Feast of top class hockey on offer at Havelock Park

Banbridge will be looking to their hotshot goalscorer Stephen Dowds
Banbridge will be looking to their hotshot goalscorer Stephen Dowds

The clock on the Banbridge website is counting down the hours, minutes and seconds to the IHL finals – for what promises to be a feast of top class hockey at Bann’s Havelock Park base.

It’s a far cry from Bann’s last major tournament, when they hosted the European Cup Winners Cup back in 1985 on the grass at Castlewellan Road.

I remember it well, which Bann won, defeating Amiscora Alisarda from Italy.

That was knife-edge stuff, as it took a dramatic penalty stroke shootout to decide the outcome. Whilst the Bann spectators would prefer to do without the drama, they would still take the same result this weekend.

Weeks of planning are virtually over, as Bann President Neil Madeley said: “Plans are well in advance and we are as ready as we will ever be. We are hoping that we can make this weekend as memorable off the pitch as on it.

“We are bringing a 100 seater stand in, we have a marquee entrance, press areas and there are full restaurant and bar facilities.

“We have an army of about 60 to 70 volunteers to cover every aspect in organising the tournament and hopefully make this a fantastic weekend for both players and spectators, in a true Bann way.

“We have asked all the competing teams to bring their Under 13 teams along and we will be playing games before the first game and after the final game each day. So we hope everyone will stay and watch them play.

“There has been superb support from Banbridge Council and Banbridge Academy are letting us use the school car-parking facilities over the weekend.

“So come Saturday 9am, we just want to turn the key at the gate and away we go.”

But there is the matter of a couple of semi-final games to be sorted out first and they don’t come any bigger. First up sees Leinster champions Monkstown take on their Dublin rivals Three Rock Rovers, who finished in the runners up slot.

This promises to be a real battle royal, as Irish Senior Cup winners, Rovers, will be out to spoil the Monkstown party.

And in the all Ulster final, newly crowned Ulster premier champions Lisnagarvey take on Banbridge and this has all the hallmarks of being a cracker.

Further details are all available in the IHL finals section of the Banbridge Hockey Club website www.banbridgehockeyclub.com.

Saturday 5 April

Semi-Finals: Monkstown v Three Rock Rovers (3pm); Lisnagarvey v Banbridge (5pm)

Sunday 6 April

Final (4pm)