BANN embark on their last chance this season for All Ireland glory with the opening fixtures in this season’s All Ireland League this weekend.
Bann will be looking to finish the season off in style following their sudden death penalty stroke defeat at the hands of Pembroke Wanderers last week in the Irish Senior Cup semi-final. Pembroke went on to lose a thrilling final to fellow Dublin side Monkstown.
This season’s IHL competition has been altered from previous years with all the games now taking place over a five week period at the end of the season with the first and second placed sides from the two pools qualifying for the finals weekend scheduled over the May Day bank holiday weekend at Three Rock Rovers in Dublin.
Bann have been pooled with old rivals Lisnagarvey, Cork Church of Ireland, Dublin YMCA, Railway Union, and Glenanne, both from Dublin. Teams will compete at pool venues where each venue will host two or three games from the respective pools.
Bann open their campaign this Saturday at Instonians against Lisnagarvey at 4pm.
The following Saturday sees Bann host a series of three games with their game scheduled for the late afternoon slot of 5.30pm and a large crowds is expected to see them take on top Cork side Church of Ireland.
They then go to Annadale before completing their programme with two games in Dublin. Bann will be hoping to emulate their success of 2011, ironically after suffering a semi-final defeat in the Irish Senior Cup.
Mark Tumilty’s side have had a chance to recharge their batteries and focus after the despair of their penalty stroke defeat and will be hoping to show the form that landed them a first league title this season in over 24 years with an incredible haul of 50 points out of a possible 54.
Their only dropped points came from two draws with this Saturday’s opponents Lisnagarvey.
Bann will be viewed as one of the favourites to progress from their pool due to the quality and depth of their squad which, apart from captain Colin Dowds who is still recovering from a head injury, should all be fully fit.
In order to justify this favourites tag the locals must go out on the front foot and seek to play the style of hockey that has seen them be so successful this season. Failure to reach these levels could make life difficult for Bann.
Success in the IHL ensures progression to European club hockey’s elite competition – the European Hockey League which Bann experienced in 2011. Their experiences in Antwerp should be more than enough to inspire the current squad, many of whom were on this trip, to put the effort in again this season to book their place again in the EHL.
It will be a tough ask but one Bann can deliver providing they focus on the job in hand.