Civil Service travel to Dublin on Saturday as Ulster’s only representatives in this season’s Irish Indoor finals.
But they are only there after the players dug deep into their pockets to fund all their indoor costs themselves.
“It is disappointing that there are not more Ulster teams playing indoor hockey because it is such a good game. But it is understandable, as it is so expensive to hire halls to train in and even to play in the tournament is costly,” explained Service coach Robert Johnston.
“We have basically funded it ourselves, all the players who take part pay for all the training sessions. And it is expensive, so that is probably why a lot of clubs do not play indoor.”
Service reached the final of the indoor championships last season, only to be defeated by Three Rock Rovers who have won the competition every year since the tournament was formed four seasons ago.
So how does Johnston rate his side’s chances this year?
“I would be disappointed if we do not reach at least the semi-finals,” he said.
“And then you never know what can happen, as semi-finals are a one-off game. I would like to think we would get through the group ok. We have been drawn in the same group as Three Rock Rovers and they are very, very good.
“But I am hoping that we will be able to beat Clontarf. We defeated them last year, so I am confident we can do it again this time.”
Service have been hit with five last-minute cry-offs, severely weakening the team.
However, they have been boosted by the availability of Chris Barnes, who was not available last year. Barnes is lethal from penalty corners and given any chance in the circle, as many teams know, he will always find the net.
Ex-Scottish international David Hay will also be making the trip south. “He has over 90 caps for Scotland and is a very good indoor player,” stated Johnston.
“Gareth Grundie is an exceptional indoor player for us, although he would never say that himself and those two guys make a big difference for us, as they are so good.”
The action gets under way tomorrow at Gormanstown College, with the finals moving to the National Basketball Arena on Sunday.