The men’s EY Hockey League gets under way on Saturday with four Ulster teams ultimately aiming to stop Three Rock Rovers from making it a hat-trick of Champions Trophy successes at the end of the season. However, it was Glenanne who won the regulation season title following Lisnagarvey and Banbridge’s triumphs in the previous two years.
The season follows the same format as the women’s competition – due to start next weekend – with 18 rounds of regular season matches from which the champion will qualify for Europe. The top three move on to the Champions Trophy along with the Irish Senior Cup winner or, otherwise, the fourth placed league finisher. Of the Ulster quartet, Banbridge missed the playoffs last season after a slow start but look well equipped to challenge this time with Eugene Magee, John McKee, Peter Brown and Bruce McCandless bringing lots of international experience to the table.
Lisnagarvey are in a similar mode, looking to their youth section to replenish a first team that has seen key players move to Germany. Cookstown survived last season by a relegation play-off but have not seen many departures while Callum Anderson, Raymond Miller and Andy McWhirter are back in the mix. Michael Haycock takes sole charge of the side for a 13th year as coach with regular co-coach Stephen Cuddy taking a step back.
Annadale will have Rio Olympian Peter Caruth acting as player-coach once again and he should be available for the bulk of the season, having pulled out of Ireland’s world Cup squad.
Here are some of the thoughts of the the men in charge and the player moves that have taken place over the summer.
Ryan Getty: Lisnagarvey
Ryan Burgess: Bangor
Andrew O’Hare: Lisnagarvey
Connor Roberts: To University of Edinburgh
Fergus Gibson: Loughbrough
Owen McElhinney: Holland
Craig Getty: England
Team coach: Peter Caruth
Team captain: TBC
Peter Caruth: “Our aim is to finish as high as possible. We want to build on last season. Look we surprised a lot of the big teams last year taking points of Monkstown, Lisngarvey and Three Rock Rovers and we were in a lot of games and gave away silly points to teams we should beat but for a team that was young we did a lot right.
For me this season is to get the best possible team and coaching team in place. The reason for this is that I see the league this year being wide open and anyone’s to take. No team has a stand out squad and that can work in our favour. We have done our recruitment and kept developing our younger players.
I know we are not a team to lie down and be walked over we have our style and we will stick to it. We have brought in Johnny Caren into the coaching squad as well as David Livingstone and Peter Bland. Johnny has his experience and has taken teams to major heights and the boys are loving working with him. This is the team I have wanted for a while using a mix of experience and coaching expertise. Since I have recently removed myself from the Irish World Cup Squad this only can strengthen us more.”
David Rae: Kilkeel
Owen Magee: Braxgata (Belgium)
Gareth Lennox – retired
Team coach: Mark Tumilty
Team Captain: None (leadership group)
Mark Tumilty: “Last season was a disappointing season for us. Having had a very successful season the year before, we did not carry that into last season. Players moving on and having to rebuild the back four was a bigger challenge than expected. We also had injuries to key players which didn’t help. It was a good learning for all involved including the coaching team and will make us stronger going forward.
I’m very happy with how the preseason has gone. Delighted with the signing of David Rae. We are in a much better position than this time last year to mount a serious challenge for the EYHL and Irish Senior Cup. I feel this group of players has the potential to win trophies at national level and that is our objective for the season.
As far as longer term aspirations go – continue to develop international players, get the club back into the European Hockey League. One of our main objectives as a club is to develop our younger players. We have added eight 16/17 year olds to our training panel with a view to getting them through into the squad over the next three seasons.”
Callum Anderson: Queen’s University
Raymond Miller: returning from long term injury
Andy McWhirter: returning from long term illness
Jon Ames: Playing in Melbourne.
Coach: Michael Haycock
Captain: Greg Allen
Greg Allen: “Cookstown has a young squad which has been bolstered by the return of strikers Andy McWhirter and Raymond Miller from long term injury/illness and Callum Anderson from his time starring for Queen’s University in the Ulster Premier. The team will also look to Cookstown under-age Ireland internationals Josh McCabe, Michael Kerr, Jack Haycock and Stewart Wylie to add a dynamism and youthful enthusiasm to the team. Ideally, Cookstown will have secured their survival in the EYHL by Christmas and can push on from there. Ambitions remain restrained, with hopes of continuing the upward trajectory set during the latter half of last season.
We will seek to improve on their ninth place finish last season. Their real problem lay in slow starts to games and there has been a real emphasis on arresting this issue as well as increasing defensive unity. The changes in the Irish Senior Cup mean that the Reds do not join the competition until round three and a run in the cup would be a great success. Jon Ames was Cookstown’s captain and player of the season last year, and he will be missed at the heart of the midfield for he is undoubtedly an international quality player who was commanding in every game last year despite playing in a team which struggled.
Longer term, we aim to give the younger players the opportunity to grow into the game at the highest level and develop into players that can bring Cookstown back to winning silverware and qualify for European competitions.”
Troy Chambers: Annadale
Sean Murray: HC Rotterdam
Paul Gleghorne: Crefelder HTC
Neal Glassey: Crefelder HTC
Michael Robson: Crefelder HTC
Scott McCabe: Queens University
Stevie Arbuthnot: Assistant coach, Lisnagarvey HC
Andrew O’Hare: Annadale
Ryan Getty: Annadale
Coach: Errol Lutton
Errol Lutton: “Having promoted some of our Under 18 representative players into our training panel, the aim is to continue to provide an environment that is enjoyable and challenging that allows everyone to train and play at the highest level. This should hopefully allow us to challenge for trophies both domestically and nationally. Last season, results would show that there were periods during last season that the team was playing at a very high level. But ultimately at the latter stages of all competitions we came up short.
Lisnagarvey along with the schools continue to produce exceptionally talented hockey players at all ages. The club have invested a lot of time and resources on the coaching side of things at all levels. The long term plan is continue to provide this support so players both enjoy their hockey and make the most of their talent. Longer term the this should allow Lisnagarvey to continue to produce players that wish to play at the highest both in Ulster and Irish hockey.”
Glenanne v Cork C of I
Monkstown v Annadale
Cookstown v YMCA
Banbridge v Three Rock Rovers
Lisnagarvey v Pembroke
South Antrim v Raphoe
North Down v Bangor
Civil Service v Instonians
Antrim v Portadown
Newry v Kilkeel
Harlequins v Queen’s
Parkview v Armagh
CI v Saintfield
Ballynahinch v Portrush
Ballymena v Lisnagarvey
Dungannon v Ballymoney
Club KV v Priorians
North Down v Coleraine
Castle v Armagh