Men dominated premier league to bring Keightley Cup back to town

The men’s teams all started the year among the favourites to land their respective league titles - with the firsts bringing the Keightley Cup back to the town after a 24 year abscence.

The season started with the men’s 1st XI team in great form, reaching the semi-finals of the Kirk Cup with a superb win against Lisnagarvey at Havelock Park. A subsequent semi-final loss to Cookstown was the only blight of an otherwise impressive first half of the season.

The team totally dominated the Premier League in Ulster. They were undefeated in the league with 16 wins and two draws and scoring an impressive 85 goals, finishing nine points clear of Lisnagarvey in second place.

Bann sealed the title in the back yard of arch rivals ‘Garvey with a game in hand. Despite drawing at ‘Garvey, the point gained was enough to take them clear at the top of the table which saw the Premier League title and the Keightley Club returning to the club for the first time in 24 years.

In the Irish Senior Cup, Mark Tumilty’s men also overcame two tricky away fixtures to book their place in the semi-finals against Leinster side Pembroke Wanderers. After leading 2-0, Bann allowed Pembroke to level the scores which resulted in two periods of extra time. With the scores still level, it was down to penalty strokes, for Bann to be put out of the Cup in the cruellest of ways finally losing 5-4.

Banbridge maintained their impressive form in the initial stages of the Irish Hockey League by winning all five games in their group and comfortably beating Ulster rivals Cookstown 6-1 in the semi-finals.

The final was played against a top Monkstown side who had already picked up the Irish Senior Cup and Leinster Senior Cup.

Unfortunately Bann were to finish runners-up losing 4-3 to Monkstown. This still qualifies them for European hockey next season.

Stephen Dowds overcame a serious early season injury to lead the Ulster Hockey goalscoring charts and pick up their top goalscorer award with an impressive 44 goals with 1st XI goalkeeper Gareth Lennox picking up Ulster Hockey’s Player of the Year.

The Men’s 2nds, again captained by Douglas Anderson, were equally impressive. Fuelled by a massive 44 goals from Ross McCandless they won 20 of their 22 league games and scored 106 competitive goals. After some tough games in the opening rounds of the Irish Junior Cup and a nail-biting 11 goal thriller against Cookstown in the semis saw Bann qualify for the final after winning this game 6-5.

Unfortunately it was Monkstown again who came out on top winning the IJC final 2-1.

The Men’s 3rd XI seemed to find some form in the run up to Christmas after making a rather indifferent start to the season.

Captain Bill Malcolmson led from the front as their top goal scorer and at one stage the team were challenging for second place in Junior 2 and promotion, however, some tough away games at the end of the season in this tight league, resulted in a mid-table finish for the thirds.

The Men’s 4th XI were rejuvenated this term securing promotion to Junior 2, where they will join the 3rd XI next season.

Banbridge players were well represented in the Ulster and Ireland teams. Peter Brown made his debut for the Senior Ireland Men’s Team joining Bruce McCandless in helping Ireland qualify in India for the World League 3 series. Stephen Dowds was also capped for Ireland while Drew Carlisle, Phillip Brown, Matthew Bell, Jonny McKee Owen Magee were selected for senior Irish training squads. Jonny McKee, Ben Cosgrove and Tim Watt will be part of the U18 and U16 Ireland teams for upcoming tournaments.