Hockey men aiming for new year glory

Ballymena player/coach Andy Linford hopes to lead the Braidmen to Sussex Regiment Cup success on New Year's Day. INBT47-256AC
Ballymena player/coach Andy Linford hopes to lead the Braidmen to Sussex Regiment Cup success on New Year's Day. INBT47-256AC

Ballymena Hockey Club Men’s 1st XI will put their New Year celebrations on hold this week ahead of their New Year’s Day clash with Cliftonville in the final of Ulster Hockey’s Sussex Regiment Cup final.

With neither team having appeared previously in the final there will certainly be a new name on the trophy for 2015.

The sides have already met in the group stages of this competition, with the Belfast side emerging victorious but both teams qualified for the 
semi-finals.

In the last four, Ballymena beat Armagh on penalty flicks, thanks to the heroics of keeper James Birrell, while Cliftonville also won on flicks after a 2-2 draw with Down.

Having lost two other league games to their opponents already this season, Ballymena are under no illusions that they are underdogs, as they attempt to thwart Cliftonville’s pace and movement.

Ballymena’s new player/coach Andy Linford said “The team have steadily progressed this season and have worked hard to learn a new style of play and to improve their fitness levels. Getting the chance to play in a Cup final in my first year as Coach is testament to the team’s ability and effort.”

Club chairman Trevor Topping wished the men well, thinking back to last season’s Senior Cup win by the ladies 1st XI and encouraged all club members to get down to Deramore Park, Belfast, on Thursday (1pm) and lend their support.