HOCKEY: Lisnagarvey forwards can step up

Taking over as Lisnagarvey skipper this season is Daniel Buser. Photograph By Declan Roughan  / PressEye

Taking over as Lisnagarvey skipper this season is Daniel Buser. Photograph By Declan Roughan / PressEye

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There have been few headlines for Garvey’s players ahead of the new season - and that’s just the way their coach likes it.

The Hillsborough club finished top of the first EY Hockey league season by a stunning 16 clear points.

And as Lutton prepares his side to begin their defence with a double header this weekend, he’s delighted that the focus from outside has been on who he won’t have at his disposal.

Much has been made of Ireland international Mikie Watt’s move to Hampstead and Westminster, with Garvey’s challengers hopeful that will help to level the playing field.

But as Garvey get ready to host newly-promoted UCD on Saturday (pass-back 3pm) and travel to Railway Union on Sunday (pass-back 2.15pm), Lutton is more than happy with his options.

“(Mikie) is a loss but it’s good that other teams are focusing on players that we don’t have,” said the Head Coach. “He’s a fantastic player and was a great help to us but we have a lot of quality in our forward line, with the likes of Matthew and Daniel Nelson, Timmy Cockram, Daniel Buser and Andrew Williamson. They’re all very, very good players.”

Lutton has added to his squad over the close season, notably by bringing in Irish underage international Peter McKibben from Annadale.

The captain’s armband has been tossed across the changing room, Daniel Buser taking over from Jonny Bell.

“Jonny has done it for three or four years now,” explained Lutton. “It’s a prestigious thing and he felt it would be good for somebody else to step up.

“Jonny will still be a leader for us but Daniel is made from the same mould. He has been at the club for a long time and has seen the captaincy change hands but he feels he can bring something to the role now and we’re delighted for him to do it.”

Last season was really a procession towards the title for Garvey, who won 17 of their 18 league games and even added the Champions Trophy with a 3-1 final victory over old rivals Banbridge.

“There’s no doubt we deserved to win it,” continued Lutton. “There’s no faking the league. All the games were good quality and were close though - there are a lot of good teams.

“The guys are looking forward to getting back and leaning on the success of last season. They’ll carry a bit of confidence into this campaign.

“It will be a lot tighter this time but we have one of the youngest squads in the league so there is lots of room for learning and development.

“Hopefully we can go close to winning the league again and give ourselves a good opportunity to win the Irish Senior Cup as well.

“The very minimum requirement for us this season is to get into the Champions Trophy weekend.”

This weekend, Garvey will be able to call upon Olympians Jonny Bell and Paul Gleghorne, who have returned to club training after their summer trip to Rio with Ireland.

Lutton said: “I told the lads to come back when they needed to come back, be it August, September or October. The last thing we want is for them to be mentally tired come the end of the season but all of them are back and are available for this weekend’s matches.”

Meanwhile, Garvey Seconds begin their defence of the Junior League Cup on Saturday with a group game against North Down at Comber Road (1pm).

Philip Stirling continues as captain with the aim of retaining both the League Cup and the Junior League but he will have his eye firmly on bringing back the Irish Junior Cup after two close attempts recently.

Stephen Docherty captains the Thirds this weekend also in the Junior League Cup. They play against South Antrim II (4.15pm) and are hoping for a sound start to their season.

Another new captain Neil Brazil takes over the Fourths and they have a difficult start to their season, travelling to Raphoe in the Junior League Cup Two while the Fifths, newly promoted to Junior League Two, play Banbridge III at Havelock Park on Friday night (8pm).

Mark Murray continues to captain the highly successful Fifths but might well find things slightly more difficult in the higher league.

Peter Watson again captains the Sixths, who play their first Junior League Cup Four match against North Down Fourths at Regent House School (1.30pm).