Ace Gilmore back in Edenvilla Park blue after mid-season switch from Banbridge

Portadown may prove a different club from the one Neil Gilmore left in the summer of 2014 - but that familiar feeling returned at the first whistle on Saturday.

Neil Gilmore during his previous spell at Portadown in the Irish Hockey Trophy final.

Career commitments have forced Gilmore to break away from Banbridge but a return to his hometown club offered the perfect opportunity to maintain a connection to the sport.

The benefits to Portadown proved obvious last weekend as Gilmore celebrated his second senior debut in blue with a goal against Kilkeel.

“I have a job at Craigavon Area Hospital but also need to study in Bangor each Thursday so it just made it impossible to put the full commitment in to everything at Banbridge,” said Gilmore. “Moving down to the Premier League and Portadown allows me to still play hockey but keep that focus on my career.

“I have left everyone at Banbridge on good terms and am delighted to have the opportunity to play again for Portadown.

“There have been so many changes since I left for Banbridge, with Mark Evans in now as coach and the seniors, of course, in the Premier League.

“Winning the Irish Hockey Trophy was a massive boost for the club in my time but we just missed out on promotion and I took the chance, along with Jamie Wright, at Banbridge.

“I had a great time with Banbridge and to win every trophy last season bar one, plus finish with over 20 goals, made it really special.

“I was playing alongside quite a few full internationals at Banbridge and feel that whole experience has helped me develop as a player and learn so much more about the game.”

Gilmore grabbed two goals in Portadown’s Irish Hockey Trophy triumph against Kilkenny and that 2013 All-Ireland highlight marked a significant step forward in the club’s modern progress.

“That was a great win and so many of those players are still at the club,” said Gilmore. “I kept in touch with quite a few at the club during my time in Banbridge and it did not take too long to slip back into that old familiar feeling on Saturday.

“Of course, many of the young prospects around the squad in my previous spell have pushed on to become key men now and it is brilliant to see Portadown in the Premier League.

“Mark Evans has come in as a very good coach and I know him from my time representing the UK Schools’ Games squad.

“Mark has the team running like clockwork and we went into last weekend third in a first season at Premier League level.

“It is very exciting and, although naturally a bit strange at first, it certainly feels like I’m back home.”