Banbridge Hockey Club Head Coach Mark Tumilty reckons his side can become All Ireland champions.
Bann begin the first ever full Irish Hockey league season on Saturday evening at home to Annadale (pass-back 5pm).
That’s a game that Bann would hope to win without major difficulties but ending the 18 game season as champions will be an altogether more difficult task.
“Our primary aim is to make sure we finish in the top three to get into the play-offs for the European spot,” said Tumilty.
“We have a realistic chance of winning it though. It will be very difficult for us but it will be the same for everyone and we can win it.”
In order to do that, Bann will have to fare better than reigning champions Monkstown. The Dublin side have beaten Ireland in the last two IHL finals and have added Ireland forward Kyle Good and Jonny Bruton to their panel.
“They’ll definitely be the team to beat,” said Tumilty.
“That’s the challenge for us and I still think we can be very competitive.”
Bann’s squad is largely the same one that went so close to the clean sweep last season. Scott Forbes has left while Dane Ward has moved to London but the club have welcomed back Josh Moffett.
Teenage stars Sam Farson and Jake Rowe will also make the step up to the first team squad for what is a landmark season ahead.
“It’s the right step and it’s a big year for Irish hockey, coming off the back of the European medal for Ireland and the Olympics hopefully coming up,” said Tumilty. “Hopefully the powers that be can get it right and it will be a great year for hockey in Ireland.
“As a club, we’re all really looking forward to it.
“Most of the teams in this league will be competitive and any team will be able to beat anyone else.
“There will be points dropped by everyone but that’s the type of league that hockey needs.
“It’s good for our younger players to be involved in it as well.”