Martin Grant takes a look back at the Ice Hockey Season
There was a mixed reception to the Leagues this season,and despite the fact that games were canceled, some even on game days you had on the other hand, the great achievement of Team Ireland U18’s taking a bronze medal and creating ice hockey history in Ireland. There was also inception of the Celtic Cup which brought teams from Scotland over to Dundalk, helping the local economy with teams staying in the Crowne Plaza & the Fairways Hotels. There was also the great success of the Dundalk Bulls Ladies taking sliver medal in the Ice Girls tournament in Latvia, the Ladies also having the honour of hosting the first ever all ladies ice hockey tournament in Ireland which was officially opened by Minister Dermot Ahern TD, and all proceeds went to the Irish Cancer Society. The Bulls Ladies took the gold medal in that tournament, defeating Scotland, Alaska & the Belfast Ice Vixens.
There were some new entries into the Irish Ice Hockey League, as the Belfast Giants & the Dublin Wolves entered teams along with the Dundalk Bulls, Dublin Rams, Flyers IHC & the Hawks. In the end, it was declared that the Dundalk Bulls had won the league without completing all of their games. The Irish Ice Hockey Association was left with no other choice but to abandon the playoffs until a future date, and it has emerged that the newly opened Charlestown on Ice will probably host the playoffs in late summer. Another development within the Irish League was that many of the games were broadcast live on the internet with commentary from your’s truely – Martin Grant. The flipside of the Irish League this season as I said, was that some games had to be canceled at very short notice, and that not all teams could ice a full squad on match nights.
The Irish Ice Hockey Recreational League welcomed new teams from the Belfast Giants, Flyers ‘B’, Blackhawk’s & the Icebreakers, along with all of the other existing teams, the final total yielded 6 IIHL and 13 IIHL RD teams. There was further local success within the league, as the Dundalk Bulls ‘B’ team won the End of the Season tournament – two full days of playoff hockey sponsored by the IIHA, and the league. General Manager of the team, Mr. Liam Burke said that it was ‘amazing that we won both the league & the end of the season tournament’. It was tipped that the Ice Breakers were going to over take the Bulls, but that didn’t happen.
The Dundalk Bulls & the Hawks hosted teams such as the Solway Sharks, Dundee Stars, Fife Flyers, and the Paisley Pirates all playing at the Dundalk Ice Dome in the Celtic Cup bringing to the sport some much needed media coverage both sides of the Irish Sea It was a competitive league, and there was no certain winner of any game decided before it got under way! Despite a bad start, the Bulls, thanks to head coach Kenny Redmond, and the Hawks under Aigars Brencis battled their way through to win playoff spots.
Also on a local note, it was great to see a good number of Dundalk players on the Team Ireland U18’s including Rian Larkin, Adam Pepper, Niall Mc Evoy, Stephen Mc Entee & Aidan Morris & its was a great achievement for all of them. Also a special mention has to go to Andrew Guest & Adam Pepper on making the Senior Team Ireland Debut in New Zealand earlier on in the year.
Junior hockey this season has been exciting stuff especially when the Junior Bulls traveled to Scotland to play a few matches, and also a few friendly matches were played across the border against the junior Belfast Giants in the Dundonald Ice Bowl. The main thing is that we need more clubs to set up Junior Sections so that juniors have different options to which clubs they would like to be a member of and not just the Dundal Bulls IHC. We need more junior teams to have more matches!
There has been a few teams that have come from foreign countries including teams from Canada, USA, Scotland, Norway, Sweden & Finland to play clubs here and we hope to see them and many more return next season.
Also Dundalk has made history, as ‘BullsEye’ on DundalkFM100 is Irelands only Ice Hockey show on radio. It is broadcast every Monday night from 8pm on 100fm or www.dundalkfm.ie . Check out the shows webpage at www.bebo.com/BullsEye100fm
So it has been a tremendous season of Ice Hockey this year, and lets hope next years will be even bigger & better. I have enjoyed this season, and I’ll be back with all the latest Ice Hockey news nearer to the news season.
Photograph courtesy of Martin Grant and features Team Ireland players Steven Balmer and Dean Kelly with young fans Mark and Rian Lee.