BY DENIS HURLEY
BANDON will go in search of their second successive women’s Irish Hockey Trophy title this Sunday, when they take on Galway in the final at UCD’s Belfield (1.30pm).
Last year, the West Cork club claimed victory when they saw off Avoca on penalty strokes after a 0-0 draw.
This time round, they began their campaign with a 5-0 victory over fellow Cork side Ashton before beating two Galway sides, NUIG and Greenfields, 4-0 and 3-0 respectively. A third Connacht outfit stand in their way and coach David Buttimer is hopeful that back-to-back titles can be claimed.
‘I wouldn’t say it has been easy this year,’ he says, ‘but certainly less stressful than last year, as we needed penalty strokes in the semi-final then, too.
‘The 3-0 against Greenfields in the semi-final was probably an unfair reflection on the game, I think we were just able to take our chances better than they were on the day. A 2-1 might have been more accurate, but that’s the nature of cup hockey.’
While many of the stars of last year’s victory are still available, Bandon are still without four of that side and Buttimer has been impressed with how the changes haven’t upset the team’s rhythm.
‘We got to the final of the Irish Junior Cup two years ago,’ he says, ‘and though we lost that to Pembroke Wanderers, it gave the girls experience and they build on that last year.
‘None of the team would be strangers to Belfield, certainly, and hopefully that familiarity will count in our favour on Sunday. We’ve had two home games in this cup run but we were drawn away all through last year’s competition and it didn’t seem to affect the team at all.
‘There might be games where you’d be apprehensive beforehand but the pressure seems to mean nothing to them, the big occasion seems to actually suit them.’
While Bandon finished second in Division 1 of the Munster Junior League in 2015-16, this time round they were ‘comfortably fourth’, as Buttimer describes it, unable to trouble the top three. They also reached the final of the Munster Senior Cup plate competition, but lost 3-0 to Cork Church of Ireland, a game which was the opposite of the Greenfields IHT semi-final win.
Buttimer expects Galway to present a formidable task, but he is optimistic.
‘They do have some very talented players,’ he says, ‘but we feel that we have a rounded side, that it’s more of a team than a group of individuals.
‘We had Galway’s semi-final scouted and we played them last year in the play-offs for the Irish Hockey League, they beat us 1-0 so we know how good they are.
‘It’ll be a difficult game, but we’re reasonably confident that the girls’ big-game experience should help them. In a final like this, it’ll come down to small things.’