme on Friday against the Grammarians from Gibraltar who some people will remember with fond affection from their last encounter with Bann.
The Mediterrean based side competed in the famous Euro event at Castlewellan Road back in 1985 and were an instant hit with their approach to the game and their loyal band of supporters.
Next up on the Saturday will be one of the two Czech sides, Slavia Prague who like Bann are experienced Euro campaigners and are expected to be Bann’s toughest pool match.
Tumilty’s boys then round off their pool games with a clash with Croatian outfit Akkord on Sunday afternoon which again will be a trip into the unknown.
Their final game on Monday will be dictated by their finishing position in their pool but it would be a major surprise if Bann are not in the final match at the top of the pool.
After the tournament, Banbridge will enjoy a six week break before beginning their ore-season training for the 2014/15 Irish hockey season.