Familiar face in Bruxelles’ line-up facing Banbridge

Ireland defender Conor Harte has captained the Belgian side this season

The Banbridge players will face a familiar pillar in the Royal Racing Club Bruxelles' defence when they step up to play in this weekend's first round of the Euro Hockey League in the Pau Negre Stadium in Barcelona.

Ireland defender Conor Harte, who has captained the Belgian side this season, lines out against the Irish representatives who hope to go one better than last year when they qualified for the second phase of the competition.

The home advantage of Havelock Park won't be with Banbridge this time out but the experience gained from of last season's relative success should be in their locker. Banbridge also play Poland's WKS Grunwald Poznan in Europe's top club competition.

Banbridge, however, travel to Spain without injured Ireland players, Johnny McKee and Eugene Magee, as well as a lack of games due to the delayed start to the Irish Hockey League. Magee's vast experience, encompassing 258 Irish caps and an Olympic games, will be particularly missed


Now with the league up and running there are a number of Dublin sides going head to head. Three Rock Rovers go to Park Avenue to meet Railway Union with Monkstown hoping to bounce back against Pembroke after an opening defeat to Lisnagarvey.

While the Lisnagarvey win was the most significant of last week as Monkstown were always snapping at their heels last season, Three Rock Rovers banged in seven goals against hapless Annadale to begin the season with fireworks.

Alan Sothern's two goals for Pembroke in their opening win against Cookstown in Ulster should give them some confidence in Rathdown School. Monkstown, though, will be wary and anxious not to start their season with a double bagel. That Sunday match looks like being the pick of the weekend.

Johnny Watterson

Johnny Watterson

Johnny Watterson is a sports writer with The Irish Times