The big clashes are coming thick and fast for Lisnagarvey Hockey Club in the IHL this season, and they don’t come much bigger than matches against Banbridge Hockey Club, tomorrow’s (Saturday’s) opponents.
The two sides have met a numerous occasions in recent seasons, with very little between them.
With Garvey having suffered defeat at home last weekend to reigning champions Monkstown, they will be keen to bounce back this time out.
However, with Banbridge sitting at the top of the table with two wins from two matches, they will be eager to secure their place at the top of the league when they host Garvey at Havelock Park tomorrow evening (pass back 5pm).
Banbridge Coach Mark Tumilty said the clash between the two Ulster sides is “still the biggest game of the season” earlier this week, and Garvey Head Coach Errol Lutton said he is very much ‘looking forward’ to the match.
“We’ve played Banbridge many times,” he said. “We’ve met them in the Ulster League, and various cups.
“They are an excellent team and have an excellent set-up down there, we’re looking forward to it.
“The matches against Banbridge were close last year, there was a 4-3 win for them, a four-all draw and a three-all draw. There is not much between the sides,” Lutton commented.
“Last year they won the league, Garvey won it the year before.
“The sides are packed with young players and international players, that’s what people want to see.
“I hope they all play their best,” he added,
Garvey lost 5-2 against Monkstown at Comber Road last Saturday, and Lutton believes a slow start contributed to that defeat.
“We maybe started a wee bit too slow,” he said.
“We knew Monkstown were a good side and had a lot of respect for them.
“We’re disappointed to perform below par, especially at home, certainly we can play a lot better than that but Monkstown deserved to win.
“We had four or five younger players, who are at school or are just out of school,” the coach said. “For periods we played very well and it was good for those young guys to get that experience.
“There is plenty to learn from it when we meet them again.” The local club are hoping to soon welcome back influential player Jonny Bell, who is awaiting a late fitness test to decide if he will be part of tomorrow’s squad.
“Jonny Bell may be available for us,” coach Lutton stated. “We’re waiting on a late fitness test.
“He’s making good progress since the end of August when he had treatment on an injury. If not this week, he will certainly be in the next round of matches.
“He has to see the physio on the Ireland side of things, who will decide, and if he’s available he’ll certainly be in the squad.”
Lutton has been impressed with life in the IHL so far, with the decision to move proving to be a positive one.
“It’s been a great experience for the players in the IHL,” he said. “The club went to a lot of effort last weekend to do something a bit different, the support from the club has been excellent.
“Every club has embraced the IHL, it is now more of a spectacle. “After this we have a bit of the break, so I hope we can back up the support with a good performance. It has been all good so far, we’re looking forward to Saturday.”