Friday, September 28, 2007

Malaysia to host Champions Trophy

The current unstable situation in Pakistan has forced the FIH to move the Samsung Men’s’ Champions Trophy Tournament from Lahore, Pakistan to Bukit Jailli in Malaysia. The move came after Australia and Spain pulled out of the competition while Germany, Korea and Netherlands were ‘unable to confirm their entry’.

Reserve countries England and Japan also declined the invitation. With six of the best eight hockey teams not participating in the Samsung Champions Trophy, one of the most important hockey tournaments in the world, the FIH had no option but to move the event.

The decision was taken amid concerns about the safety and security of the participating teams and the negative travel advice received from the foreign affairs departments of many of the prospective participants.

Malaysia stepped in after the FIH decided that it was impossible to play in Pakistan. With Malaysia as new host, the Samsung Champions Trophy 2007 will be expanded to eight teams and the tournament will be played as a 1-pool competition. The six original participants Australia, Germany, Korea, Netherlands, Pakistan and Spain will be joined by the host Malaysia and Great Britain.

FIH President Els van Breda Vriesman said “This is a fair and just outcome taking all factors into account and ensures the top teams in the world will be able to utilize the tournament as part of their preparations for the Beijing Olympic Games.”

For Pakistan, who invented the tournament, this a further blow to their influence on the tournament. The Champions Trophy was initially supposed to be played in Pakistan every second year. This was reduced to every third year and this latest development will see an even longer period away from the tournament’s spiritual home.

It is unclear at this point how international ranking points will be allocated under the expansion. The tournament begins on November 29th and runs until December 9th.

Irish Senior Cup draws announced

Four Leinster sides have been handed home draws in the Women’s Irish senior cup. Three Rock, Genesis, Pembroke and Trinity all face northern opposition in the first-round. The first round matches take place on the 20th of October.

Last season’s club championships participants have received byes through to the 3rd round, meaning Loreto, Hermes and Old Alex play their first match in the competition on November 17th.

Trinity vs Greenisland
Pembroke Wanderers vs Portadown
Genesis vs Lisnagarvey
Three Rock vs Ards
Ballymena vs UCD
Lurgan vs Railway Union
North Down vs Corinthian
Omagh vs Belvedere
Ashton vs Priorians
Catholic Inst vs Belfast Harlequins
NICS vs Knock
Bandon vs Cookstown

In the men’s first round there are just two matches. In an all-Leinster match-up, Weston host Suttonians while North Down play Newry on November 3rd.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

The Goalkeepers merry-go-round

One of the features of the preseason has been the movement of goalkeepers between the clubs – some amicable, others perhaps not… Most of the action has centred around Pembroke, due to their overload of quality keepers. The first set of rumours had Charlie Henderson moving back to his old club, joining up with his older brother Nigel, current Irish number one David Harte, Stephen Doran and Irish under 18 Stephen O’Keefe. Five into one doesn’t go but their season could stretch to nearly 50 games if all goes to plan so may have been some necessary hoarding. Imagine, though, rocking up to play in your first div 6 match and seeing Nidge at the other end!

Something had to give and initial gossip had young O’Keefe on his way to Rovers before later that day Charlie rocked up to Grange road for training. Meanwhile, Stephen Doran went further along the M50 to perennial rivals Glenanne, to leave a more manageable three, with the older Henderson likely to continue building his coaching CV.

Corinthian subsequently bolstered their goalkeeping options, signing up Irish Development keeper, Ross Murray from YMCA. YM allowed Murray to go with their ‘blessing’, given the strength of their goalkeeping stock. Barring injury, Iain Walker will be pushing hard for a spot in the Olympic qualifiers squad and Graham Woods is a more than adequate deputy.

In the women’s league, Emma Grey made the step up from relegation battlers Trinity to Hermes while Jayne Coyne seems to have snaffled the top gig at Railway under Mick McKinnon after some outfield excursions last season.

The season starts here...

So, with the inaugural All-Ireland league and European Hockey League almost with us, starting on October 6th the 2007-08 season is going to be the most fascinating men's division 1 for many a year. Fourth place no longer means scraping a Stephen Doyle cup spot. It means All-Ireland action while the Club Champions can look forward to five European weekends away, if they play their cards right.

The breakdown is this: the top 4 in Leinster this year will qualify for next year's All-Ireland league, with a possible fifth via a playoff meaning more to play for right to the very end of the campaign. UCDs win in the playoff has given added significance to the promotion/relegation match, as they became the first division 2 side to win and reach the top table since the game was introduced in 1999.
So come this way to see The Hook's guide to the season and our opinion (and it is only an opinion) on who is going to do what in 2007-08.

Click on the team name to see the full details:


Monday, September 24, 2007


Last Season: 8th

Record: Won 4 Drew 0 Lost 14 Pts 12 Goals For 27 Goals Against 73

Coach: Stephen Kinsella

Captain: Phil Davies

Players In:
Michael Fry (YMCA)

Players Out: Phil Marshall (Switzerland)

Summary: The loss of player of the year, Phil Marshall, will be keenly felt but may be partially soothed by the arrival of Mikey Fry from YM. A lot will rely on his link up with Cliff Bailey in midfield while the Wicklow side has also managed to hold onto Aussie duo Phil Davies and Brett Hinge. Bray’s success last year came from a happy knack of getting the best of the teams around them and this time out, they will hope to move into the middle area occupied by YM and Corinthian and avoid a relegation scrap. A tough early schedule, though, could see them playing catch-up early on. But Bray lack nothing for team spirit, with five of the team having been through three promotions together, dating back to when they were in Division 5: Johnny Egan, Grattan Evans, Ben Adams, Rob Pearson and Doug Keeley.

First three games: Monkstown (h); Glenanne (a); Fingal (a)

Prediction: 8th


Last Season: 6th

Record: Won 8 Drew 3 Lost 7 Pts 27 Goals For 44 Goals Against 45

Coach: Ivan Ovington & Miles Warren

Captain: Alan Blennerhassett

Players In: Ross Murray (YMCA)

Players Out: Charlie Henderson (TRR), Nils Timke (Germany)

Summary: Charlie Henderson’s move across Marlay Park precipitated a flurry of rumour and counter-rumour over which goalkeeper was going where. Irish development squad member Ross Murray, from YMCA, is a more than capable replacement though and youngsters Dave Carson and Jack Kirwan have also been added to the first team squad looking at All-Ireland qualification. Preseason results have been mixed, losing to the Glens and Cork C of I while beating Mossley, Weston and Bandon. Too good to be involved at the bottom; yet they need to improve significantly to challenge Fingal, Monkstown and Rovers, two of whom they play in the first two weeks. Their opening three matches will show what end of midtable it will be.

First three games: Fingal (h); Monkstown (a); YMCA (a)

Prediction: 7th


Last Season: 5th

Record: Won 9 Drew 3 Lost 6 Pts 30 Goals For 63 Goals Against 42

Coach: John McInerney and Gerry Wheeler

Captain: David Bane

Players In: none

Players Out: none

Summary: In their 10th year in division 1, with a bunch of players who have been together all the way through, Fingal have a settled squad set to push for an All-Ireland league berth. Given their form since Christmas and the impact of David Bane when he came back from his wrist injury, they may just nick fourth place. Derek O’Gorman could bolster the team in the New Year after his travels along with one or two promising youngsters from Sutton Park. Preseason has produced some good performances, beating Banbridge 3-2 and narrowly going down 2-1 to Lisnagarvey in Blaris before hammering Trinity. They'll need to continure that form for their opening two testers.

First three games: Corinthian (a); TRR (h); Bray (h)

Prediction: 4th


Last Season: 1st

Record: Won 16 Drew 2 Lost 0 Pts 50 Goals For 73 Goals Against 25

Coach: Jonathon Cole

Captain: Joe Brennan

Players In: Stephen Doran (Pembroke) Enda Tucker (Weston)

Players Out: Nasir Munir (Suttonians)

Summary: The upshot of Ireland’s involvement in the Olympic qualifier in New Zealand is that Pembroke and Glenanne’s squad management could be a key factor in the title race. Stephen Butler and Graham Shaw will definitely be missing for most of January and February as well as a possible December jaunt to Chile. The influential John Goulding will also be out until January but may be replaced around the goalmouth by Enda Tucker who has scored two in two Neville cup games. Last year, Eddie O’Malley and Gary Shaw stepped up for some key games and will need to become dominant players otherwise the quadruple winners will struggle to hold onto their silverware. Stephen Doran, though, is an excellent addition having long been one of the best keepers in Leinster and previous Club Championships Player of the Tournament.

First three games: UCD (a); Bray (h); Monkstown (a)

Prediction: 2nd


Last Season: 1st (Division 2)

Record: Won 14 Drew 3 Lost 1 Pts 45 Goals For 59 Goals Against 23

Captain: Hugh Kelly

Players In: Mark Weir (Naas), Brian Gray (Fingal)

Players Out: Eddie Dore (Cork Harlequins)

Summary: Success for Kilkenny this season is clear: avoid relegation. For the division 2 champions, the threat of losing players to Dublin clubs never materialised and they have added former Kilkenny schoolboys Brian Gray and speed merchant Mark Weir. Whilst they face arguably their toughest trip, to Pembroke, on day one, hosting UCD could provide a sign of how both sides will get on this year and home form could prove the decisive advantage if points are hard to come by at the bottom. A 3-0 preseason defeat to Cork Harlequins was respectable while they will be buoyed by a 3-2 win over Railway. Avoiding relegation, though, could well be beyond them.

First three games: Pembroke (a); UCD (h); TRR (h)

Prediction: 10th


Last Season: 3rd

Record: Won 11 Drew 2 Lost 5 Pts 35 Goals For 48 Goals Against 42

Coach: Richard Mason

Captain: David Fitzgerald

Players In: Filip Jaros (Railway Union)

Players Out: Richie O'Malley (work reasons)

Summary: When on form, Monkstown are probably the most attractive side to watch - the second half of their club championships encounter against Annadale was one of the highlights of last season. Their zippy running game is well suited to their young side. Indeed, nine of the side that started against Naas was under 25 and they definitely have time on their side. After a comprehensive preseason that has taken in Cookstown and Cork (drawing with C of I and losing 6-4 to Harlequins), as well as a visit from Mossley (1-1), they will be there or thereabouts in the mini-league with Rovers and Fingal for the All-Ireland places. Their defence needs a bit tightening, though, and if their passing goes awry it could see dropped points against more aggressive opponents. To that end, Rory O’Donoghue has been added to the coaching staff and for the squad’s conditioning.

First three games: Bray (a); Corinthian (h); Glenanne (h)

Prediction: 5th

Pembroke Wanderers

Last Season: 2nd

Record: Won 14 Drew 2 Lost 2 Pts 44 Goals For 92 Goals Against 18

Coach: Craig Fulton

Captain: Paddy Conlon

Players In: None

Players Out: Tim Hill (TRR), Stephen Doran (Glenanne)

Summary: As with Glenanne, preparing for Ronan Gormley, Tim Lewis, David Harte and potentially Conor Harte’s globe-trotting will be an interesting sub-plot. The loss of Stephen Doran has been absorbed by the maturing Stephen O’Keefe but the squad has been further trimmed by back-up players Byron Dunne moving to France after Christmas and Stephen Smyth moving to Madrid. South Africans John McInroy and Ian Symons, though, need no time to bed in this season and results against YMCA (7-0) and Bray (3-0) suggest they are in the mood. Pembroke have been the best tournament squad for the past two years with back to back Club Championships titles but they won nothing domestically last year. With so much talent available, it is almost inconceivable they won’t win the league this year. They should make the early running. Can they hold onto it?

First three games: Kilkenny (h); YMCA (a); UCD (h)

Prediction: 1st

Three Rock Rovers

Last Season: 4th

Record: Won 10 Drew 3 Lost 5 Pts 44 Goals For 61 Goals Against 38

Coach: Turloch O’Siochain

Captain: Peter McConnell

Players In: Phelie Maguire (HGC), Maarten Sier (HIC), Andrew McConnell (Hurley), Tim Hill (Pembroke), Neil Lyons (VVV), Charlie Henderson (Corinthian), Pierre Quesnel (Fremantle)

Players Out: Niall Denham (Almere)

Summary: Losing their final three games to drop to fourth on the final day of the season stung Rovers badly and they expect not to make the same mistakes this time out. Their Dutch cultural exchange programme continues apace with Phelie Maguire and Andy McConnell likely to form one of the league’s best midfield pairings but it is in defence that Rovers need the most strengthening. They will hope Neil Lyons and Charlie Henderson will do just that while Maarten Sier, on preseason form, looks set to give Rovers an additional forward threat beyond Peter Blakeney. Fingal put eight past Rovers at the back end of last season. They meet each other in the second round of matches in an encounter that will say a lot about each side’s credentials this time out.

First three games: YMCA (h); Fingal (a); Kilkenny (a)

Prediction: 3rd


Last Season: 2nd (Division 2) – Promoted via Playoff

Record: Won 11 Drew 5 Lost 2 Pts 44 Goals For 56 Goals Against 22

Coach: Brian Delaney

Captain: David Storey

Players In: Glenn Holmes (Italy), Neill Young (Italy)

Players Out: Simon Greene

Summary: Bizarrely for a college side, UCD have lost nobody, except the retired Simon Greene, from the side who won the playoff against Railway last year. They welcome back two Erasmus students, Neill Young and Glen Holmes. Indeed, Holmes’ pace and link-up play with Michael O’Connor could see them ruffle a few feathers. The reduced turnover of players, with a few graduates sticking around means the side has more division 1 experience than most promoted sides and they will be boosted by a 3-1 preseason win over Glenanne. They are hopeful of pushing-on this year but an extended tête-à-tête with Bray looks a more likely proposition.

First three games: Glenanne (h); Kilkenny (a); Pembroke (a)

Prediction: 9th


Last Season: 7th

Record: Won 5 Drew 3 Lost 10 Pts 44 Goals For 32 Goals Against 56

Coach: Trevor Dagg

Captain: Andy Walker

Players In: None

Players Out: Mikey Fry (Bray), Ross Murray (Corinthians)

Summary: YM look an interesting proposition this season as they definitely have the most potential for the future. Richard Pedreschi, Shane O’Donnell and Geoff Walker have all been added to the squad from the youth section while Irish Development squad member David Robinson is becoming a force in midfield. Ross Murray left with YM’s ‘blessing’ given their embarrassment of riches in goal but Will Powderly’s aborted move to Glenanne will help nurture the youngsters up to division 1 standard. YM, though, are looking more at a three year plan rather than selling their souls for an All-Ireland position. Success this year would be steady improvement on last year and the laying of good foundations.

First three games: TRR (a); Pembroke (a); Corinthian (h)

Prediction: 6th

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Irish to travel to Canada and New Zealand

Ireland’s men and women will travel to opposite ends of the world in their quest for Olympic qualification. The men have been drawn in a qualifying tournament based in Auckland, New Zealand starting on February 2nd 2008 where they will compete against Pan-American runners-up Argentina, hosts New Zealand, Cuba, Trinidad and Tobago and their nemesis from the recent Euro championships, France. The women, meanwhile, go to Victoria, Canada to face hosts Canada, Cuba, Italy, Malaysia and world number 9 side Korea. Their campaign gets underway on April 26th 2008

In both cases, Ireland must win the tournament in order to claim one of the last three places available for the Olympic hockey tournament in Beijing. The women would appear better placed to qualify. The Irish are the second highest ranked in side in the group in fourteenth, five spots below Korea. Indeed, coach Gene Muller admitted before the European Championships that his main focus was Olympic qualification, saying “You have to think beyond the Europeans. We are unlikely to achieve a top 3 placing… I still view the Europeans as a dress rehearsal for the Olympic qualifiers - it’s the realist in me.”

The men will expect to beat Cuba and Trinidad but face two top-ten ranked sides in New Zealand (10th) and Argentina (7th). The French encounter also represents a grudge match especially after last month’s bad tempered 1-0 defeat at the Euro Championships. The men’s side were disappointed to be relegated to the B division as a result of that loss despite good outings against Spain (1-1) and the Netherlands (0-1). Men’s coach David Passmore said “We will take huge confidence from the performances against Spain and Holland towards the Qualifier. We know now we can mix it with the best and have a chance of qualification for Beijing.”

France’s assistant coach Franck Grondin admitted after the win in Manchester that his side targeted the Ireland match as their key to success and were unconcerned by hammerings in their opening two games. So, were Ireland naive to chase glory against the big teams at the cost of their A division status? Renewing rivalries so soon will be a real test of the Irish management.

Think we are going to qualify for the Olympics? Looking forward to a trip half way around the world? Have your say...

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Rough Guide to the Euro Hockey League – the future of hockey?

“The best way hockey has ever been presented” announces the website of the Euro Hockey League (EHL), only there is no information whatsoever on the page at the time of writing. So what’s so special about the tournament?

The EHL is replacing the men’s European Club Championships, doing an impersonation of football’s Champions League with 24 of the continent’s finest club outfits taking part. They have rightly ditched the ‘champions’ tag, though, as only half the tournaments qualifiers have actually won their domestic competition. Irish Club Champions, Pembroke Wanderers are Ireland’s sole representatives.

The tournament promises to take the promotion of the game to a whole new level, with giant big-screens for the supporters in the stadiums, seating capacity for a minimum of 1,800 people, up to 15 camera angles including in-goal cameras and an elevated ‘flycam’. But most excitingly, though, if Pembroke get through to the second phase, David Harte will double as a cameraman. In-helmet cameras will be used to give goalkeeper’s perspectives.

No doubt this will be the highest standard tournament European clubs have ever seen but there are already a few concerns about the distribution of the cash windfalls that are available. In the football equivalent, the same teams, year on year, make the knockout stages and getting the big pay day. The wedge created between the haves and have-nots is clear in the English Premiership with the ‘big 4’ so far ahead of the rest. Will it lead to a concentration of talent at the big clubs likely to qualify, leaving the smaller clubs behind? Will any of the revenue created trickle back down to the grass roots of hockey?

Ireland, though, would seem more resilient to such pressures with only one qualifying spot and our three province system with players rarely moving province for the promise of European hockey. But for the Dutch, Spanish, German and English clubs, such problems are a real concern for those challenging to break into the upper echelons.

Pembroke, for their part, open their campaign on November 2nd in the first round, where they need to end up in the top two of their three team group which includes against Spanish runners-up Egara and Polish winners KS Pocztowiec Poznan. Egara are current Copa del Rey holders and come complete with five of the Spanish squad that reached the European final in August, including the Alegre brothers and Eduard Tubau. Poznan finished 7th in this year’s European championships. Piotr Mikula (31) is well-known to Spanish opposition, having scored one of the most outrageous hat-tricks in the 2000 Olympics in a 4-1 thrashing of Spain.
The first group stage begins in Royal Antwerp along with three other 3-team groups. A further four groups take place at HGC, the Netherlands. 16 teams go through to the second set of group stages in March 2008. Get through this group and you qualify for, you guessed it, yet another set of groups in May 2008 which will decide the eventual winner.

The European Cup Winner’s Cup has now been replaced by the less snappily titled Men’s Club Trophy. Glenanne are in a group with Grasshopper Zurich, SK Slavia Praha and Kolos Sekoia, who Cork Harlequins beat last year to claim one of the winner’s berths in the B division. The winners of this tournament, however, will not gain promotion to the Euro league but will gain ranking points which affect the amount of entrants receives.

Excited? Concerned? How do you think Pembroke will do? Have your say...

Best Youtube Hockey clips

There’s a ton of ways to kill a day at work: take up smoking, take up working, play Stick Cricket, read the Guardian’s blog (which, let’s face it is directly where I ripped this off from). YouTube trumps them all. So here, to save you searching, are my favourite hockey clips. Add your own in the comments section, and everyone passes the day happily. And having done no work!

1) The original Youtube video, Shinty show off their skills not once but twice. Birmingham’s 18/13 club have a go as do some German kids. Dutch internationals Maartje Scheepstra and Ronald Brouwer give their more sedate, stylish version of ball-juggling.
2) Hockey played to perfection, Luciana Aymar scores, Maradona-style, against Korea, Ozzie Jamie Dwyer against Pakistan, Germany’s indoor side almost too quick for the cameraman at the 2003 World Cup and some of the best counterattacks.
3) Teun de Nooijer’s arrival on the world scene in the 1998 world cup final and then the best of the next ten years.
4) One of Times of India's recent ads. Quite a poignant Bollywood-like emotional story of one generation's dream fulfilled by another and then some classic images of the 8 times Olympic champions
5) Fancy yourself as an umpire? Think you know what’s a stick tackle and what isn’t? Here’s one interpretation.

Think you've seen a better clip, leave a comment or email me... Happy surfing