Banbridge fired up for key IHL clash with Railway Union

Banbridge's Drew Carlisle
Banbridge's Drew Carlisle

Banbridge will have their four America-bound Irish internationals available for their crucial Fourth Round Irish Hockey League game against Railway Union in Dublin on Saturday.

The Banbridge quad of Drew Carlisle, Stephen Dowds, Eugene Magee and Bruce McCandless have just been named by Irish coach, Craig Fulton, in Ireland’s World League 2 squad that will be heading to America on February 20.

Next week will be their last league game for Bann and they are not expected to be available again until March 21 and that could be the all-important Fifth Round of the IHL, some five weeks away.

And the question is will Bann be expected to play their league games without their four internationals? But it is a doubled edged sword for Bann coach, Mark Tumilty, because whilst he will not want to jeopardise his chances of retaining the Premiership title, he knows that his squad will need games to keep match fit, especially as they push for the IHL play-offs.

Then on the March 28 they have the all-important semi-final of the Irish Senior Cup against Pembroke Wanderers, so it is not only a headache for Tumilty but a headache trying to get fixtures played.

Bann will be without Philip Brown for the trip to Dublin in a game that they must take something from, as they can’t afford to slip up at this stage.

The game of the day is at Hillsborough where Lisnagarvey, who are also in contention for a play-off place, take on pool leaders Three Rock Rovers. The Dublin side are two points clear at the top, and with Irish international Mitch Darling in sparkling form up front, Garvey will have to on their toes from the whistle.

Instonians travel to Cookstown for the all-Ulster clash in Pool Band. Cookstown will remember the last time they met in the league which saw Inst take all three points in a rare win at the Reds County Tyrone base.

Cookstown could be missing four players, Raymond Millar, Andy Barbour, Gregg Allen and Paul Thompson for a game that they must win to have any hopes of reaching the play-offs.

Inst should be at full strength for the trip with all their players available however, they also need to bag the points or they could miss out on a semi-final spot.

Annadale are still in with a shout of reaching the semis, but Andy Smyth’s squad faces a tough test when they welcome Leinster kingpins Pembroke Wanderers.

There are important games in the premiership, as Harlequins entertain Kilkeel who will be without Gareth Russell. Civil Service play Newry and both teams need the points as they try to move from the relegation zone, plus there is a full programme in Senior One.

Finally, Armagh and Ballymena will contest the Irish Challenge semi-finals against Naas and Weston respectively.