Premiership race heats up as high-flying quartet eye glory

Banbridge's Eugene Magee
Banbridge's Eugene Magee

Premiership coaches will be keeping their fingers crossed that the icy blast that forced the cancellation of all last weekend’s games does not happen again this weekend.

Another wipe out of games would send the fixture list into total chaos and that is something no-one would want to see.

Looking at the weather forecast for tomorrow, it is highly unlikely games will be iced out and that will be good news for coaches, as some teams have not hit a ball in the premiership this year.

But, not only are things heating up at the top of the premiership, it looks like the coveted fifth and Irish Hockey League qualifying slot could go to the wire, with Kilkeel, Annadale, Harlequins and Mossley all still in the mix.

Kilkeel welcome leaders Banbridge to their base this week and they will be relieved to hear that Bann’s Irish International, Eugene Magee, will miss the game as he has fractured his thumb.

Magee will be joined on the sidelines by his younger brother Owen, who is also out injured, while Matthew Bell is still trying to get over an injury he picked up two weeks ago.

Kilkeel will welcome back Colin Holmes, who returns after a long term injury, and if he can help Kilkeel pick up a point at least from this game it would keep them in the hunt for IHL qualification.

The game of the day sees Annadale entertain Cookstown at Lough Moss. Cookstown side expected to be at full strength but Annadale could be missing their Irish International debutante, Michael Robson, who has been with Ireland in Spain.

Nothing less than maximum points will suffice for both teams with defeat for Cookstown seeing their chances of pushing on for the title evaporate, while a loss for Dale would mean the Kirk Cup champions could miss out on playing in the IHL next season.

Second placed Lisnagarvey, even without Daniel Buser and Stuart Dowling who are both injured, should take all three points against bottom of the table Civil Service at Stormont.

In the mid-table clash between Belfast Harlequins and Mossley, they will be going all out to claim maximum points. Mossley welcome back Mark Moreland, who has recovered from a chest infection, and the four Ulster U21 panellists, Joel Cathcart, Neal Glassey, Phil Hamill and Ben McMillen are all fit and ready for the game.

Instonians welcome back James Corry who has also been away with Ireland in Spain. o See

But Inst are missing goalkeeper Richard Johnston, Stephen Redpath and Andrew Coulter who are injured and they will miss the game against visitors Raphoe. Josh Irwin will continue in goal for Inst.

Senior One leaders Newry won’t have the services of Johnny Taylor and Keith McWilliams for the visit of Queens.

Second placed North Down are at full strength for a tough trip to Antrim and title hopefuls Portadown are missing Jonny Hassin for their game against bottom of the table Cliftonville.