Banbridge battle on without Irish internationals

Eugene Magee
Eugene Magee

Life without their four Irish internationals, so far, has been a stroll in the park for premiership leaders Banbridge.

Eugene Magee, Bruce McCandless, Stephen Dowds and Drew Carlisle are all in America with the Irish team for the World Hockey League 2, and at one stage it looked likely that Bann would not be playing any fixtures without the four players.

But instead they opted to play, and the leaders have notched up two comfortable wins defeating Kilkeel 3-0 and Newry 6-1 to stretch their lead at the top to five points.

This week they welcome Civil Service who were trounced 10-0 last weekend by Garvey but then Service held Inst 1-1 midweek.

The Garvey score line may not be the same this weekend but the outcome looks likely with another three points in the bag for Bann who will be missing Philip Brown.

Second place, Lisnagarvey, could notch up another hefty win this week as they take on Belfast Harlequins who have only one win in thirteen outings.

Garvey showed the depth of talent they have in the club last weekend, with no fewer than six schoolboys in the squad. Wallace schoolboy, Mark McNellis, was outstanding at the back, stepping into to the sweeper role in Johnny Bell’s absence.

There are only three premiership games this weekend, and Inst will be looking to bounce back from a defeat and a draw in their last two games, which has seen them drop to 3rd spot on the league.

Tomorrow they welcome Newry, but an injury hit Inst squad who are missing four players and their Irish international Paul Gleghorne, could struggle to contain Newry who are missing Neil McKnight and possibly Colin Henning.

Senior One leaders welcome back Patric Cochrane, who returns after a school trip during the mid-term break, for their game against Antrim and another three points looks likely for the leaders.

Second place Portadown, are missing Geoff Edgar, Stuart Bell and their prolific goal scorer, Stevie Johnston for their trip to Bangor and share of the spoils could be a likely outcome.

There’s a couple of massive Sinton’s at the Bridge Burney Cup games tomorrow morning with holders, Wallace High, taking on Friends in the Lisburn schools derby at 10.30am, Lisnagarvey.

And it’s a North Down derby, as Sullivan Upper play Regent House and the action there gets underway at Comber Leisure Centre at 9.30am.

Meanwhile Ireland take their first step towards next year’s Rio Olympics when they opn their World Hockey League 2 account against Chile at 9.30pm (GMT).

The Irish are favourites to win the tournament, and qualify for the next stage. But Chile, who are ranked ten places below Ireland in 25th place, are a team of unknowns and Ireland can’t afford to be complacent.

Chile lost 4-0 to Canada in a recent international, so the Irish will be expected to secure a positive win.

There are no injury concerns and Irish coach, Craig Fulton, is expected to go with his most experienced squad for the game and open Ireland’s account with three points.

Next up for the Irish are Austria on Sunday that game is at 11.15pm (GMT).

Austria recently had an outstanding performance at the World Indoor championships.

If they can bring that performance to their outdoor game, then they could be a problem for Ireland.

You can follow all the action on Twitter and the usual social media vehicles during the tournament.