Friday, November 2, 2007

Pembroke to begin European adventure

Pembroke Wanderers will break new ground this weekend when they represent Ireland in the inaugural Euro Hockey League in Antwerp.

The tournament, which tags itself as “the best way hockey has ever been presented”, pits Europe’s top 24 clubs against each other in a format akin to football’s Champions league.

Pembroke must come in the top two places from a group including Spanish Copa del Rey holders, Egara and Polish champions KS Pocztowiec Poznan, to qualify for the second round in March.

South-African player-coach Craig Fulton can call on a full squad, with all 18 players coming unscathed through last week’s league encounter with Three Rock with the front pairing of Justin Sheriff and Alan Sothern in irresistible form.

Pembroke have won all their matches so far this term, including a friendly against Glenanne (3-1) where they practiced the new ‘quarters’ system, one of a number of new innovations being introduced at the tournament.

Matches will be divided into four periods of seventeen and a half minutes, to aid greater advertising revenue from television.

Fulton said of the new system: “it makes the game feel a lot longer and can also let your opponents off the hook a bit if you get some rhythm going in one quarter”.

He also sees it as important to make the “right changes at the right time” in the new format as his regular substitution patterns are likely to be affected.

Egara go into the group as top seeds counting top internationals Eduard Tubau and goalkeeper Francisco Cortes among their number and are two time winners of the European Club Championships – the forerunner of this tournament.

Poznan, for their part, have several Polish internationals and base their game around 31 year old Piotr Mikula. They finished seventh in European competition last year.

Fulton says of his side’s tournament strategy “it would be foolish to stick all your eggs in one basket” and focus on getting a result against the Polish side given the number of methods of picking up points.

Wins gain five points, a draw gets two points and a loss by less than two goals picks up one point. The South African added “there are so many scenarios you can come up against so you have to see how it goes. But the squad is in a good place right now and we’re positive.”

As to whether Fulton agreed with the format and range of new rules being introduced, he said that “anything that gets hockey on the television, it is important to give it a go”.

Whatever happens for Pembroke, Ireland is guaranteed three players in the second round of the EHL.

In last weekend’s first series of group games in the Hague, Irish trio John Jermyn, Iain Lewers and Eugene Magee were part of Dutch side HGC who qualified for the second round, beating German side Club an der Alster and drawing with Belgium’s Waterloo Ducks.

Pembroke squad: David Harte, Nigel Henderson, Paddy Conlon (Capt), Ronan Flannery, Craig Fulton, Patrick Good, Ronan Gormley, Alan Giles, Conor Harte, Colin Kelly, Tim Lewis, John McInroy, Peter Priestly, Alan Sothern, Justin Sheriff, Ian Symons, Craig Wilson

Euro Hockey League – Group F - for more details click here
Friday 2nd November – (20:30) Pembroke vs Club Egara (Spain)
Saturday 3rd November – (1630) Club Egara vs KS Pocztowiec Poznan (Poland)
Sunday 4th November – (1630) Pembroke vs KS Pocztowiec Poznan

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