Friday, July 31, 2009

Ireland to cope with favourites tag

Ireland’s go into this week’s EuroHockey Nation’s Trophy in Wrexham with expectation rather than hope as they aim to regain A division status from this summer’s key international tournament.

Three targets are rolled into one event as Paul Revington’s side will be gunning not only for the Trophy but the promotion that comes with reaching the final and a place in a World Cup qualifier - set for November - for the top-five entrants.

His side are included in a group which holds the slight banana-skins of Belarus, Italy and Russia but Ireland - ranked at least five places higher than any of the other competing nations - will expect to prevail.

But, given that many of his panel play for the most successful club teams in Ireland, Revington does not believe the side will be unduly burdened by any weight of expectation on their shoulders.

Asked how his side will respond to the tag of favourites, he said: “There should be a couple of sides that people will expect to be in the top three or four at the end but we have to be in that group. That’s just reality and the guys understand that. I don’t think it’s a problem.

“With their clubs, they’re used to when they play in club competitions having to produce and to perform so they should be able to deal with it.

“The nature of players we’re dealing with, there’s a lot of fresh players who are playing a main role in the team for the first time. They want to win games and to perform and do well for each other and Irish hockey. They’re not carrying any old baggage. That’s probably why the spirit and the excitement in the camp is high.”

Of the Champion’s Challenge II squad, Mikey Watt (broken thumb) and Andy McConnell (exams) are unavailable but Revington does not feel their absence will cause undue problems for the panel.

“The majority of the side is still playing so they’re as excited as they were before the Champ’s Challenge. They understand the importance of the event. The last couple of days we’ve had in Cork have been good, they’ve been lively so I’m pretty happy at the moment.”

The campaign starts on Saturday morning against Belarus for whom the main threat comes from Aliaksandr Radzivinovich whose monster overheads and drag-flicks for Stroitel Brest caught the eye in the EuroHockey Club Trophy in April.

He fired in two corner strikes past David Harte that day but Ireland should be well-equipped to deal with the Belarussians physical game.

Italy follow up on Sunday with rising star Daniele Cioli - who plied his trade with DSD Dussledorf in the EHL this season - leading the line.

Plenty of video analysis, meanwhile, will be available on third opponents Russia who ended sixth at the recent Champion’s Challenge II. Alexey Mayorov - who could yet join Phelie Maguire at KHC Leuven - is one to watch as one of the top scorers from play at the Junior World Cup.

However, Ireland should have - even without Watt - enough strike power of their own to cause damage, especially if a high corner count is obtained.

And Revington believes if his side sticks to their own task then the side should prevail. “We have a fair idea of what we’re expecting. There’s one or two decent players on every international side and we need to make sure we’re prepared properly for that. But we’ve to rely on our own ability and the way we play to produce.”

Bolger elevated to international status

Kieran Bolger has been promoted to the rank of international outdoor umpire by the FIH Umpire Committee, announced by the official’s chairman Ermanno Silvano.

Bolger has been a firm fixture on the Leinster and Ireland umpire’s listings since retiring from playing with Glenanne’s first team four seasons ago.

He first picked up whistle, though, back when he was a teenager - for the full story, go to the Glen’s website - under the tutelage of Gerry Foley and has since gone on to officiate at every level of the domestic game. Most recently, he was appointed to matches in the men's Celtic Cup held in Scotland.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Muller opts for extra defender for Amsterdam

Gene Muller has opted to take an extra defender to the EuroHockey Nation’s Championships in Amsterdam next month as he announced his squad today for the Irish women’s second major ranking tournament of the summer.

Cork Harlequins’ Cliodhna Sargent (pictured) comes in for attacking midfielder Niamh Small in the one change to the side that travelled to Kazan for the Champion’s Challenge II last month. Should Sargent appear in four games in the tournament se would reach the milestone of 50 caps.

It gives Muller an extra defensive option for what Muller envisages will be a tough tournament with reigning champions Germany waiting in the group phase.

Should Ireland breach the top two in that group, a 2010 World Cup place would be guaranteed but the side will also have to negotiate Scotland and world number seven side Spain - who recently white-washed the Irish in a three-game series.

And Muller is well aware of the intense challenge that lies ahead: “The European Championships tournament is the premier event of the year for us and we are excited at the prospect of playing in Amsterdam in late August. We have prepared well for this tournament and are hoping to perform to our potential with a young and competitive team.

“Europe is the toughest world cup qualification zone, with four of the top seven teams in the world playing at this tournament so we will, no doubt, be challenged to our limit to perform.”

Ireland squad (club/caps): Lauren Barr (Ballymoney/13), Emma Clarke (Ulster Elks/76), Bridget Cleland (Ballymoney/132), Lizzie Colvin (Loreto/17), Eimear Cregan (Capt, Cork Harlequins/154), Roisin Flinn (UCD/59), Megan Frazer (Ballymoney/16), Mary Goode (Bray/57), Emma Gray (Hermes/11), Michelle Harvey (Pegasus/18), Lisa Jacob (UCD/54), Shirley McCay (Ulster Elks/71), Cathy McKean (Loreto/125), Cliodhna Sargent (Cork Harlequins/46), Alex Speers (Pegasus/60), Emma Smyth (Railway Union/12), Emma Stewart (Armagh/77), Nikki Symmons (Loreto/122)

EuroHockey Nation's Championships - match Schedule (all times GMT)
Saturday, August 22 (10:30am): Ireland v Germany
Sunday, August 23 (8:30am): Ireland v Scotland
Tuesday, August 25 (12:30pm): Ireland v Spain
Thursday August 27 & Saturday, August 29: Classifications/ Finals

News in brief: Rovers to Spain/Cuddy for Cookstown/A note on transfers

* Three Rock Rovers will travel to Barcelona in January 2010 to take part in the 62nd running of the prestigious Three Kings Tournament.

The tournament attracts some of the world’s top club teams with previous winners making up a who’s who of European club hockey with Club de Campo, RC Polo, Uhlenhorst, Harvesthuder, Southgate, Club Egara, Bloemendaal, Grange, Reading, Cannock and Leuven all with their name etched on the trophy.

The invitation is the first received by an Irish club and came in the wake of Rovers’ run to the KO16 in the EHL with the Spanish club making contact in Hamburg. The tournament runs in conjunction with the Three Kings Festival in the city.

* Ulster champions Cookstown have announced Stephen Cuddy will take over the coaching reins at Coolnafranky this coming season after Geoff Hamilton stepped down. He will co-coach with Coach of the Year nominee Michael Haycock.

Cuddy holds a level three coaching badge and has been a first team member for the past 11 years while also being a former manager of the Irish U-18 set-up.

* A large volume of comments have requested news of transfers to be posted. To this end, I will post stories of confirmed moves if I receive official word from clubs that registration has been completed.

At this stage, a reasonable amount of movement of players has been agreed but The Hook's policy is not to post stories until transfers have been fully completed and verified.

As hockey in Ireland is an amateur sport with a tight-knit community, rumours of potential transfers between Leinster clubs are strictly not allowed on the site due to the potential harm they could cause. If your club has completed the registration on new signings and would like to publicise them, please email

Monday, July 27, 2009

News in brief: Glenanne star retains FAI title

* Glenanne’s Mary Waldron (pictured in green and white) picked up the FAI women’s senior cup final for the second year running last Saturday evening at Richmond Park as her football club St Francis got the better of Liberties’ rivals St Catherine’s 1-0.

Waldron scored the winner last November in the 2008 final but it was strike partner Sharon Cullen who got the decisive goal this time around.

The club have assured themselves of playing in Europe in 2010 and begin their first ever European campaign this weekend in Cyprus in the female version of the Champion’s League.

* The recent retirement of Irene Johnston has created a vacuum in the Administration of Competitions for the coming season as, due to current financial pressures, it is not intended to replace Irene.

There is therefore a need to fill the role of IHA Competition’s Administrator on a voluntary basis to ensure that all Irish competitions continue to function. The IHA, therefore, are looking for volunteers from mid-August to assist in the administration of cup competitions.

They require someone who is computer literate with strong administration skills to work from the Irish Hockey Offices in Belfield for a minimum of 10 hours per week. Hours can be flexible. Those interested should email by no later than August 10.

* The 2009 National Awards to Volunteers in Irish Sport was launched this week, giving you the chance to nominate the ‘unsung heroes of Irish sport’.

The scheme is an initiative of the Department of Arts, Sport and Tourism in conjunction with the Federation of Irish Sports which represents 68 sports in Ireland to honour eleven individuals who volunteer their time to sport each year through their involvement with sports clubs and organisations throughout the country.

To nominate your club or volunteers within your club who you think are worthy of particular mention for their efforts, go to for full guidelines.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Frank Byrne takes on Suttonians job

Frank Byrne has followed former Glenanne team mate mate Alan Browne into a coaching role in division two after he was confirmed as the new Suttonians' men's coach for the upcoming season.

Byrne takes on the role after cutting his teeth last year as assistant to Arul Anthoni at Glenanne Park, frequently taking over first team affairs on match day as the Malaysian head coach's dual role with Old Alex saw him unable to run the sideline.

He also takes on the role of youth academy coach at the club - a youth development programme now in its third year.

Mick McGuinness will continue on as the women's first team coach with the aim of building yet further on last season's promotion and cup success while Connor Gillett - himself a graduate of the club's youth system - takes on the role of Youth's Head Coach in which there are currently over 150 players.

Speaking about the appointments, club president Tom Hipwell was delighted with the new-look coaching team in place: "I am very excited to announce these appointments as it shows our intent to become a top tier hockey club and I would like to wish all our coaches every success in the season ahead.

"We are very confident that this formidable coaching team will continue to build on the development and successes of the club."

U-16 girls end on a high

Ireland’s U-16 girls produced their best performance of the Four Nation’s tournament in Largs today, comfortably beating Wales 2-0 to finish the tournament on a high.

Joanne Orr broke the deadlock in the 25th minute with a right-wing shot before Amy-Kate Trevor got her second goal of the week to complete the scoring a minute before the break.

Wales fought back in the second half but the Irish rode out the storm to secure their first win of the tournament and end the tournament in second place.

On the boy’s side, faint hopes of taking the title were extinguished as they lost 5-3 to Wales in an ill-tempered game.

Ireland led 2-1 at half-time courtesy of Josh Moffett’s goal from play and Shane Madeley’s corner-strike.

But a second half, littered with yellow cards, saw Ireland move 3-2 ahead when Moffett got his second. However, Ashleigh Lewis levelled from the penalty spot and late goals from Dan Lewis-Williams and Matthew Pacey meant Ireland finished the tournament in third place.

International U-16 Four Nation’s results:
Ireland 3 (J Moffett 2, S Madeley ) Wales 5 (M Phillips, J Carr, A Lewis, D Lewis-Williams, M Pacey); England 3 Scotland 1

Final standings (points/goal difference): 1. England 9pts (+10) 2. Wales 4pts (-4) 3. Ireland 3pts (-1) 4. Scotland 1pt (-4)

Girls: Ireland 2 (J Orr, A-K Trevor) Wales 0; Scotland 0 England 4
Final Standings: 1. England 9pts (+7) 2. Ireland 4pts (+1) 3. Scotland 4pts (-2) 4. Wales 0pts (-6)

Thursday, July 23, 2009

England get the better of Irish U-16s

Ireland’s hopes of claiming either the boy’s or girl’s Four Nations trophy were all but dashed today by England, losing out 3-1 and 1-0, respectively, in Largs.

The boys fell to a 3-1 defeat, leaving them requiring a favour from Scotland in the final round of games today.

Brendan Creed gave England an early lead but Tom Samuel (pictured) levelled in the 15th minute with a fine reverse.

However, a goal from Joe Sharpe made it 2-1 at the break before George Lilley’s penalty corner ended hopes of a result ten minutes from time.

On the girl’s side, Emily Court’s fifth minute penalty corner goal gave England a 1-0 win.

Ireland soaked up waves of English attacks thereafter, Lucy Camlin impressing between the posts, but could not forge a draw to add to their opening day 2-2 tie with Scotland. As a result, they are now out of the running for the title.

U-16 Four Nation’s results:
Boys: Ireland 1 (T Samuel) England 3 (B Creed, J Sharpe, G Lilley)
Girls: Ireland 0 England 1 (E Court); Scotland 3 Wales 1

Tomorrow’s fixtures: Boys (12pm): Ireland vs Wales; (4pm) Scotland vs England
Girls (10am): Ireland vs Wales; (2pm) Scotland vs England

Giles gets surprise European call

Alan Giles (right) is the major surprise inclusion in Paul Revington’s Irish squad for the EuroHockey Nations Trophy in Wrexham, which gets underway in nine day’s time.

He comes in for exam-tied Andy McConnell while Peter Caruth is another set to make a ranking-tournament debut, taking the place of the injured Mikey Watt.

Giles, 28, is selected following strong performances in the Celtic Cup where he made his debut.

That inclusion significantly bucked the trend of the past few years of only introducing players under 24 to international hockey, showing Revington’s willingness to select players based on current form.

Speaking about Giles’ selection, Revington said of the Pembroke quadruple winning captain: “Andy McConnell has withdrawn himself from selection contention due to university exams and this has made way for Alan Giles. Alan has been selected on the back of his strong performances at the Celtic Cup and will bring a strong drive to the team as a result of the multiple successes he has enjoyed over the past club season and more recently at the Celtic Cup."

The other change may prove the more significant. As Ireland’s only player to score from play in the recent Champion’s Challenge II, Watt’s failure to recover from a thumb injury is a massive loss. Caruth showed his scoring touch in the French series in the spring but will need to adapt quickly to tournament pace.

The rest of the squad remains in tact from the Champion’s Challenge II. Ireland go into the tournament as clear favourites, ranked five places above Scotland - their nearest rivals.

They get the tournament off and running on August 1 against the competition’s lowest rated side, Belarus at 10am. Barring injury before the tournament, Stephen Butler should equal the national caps record of 151 in that game, currently held by Paddy Brown.

The latter group matches could also see a series of other personal milestones with Tim Lewis and Geoff McCabe likely to reach their 50th cap and John Jermyn make his century.

Speaking about the tournament, Revington was upbeat despite the loss of Watt. “Michael Watt (pictured, left) has unfortunately been ruled out but the team are excited for this event and will look to put all their hard work from this summer into producing positive results in Wales.”

Irish squad (club/caps):
David Harte (GK, Pembroke Wanderers/38), Iain Walker (GK, YMCA/21), Ronan Gormley (Capt, Pembroke Wanderers/82), Tim Lewis (Pembroke Wanderers/48), Joe Brennan (Glenanne/25), Conor Harte (Pembroke Wanderers/26), John Jackson (Loughborough/27), Graham Shaw (V/C, Glenanne/136), Stephen Butler (Glenanne/150), David Hobbs (Cork C of I/135), Geoff McCabe (Banbridge/47), John Jermyn (Cork C of I/97), Alan Sothern (Pembroke Wanderers/23), Eugene Magee (Banbridge/88), Timmy Cockram (Lisnagarvey/81), Mitch Darling (Three Rock Rovers/26), Alan Giles (Pembroke Wanderers/3), Peter Caruth (Annadale/9)

Non Travelling Reserves: Mark Ruddle (GK); Gareth Lennox; Karl Burns; Keith Black; Phelie Maguire; David Ames; Andrew Herbert; Gareth Watkins; Chris Cargo.

Match Schedule:
Saturday, August 1 (10am): Ireland v Belarus
Sunday, August 2 (3.30pm): Ireland v Italy
Tuesday, August 4 (1.30pm): Ireland v Russia
Thursday, August 6 / Saturday, August 8: Classification / Finals Day

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Madeley double gets Ireland off to flyer

Shane Madeley (pictured) struck twice for Ireland’s U-16 to spearhead an opening day 3-0 victory in the Four Nations tournament in Largs, Scotland.

The Three Rock Rovers forward netted eight minutes in before Darren Sweetnam doubled the advantage 20 minutes into the game.

The side soaked up some serious pressure from the home side, Mark Ingram pulling off a string of saves before Madeley made the game safe in the last ten minutes with a fine solo effort.

On the girl’s side, Rebecca Barry’s reverse-stick shot and Amy-Kate Trevor’s penalty corner goal gave Ireland a 2-0 half-time lead but they were stung by two second half strikes – the second coming with three minutes from time – and settled for a share of the spoils.

The first came from a controversially awarded stroke at the top of the circle in the 50th minute. Ireland won seven corners to Scotland's nil on the night to leave coach Una McCarthy frustrated with the result but not the performance.

"It was a disappointing result but a young team played good hockey and were in control for long periods of the game, creating numerous chances... a learning experience."

Both Irish sides today face England who began with two wins over Wales.

U-16 Four Nations results:
Ireland 3 (S Madeley 2, D Sweetnam) Scotland 0; Wales 0 England 6

Ireland 2 (R Barry, A-K Trevor) Scotland 2 (H Hall, G Morton-Lloyd); Wales 3 England 5

Ireland U-16s take on home nations

Ireland's U-16 boys and girls tip off the highlight of their summer programme this afternoon in Largs, Scotland as they take on England, Scotland and Wales in a four nations tournament.

With this being a non-European year at this age group, the tournament provides the setting for players to get used to the intense rigours of international events with a view to next year's U-16 campaign and further down the road, the respective A division campaigns in 2011.
On the boy's side, Paul Cooke's charges picked off a win over England in their last outing - the third game in a three-game series - and include a panel with a couple of famous names. Ross Canning, Shane Madeley, David Cole and Owen Magee have full international blood in the family.

To date the captaincy duties have been shared by Three Rock's Tom Samuel and Fingal's Mark Ryan while Bandon midfielder Darren Sweetnam is one to watch.

On the girl's side, Ireland's panel - coached by Una McCarthy - draws heavily from the interprovincial championship winning Ulster side who take 10 of the 18 from the northern province. Leinster has two representatives with Railway's Lisa McCarthy and Corinthian's Aisling Naughton making the panel.

Both sides get their campaigns underway today against Scotland this evening.

Boys match Schedule:
Wednesday, July 22: 3pm, England vs Wales; 7pm, Ireland vs Scotland
Thursday, July 23: 3pm, Ireland vs England; 7pm, Scotland vs Wales
Friday, July 24: 12pm, Ireland vs Wales; 4pm, Scotland vs England

Girls match Schedule:
Wednesday, July 22: 1pm, England vs Wales; 5pm, Ireland vs Scotland
Thursday, July 23: 1pm, Ireland vs England; 5pm, Scotland vs Wales
Friday, July 24: 10am, Ireland vs Wales; 2pm, Scotland vs England

Ireland U-16 Boys: Michael Anderson (Banbridge Academy/Banbridge), Robert Burke (Wesley/Corinthian), Nicholas Burns (Midleton/Cork C of I), Ross Canning (St Columba’s/TRR), David Cole (St Andrew’s/Monkstown), Mark Ingram (Oatlands/Railway Unuion), Matthew Lecky (Royal & Prior/Raphoe), Shane Madeley (Wesley/TRR), Owen Magee (Banbridge Academy/Banbridge), Fiachra Maher (St Andrews/Railway Union), David McCrea (Wesley College/TRR), Joshua Moffett (Banbridge Academy/Banbridge), Paul Ritchie (Regent House/North Down), Mark Ryan (Sutton Park/Fingal), Thomas Samuel (Wesley/TRR), Jeffrey Spillane (Blackrock College/Railway Union), Scott Sullivan (Bandon Grammar/Bandon), Darren Sweetnam (Bandon Grammar/Bandon)

Ireland U-16 girls: Vikki Hynes (GK) (Salerno/Knocknacarra), Lucy Camlin(GK, Ballyclare High/Ballyclare), Freddie Timmons (Taylors Hill/Galway), Amy Kate Trevor (Scoil Mhuire/Cork C of I), Louise Murray (Lurgan College/Lurgan), Gemma Frazer (Omagh High/Omagh), Roisin Upton (Cresent Comp/Catholic Inst), Amy Cooke (Ballyclare HS/Ballyclare), Leah Ewart (Royal Sch Armagh/Armagh), Kerri Mc Donald (Banbridge Academy/Dromore), Lisa McCarthy (Mount Anville/Railway Union), Katie Morris (Strathearn Sch/Belfast Victorians), Rebecca Barry (Laurel Hill Colaiste/Catholic Inst), Joanne Orr (Royal Sch Armagh/Armagh), Lucy McKee (Banbridge Academy/Armagh), Aisling Naughton (Mount Anville/Corinthian), Elaine Carey (Jesuits, Galway/Galway), Chloe Brown (Nendrum College/North Down)

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Garrett confirmed as Glens' new coach

Glenanne ladies have confirmed Guy Garrett as their new coach for the 2009/10 season, taking over from Victor Shaw who steps down after five years with the side.

The Ireland A coach inherits a side that surprised many on their return to division one last term, holding on to an outside chance of IHL qualification until the final quarter of the season and were widely regarded as the hardest working team in the league.

Ali Geoffroy (pictured celebrating) takes up the captaincy for the year and will be assisted by vice-captain Audrey McCormack while Barbara O'Malley will stay on as team manager at Glenanne Park.

Navan men search for new coach

Division Two's Navan are in search of a new coach - or player-coach - for the 2009/10 season as they look to continue the building work going on at the club,

The Badgers have an attractive package available for potential candidates who would be available to take on training sessions in King's Hospital on Wednesday nights in King's Hospital from August 5.

New members are always welcome. Applications for the post can be made to Chris Booth at

Deadline looms for indoor entry

The closing date for entry for the national men’s and women’s indoor trophies is nearing for clubs to confirm their participation for the 2009/10 season.

The IHA is imposing a strict deadline for entry on Friday, July 31 as they look to determine the competition structure for the upcoming year.

As of last week, nine men’s teams (Glenanne, Railway Union, Corinthian, TRR, Queens University, Avoca, Pembroke Wanderers, Clontarf and Dublin University) and eight women’s clubs (Glenanne, Railway Union, Galway, Randalstown, Corinthian, UCD, Loreto and Pembroke Wanderers) had confirmed entry.

To confirm your club’s entry, email

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Butler scores in 150th game but Ireland fall twice

Stephen Butler marked his 150th cap today with trademark drag-flick against Belgium but the milestone game for the Glenanne man ultimately ended in defeat as Ireland fell to their second defeat in Waterloo in two days.

Two very late goals from the Red Lions accounted for the Irish on Saturday in a lively opener. David Hobbs deflection in the 66th minute had made the game 3-3 but the hosts finished the stronger to take the win.

Earlier, Eugene Magee's ninth minute tap-in and Mitch Darling's solo and reverse nine minutes later had twice recovered single goal deficits.

But Belgium got back on top to take a 3-2 lead in the 27th minute. Ireland competed well for the next 40 minutes, eventually getting their just reward but were stung moments later.

To Sunday and a much tighter first half saw Belgium take the lead in the 31st minute with a scuffed shot deflecting over Iain Walker's head. Magee rebounded on Chris Cargo's shot early in the second half for 1-1 before the Lions pulled away to 3-1.

Butler dragged one into the top-left corner to make a game of it but a fourth Belgian strike put a result beyond reach.

Speaking about the two test series, Paul Revington said "The weekend proved to be a great benefit for the development of our team as we tested our quality against a top ten ranked team prior to the European trophy. Belgium outplayed us in the second half today and we had fewer penetrative opportunities as a result."

Muller seeks sharper cutting edge

Ireland coach Gene Muller was left searching for a sharper cutting edge to his strike force after three losses in three days to Spain in Valencia this weekend.

His side fell to back-to-back 4-0 defeats on Friday and Saturday before a much improved performance on Sunday saw the side lose 2-1 but felt his side needed to take more of the chances on offer.

He said: "We deserved better than a 2-1 loss, we played our best match today. A clear focus needs to now be applied to both circles, we need to be more clinical as in the last two matches we had the same number of circle entries as Spain."

Eimear Cregan's (pictured) 44th minute strike levelled Montse Cruz fifth minute opener but the Spanish striker deflected superbly high into the net to take the win.

Spain dominated the two prior games, racking up two 4-0 wins with 13 penalty corners in the second game to give a clear indication of the task facing the Irish in next month's European Championships in Amsterdam. Ireland meet the Spaniards in their third group game of the tournament on August 25.

Friday: Ireland 0 Spain 4 (R Huertas, J Mendez, N Camon, E Termens)
Saturday: Ireland 0 Spain 4 (R Huertas, G Cormena, N Camon, P Sanchez)
Sunday: Ireland 1 (Eimear Cregan) Spain 2 (M Cruz 2)

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Maguire returns while Butler set for personal milestone

Phelie Maguire will be given a late chance to break back into the Irish team for the European championships as he was named as one of Paul Revington's three changes from the Champion's Challenge II side for a two-match series with Belgium – currently world number nine.

Maguire has been out of hockey since relocating to Palestine in the Spring to carry out humanitarian work but has been back in training with the national squad in the past three weeks.

He joins the squad along with Reading’s Chris Cargo and Annadale striker Peter Caruth. Andy McConnell (exams), Mikey Watt (fractured thumb) and John Jermyn (rested) are the players to make way from last week’s Champion’s Challenge II panel.

Conor Harte, meanwhile, will undergo a late fitness test with Karl Burns standing by. The series could also see Stephen Butler close in on another personal record in the Irish jersey to add to his record goals haul. He is set to reach 150 international caps, should he play both games, and move within one of current all-time record holder Paddy Brown.

Butler is currently third on the all-time list with Marty Sloan second, the Cookstown man gaining 149 caps in his career.

Meanwhile, a similar amount of switches affect Gene Muller’s women’s panel ahead of a three matches against the world number seven side, Spain, in Valencia this weekend.

Louisa Healy, Cliodhna Sargent and Rachel Mulligan come back in for the injured Mary Goode, Alex Speers and Lauren Barr. Both coaches are expected to announce their European squads next week.

Irish men’s squad (club/caps)
David Harte (GK, Pembroke/37), Iain Walker (GK, YMCA/15), Ronan Gormley (Capt, Pembroke/80), Tim Lewis (Pembroke/46), Joe Brennan (Glenanne/22), Conor Harte (Pembroke/24), John Jackson (Loughborough/22), Graham Shaw (Vice-capt, Glenanne/134), Stephen Butler (Glenanne/148), David Hobbs (vice-capt, Cork C of I/133), Geoff McCabe (Banbridge/45), Phelie Maguire (KHC Leuven/74), Alan Sothern (Pembroke/21), Eugene Magee (Banbridge/86), Timmy Cockram (Lisnagarvey/79), Mitch Darling (TRR/24), Chris Cargo (Reading/3), Peter Caruth (Annadale/5)

Irish women’s squad (club/caps)
Lizzie Colvin (Loreto/ 15), Emma Clarke (Ulster Elks/73), Bridget Cleland (Ballymoney/129), Eimear Cregan (Capt, Cork Harlequins/151), Roisin Flinn (UCD/57), Megan Frazer (Ballymoney/13), Michelle Harvey (Pegasus/15), Louisa Healy (Loreto/42), Lisa Jacob (UCD/51), Shirley McCay (Ulster Elks/68), Cathy McKean (Loreto/123), Rachel Mulligan (Armagh/19), Cliodhna Sargent (Cork Harlequins/43), Niamh Small ( Loreto/ 18), Emma Smyth (Railway Union/9), Emma Stewart (Armagh/75), Nikki Symmons (Loreto/119), Emma Gray (Hermes/8)

Men’s match schedule (Irish time):
Saturday, July 18 (2pm) Ireland v Belgium
Sunday, July 19 (12pm) Ireland v Belgium

Women’s match schedule (Irish time)
Friday, July 17 (11am) Ireland v Spain
Saturday, July 18 (11am) Ireland v Spain
Sunday, July 19 (9am) Ireland v Spain

Weston appoint Browne while Filgas to coach Hermes

Weston have pulled off one of the most eye-catching appointments of the summer as Alan Browne takes over the men's first team coaching reins.

Browne brings with him an incredible record from his 14 years as a senior player with Glenanne in which he won every honour in the domestic game during the Tallaght club's golden era.

Apart from ISC, club championships, Leinster senior league, Neville and Mills cup success, he was a central cog in the Glens 2008's European gold-medal success in Paris and captained Leinster to Interpro glory.

Browne said of the new challenge: "I have obviously enjoyed my time at Glenanne but I now look forward to the new challenge of coaching Weston HC."

For Weston, the signing represents a big part in their process of reinvigorating the club. The club opened the doors to their own astroturf pitch in the past 18 months which has helped grow their colts section.

The ladies section recently appointed Brian Scully as first team coach and the ex-Fingal and Dublin University first team captain also joins the Lucan-based club as a player.

Elsewhere, Simon Filgas makes the short move from Blackrock to Booterstown as he takes on the coaching role at Hermes following his recent spell at Avoca. Filgas brings a wealth of experience having coached Pembroke and Three Rock Rovers' men's first teams among other appointments.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Ciara O'Brien forced to retire

Irish vice-captain Ciara O’Brien has been forced to announce her retirement from international hockey due to injury after amassing 156 caps in the green shirt over the past nine years.

O’Brien has suffered from a degenerative, arthritic condition in both knees over the past year and her decision has been based on medical advice.

She said of her decision: “I was determined to overcome my injuries and play a role within the squad at the upcoming Europeans in August. However, I have had to consider the long term implications of continuing to train and compete at international level and have unfortunately been forced to make the decision to retire.”

O'Brien has been a stalwart of the Irish defence in recent year, playing in the 2002 World Cup in Australia as well as three European Championships, including a fifth place finish in front of a home crowd in Dublin in 2005.

Following a glittering underage career where she captained the Irish U-16, 18 and 21 teams, she earned her first cap under Riet Kuper against England in 2001 and racked up 50 caps within two years. Her 100th cap came against Italy in 2006 and 150th against Korea in 2008.

Current national coach Gene Muller led the tributes to one of Ireland's great: “Her 156 international appearances make her one of the most capped players in Irish hockey history.

"She has been enormously influential in our team, and was a very consistent and effective international performer. Her attitude and approach was always professional and her service to Irish hockey is greatly valued. I wish her well for the future.”

Irish manager Sally Ann Fanagan added: “Ciara has had a fantastic international career over the past 9 years. During all that time she has been a model professional, setting herself very high standards in both her preparation and her application to international duty. She will be sorely missed within the squad.”

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Champion's Challenge II: Ireland denied on strokes

Poland 3 (Marcin Strykowski 2, Dariusz Rachwalski) Ireland 3 (Mikey Watt 2, John Jermyn); Poland win 5-4 on penalties
Ireland let the inaugural Champion’s Challenge II title slip through their fingers at Belfield this afternoon as they let a commanding lead and performance come unstuck in the closing stages of a pulsating final battle against Poland.

Having led from the third minute, Marcin Strykowski struck with just 12 seconds left of normal time to force extra-time and ultimately the lottery of penalty strokes.

It was a cruel end to what was a well-judged performance for much of the game. Unlike Thursday’s fixture, Ireland played a lot more to their own tempo rather than being dictated by the Poles with much more control of the game’s flow in evidence to break up the opponent’s commitment to counter-attack.

In saying that, Poland did have the first clear opening as Kryzysztof Kmiec miscued a reverse.

But Ireland were settled my a neatly taken Mikey Watt goal after Graham Shaw’s through ball was not dealt with by the Polish defence as the Belgian-bound striker rolled under Marcin Trzaskawka.

It was Watt’s third goal of the tournament and was the only Irish striker to score throughout the tournament from play. However, his combination work with Eugene Magee, Timmy Cockram and the more advanced John Jermyn posed serious menace with multiple reverse-stick efforts the upshot.

Jermyn secured his place as tournament top scorer with his seventh drag-flick of the competition, nut-megging the Polish goalkeeper in the 15th minute for 2-0. It came from a superb break-out via Stephen Butler, Jermyn and Cockram.

Indeed, the Cork C of I man’s lethal strike rate of seven goals from ten corners is a major boon for Paul Revington ahead of the European Championships. When he was off field, the strike rate lowered to around 25pc.

Ireland were in reasonable control though the one corner they did concede ended Conor Harte’s involvement for the day as Tomasz Duktiewicz’s drag left him with a dead leg but the lead comfortably remained in tact until the interval.

The second half, however, opened with a more dithering approach and it was no surprise Poland capitalised following a four minute spell camped in Irish territory, Strykowski getting his first of the game.

It awoke the hosts from their slumber with Jermyn flying down the right. A slight bobble cleared a way for Andy McConnell – seeing his first action of the tournament – but he snatched at the golden chance.

Another Jermyn shot rebounded Cockram’s way but his quick reaction could only guide over the bar. The goal was coming and it was Watt who secured it though Cockram deserves the greater part of the plaudits.

An overcooked through-ball looked simple for Trzaskawka to deal with but the ’Garvey man persevered to block the keeper’s kick, spin and lay on a top cross. Both Watt and Jermyn slid and got touches but it was the former who got the final deflection for 3-1 in the 50th minute.

But the wheels began to wobble thereafter as Ireland dropped deeper and Poland enjoyed more of the ball.

Strykowski’s raw power drove him through two tackles and while David Harte did well to smother, Dariusz Rachwalski rolled in the rebound to set up a grandstand finish with 13 minutes to go.

Several chances went Ireland’s way on the counter as Alan Sothern was unable to wrap his stick around Ronan Gormley’s cross; Eugene Magee magic earned a corner while McConnell twice found himself in around the back.

But Poland were holding the lion’s share of territory, pinning Ireland back and eventually got their break when Slawomir Choczaj was left all alone on the left wing. He slammed in a cross which Strykowski guided spectacularly netwards and there was no time to take the restart.

David Hobbs went closest in the first period of extra-time, skimming a post from a near impossible angle while in the second period; Magee produced one incredible effort, flipping himself from open side to reverse while lying flat on the ground.

One last goal-mouth scramble yielded an 84th minute penalty corner but with Jermyn primed, the switch went left and Cockram’s drag was cleared to safety.

David Harte’s save from Duktiewicz gave Ireland the early initiative in the stroke competition but when Joe Brennan’s effort was saved in the third series, the sides were back on level terms.

His stroke was shrouded in controversy, though, as the crowd hushed. One of the two Polish reserve players called out as Brennan shaped to shoot in an attempt to put the player off. Upon the miss, the Pole turned to the now booing crowd, raised his finger to his lips, leading to even louder cat-calls ahead of Szymon Hutek’s stroke.

He held his nerve as the Polish player was admonished by an official though it remains to be seen whether the issue will be taken further. Poland’s management were given an official warning over their conduct on the sideline by the tournament director in the semi-final win over France with possible penalties carrying into the European championships.

Penalties progressed to the sudden-death round where player-of-the-tournament Duktiewicz bounced back from his earlier miss to score. Butler fired left and wide and the title was gone.

In terms of workd rankings, the result makes a small dent in Ireland's deficit to France, Japan and Malaysia above them. However, missing out on the single promotion place to the more lucrative Champion's Challenge I means Ireland's chances of closing the gap are somewhat limited in the near future, especially with only a European B division campaign this year.

Ireland gained 10 points more than France, 15 than Malaysia and 20 on Japan but with 120 points to make up, moving up a tier will be a difficult proposition in the near future.

* Adrian Boehm photos from Ireland vs Poland can be found here while Lindie Naughton's set of pictures can be see here...

Champion's Challenge II: 3rd/4th playoff

France 4 (Freddie Soyez 2, Martin Genestet, Sebastian Jean-Jean) Malaysia 3 (Hafiz Hanifi, Selvaraju Sandrakasi, Abd Rahim) after golden goal
France withstood a second half barrage to eventually take the bronze medal at the inaugural Champion's Challenge II with Freddie Soyez holding his nerve to net a three-times respotted penalty corner in the sixth minute of golden goal extra-time.

Hir brace of drag-flicks bookended a lively affair that Malaysia should have led inside five minutes. The Asian side produced three gilt-edge chances in quick succession with Azlan Misron and Selva Sandrakasi cutting the French in ribbons for two one-on-one chances but had not the composure to finish. Indeed, Selva was the games star man, producing a world of breathtaking individual skills.

As it was, Martin Genestet clattered in a bouncing ball in the 15th minute before Soyez slung in a high drag-flick for 2-0 in the 21st minute. Malaysia got back into the game three minutes before the break from Kevinder Singh's spectacular reverse, helped on its way by Hafiz Hanifi.

Sebastian Jean-Jean's tap in in the 44th minute restored the two-goal difference but from then on, Malaysia bossed affairs. Matthias Dierckens' string of saves kept it that way for ten minutes until Selva smashed in a corner rebound from a tight angle - though the French had a case for a free out.

Three corners went awry while Malaysia could have had a stroke when Arnaud Becuwe unceremoniously prevented Tengku's shot from six yards. But the equaliser finally came four minutes from time when Selva ghosted past three players, fed Tengku who laid across for Abd Rahim's simple finish.

The fightback, though, proved all in vain as France won a corner five minutes into golden goal. Charun Singh blocked out Soyez' first two efforts with his body from first runner but the third winged its way into the roof of the net.

Champion's Challenge II: Classification matches

5th - 6th playoff: Japan 9 (Yoshihiro Anai 3, Ryuji Nagasawa 2, Ryuji Furusato, Tomori Ono, Kazuhiro Tsubouchi, Hikroke Watanabe) Russia 2 (Alexandre Platonov, Dimitriy Azarov)
Japan struck eight times in the second half to turn a first half deficit into a comprehensive victory to claim fifth place in the Champion’s Challenge II this afternoon.

The turning point came early in the 38th minute when Evgeny Mokrousov was sin-binned with the score at 2-1. Ryuji Nagasawa fired in a low drag-flick to level and Hiroki Watanabe batted home from close range to make it 3-2.

Russia had a series of corner chances - six in total - but they were unable to net, Alexander Likov going closest when he rebounded onto the post.

Nagasawa got his second in the 48th minute and from there the Russians appeared to lose heart. Kazuhiro Tsubouchi, Ryuji Furusato, Tomori Ono and a Yoshihiro Anai completed his hat-trick in quick time to rack up the comfortable scoreline.

Earlier, Russia had hit the front when Alexandre Platonov struck a superb first time strike high and Dimitry Azarov roofed a corner in response to Anai's early opener.

7th-8th playoff: Austria 4 (Michael Korper, Manuel Grandits, Benjamin Stanzl Tobias Hubner) Chile 3 (Jan Richter, Esteban Krainz)
Austria avoided the wooden spoon as they got the better of Chile in the first of today's classification matches at Belfield.

Michael Korper set them on their way with a ninth minute penalty corner but Chile responded quickly, again from a set piece, through Jan Richter.

Austria, though, upped their tempo to dominate the rest of the half with goals from Manuel Grandits and Benjamin Stanzl for a 3-1 advantage. Tobias Hubner increased the lead just after the break.

For a third game running, Chile played their best hockey when when the game looked to be over. Esteban Krainz zipped in a corner in the 47th minute but too late to cause a fightback.

Ireland line up Polish revenge mission

Ireland's dramatic win over Malaysia last night has set up a near instant chance for revenge over Poland following the 3-2 defeat on Thursday as the home nation compete in their first ever world ranking final to be played on home soil.

Billed pre-match as somewhat of a non-event with both countries already semi-final bound, Thursday's battle was the most intense battle of the group stages with neither side giving an inch.

Skipper Ronan Gormley said as much after the game saying "we certainly didn't see as a dead rubber" as the two sides served up a frantic, counter-attack game with scarcely a pause for breath.

For Ireland, one primary objective has been acheived as they are guaranteed to finish above Malaysia, France and Japan - the three sides above them in the world ranking - and so begin to make inroads to closing the gap on those countries. For today, though, silverware remains the target at Belfield.

Match schedule (all at Belfield):
Final: (5pm) Ireland vs Poland
Classification matches: (9.30am) 7th/8th playoff - Chile vs Austria; (12pm) 5th/6th playoff - Japan vs Russia; (2.30pm) 3rd/4th playoff - Malaysia vs France

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Champion's Challenge II: Ireland reach final - semi-final reports

Ireland 2 (John Jermyn , David Hobbs) Malaysia 1 (Tengku Tajuddin)
Ireland held out for a famous victory at Belfield this afternoon amid the pouring rain, edging out a lively Malaysia to set up a revenge mission in tomorrow’s final against Poland.

They were made to live on their nerves, though, as a corner conceded 15 seconds from time could have proved a costly error.

David Harte, though, stood tall and when the rebound did not fall Tengku Tajuddin’s way, Ireland celebrated wildly with each player joining the embrace before saluting the sizable crowd in the grandstand.

It was a game of serious swings in momentum as first Malaysia and latterly Ireland enjoyed long periods of dominance. John Jermyn once again got Ireland off to the perfect start, firing his sixth goal of the tournament with a low drag in the fourth minute.

But the Asian side controlled possession and Ireland’s deep press played into the Malaysian’s hands, given their superior skills in tight situations.

Harte did well to smother Ismail Abu’s effort while Tajuddin’s beautiful ball was deflected onto the post by Selvaraju Sandrakasi. But they did not have to wait long for their just reward when Tengku pounced on a corner rebound - following Amin Rahim’s drag - to finish adroitly from three yards midway through the half.

During this period, Eugene Magee was providing a decent outlet and his exchange with Mitch Darling showed an Irish threat still existed. Jermyn’s next corner drew a top save from Kumar Subramaniam as well as denying Graham Shaw in the aftermath.

Indeed, Ireland almost took the lead just three seconds before the half-time hooter when Stephen Butler’s raking overhead found the unlikely target of Ronan Gormley as the furthest man forward but the right-back flashed across the goal.

And the hosts took that momentum into the second period, winning their third corner inside 50 seconds of the turnaround, Mikey Watt reversed while Tim Lewis - Ireland’s stand-out defender in the tournament to date - produced an amazing 70-metre pass to play in Magee.

John Jermyn’s yellow card - for an off-the-ball barge on Sukri Abd Mutalib - barely broke their stride. On his return to the field, he would later receive a green card for not retreating.

Tajuddin did pop one past Harte on the end-line but Joe Brennan cleared the raised ball well to safety before Magee provided the game’s best solo action; racing 40-metres in between five defenders to win a corner. From it, Ireland got the crucial score, using a first switch routine of the competition.

Butler’s one-two with Magee created space at the flick-spot but his drag was saved. Lewis’ follow-up hit the post but the third phase fell to David Hobbs to slide under Subramaniam.

The volume of rain saw numerous slips and misjudgements, adding to the excitement of the game. A massive overhead created havoc between Johnny Jackson and David Harte, bouncing over the goalkeeper’s head at the top of the circle.

Sandrakasi, though, was not tall enough to guide the ball into the net as he snuck in around the back. And Ireland continued to live on their wits as they sank back deeper and deeper, giving away cheap possession with endless overheads.

It was always likely to give up one major chance for the Malaysians to equalise and it came with 15 seconds on the scoreboard when Joe Brennan was penalised wide on the right flank.

But Harte filled his goal well and Paul Revington had victory in the most meaningful match of his embryonic career as Irish national coach.

* For more of Adrian Boehm's excellent photos from Ireland vs Malaysia, click here

Poland 3 (Marcin Strykowski, Szymon Oszjczyk, Tomasz Duktiewicz) France 1 (Freddie Soyez)
Poland became the first semi-finalist after their counter-attack game proved too much for France at Belfield this afternoon.

The French had started the strongest, taking the lead through Freddie Soyez’ drag-flick. But two beautifully conceived Polish goals before half-time switched the lead.

Marcin Strykowski got the first response in the tenth minute, profiting from some top skills down the left wing to squeeze the ball past Max Wilson.

And the turnaround continued with a brilliant move, completed with Tomasz Choczaj’s superb in to out run creating the space for Szymon Oszjczyk to tap in.

Choczaj proved a livewire throughout and was unlucky to be denied in the preceding play to the second goal with a diving reverse and hit the sideboard with the first shot of the second half.

Poland’s speedy attacks continued to bear fruit - especially when Lucas Sevestre was sin-binned - with Slawomir Choczaj pulling across the goal from yet another break-out. Their reward came in the 53rd minute from their second corner when Tomasz Duktiewicz powered a drag-flick through Wilson.

With a healthy lead in tact, the wheels fell off somewhat with both Miroslaw Juszczak and Duktiewicz put in the bin for over-zealous tackles in the 58th minute.

But France were unable to take advantage, with Arkadiusz Matuszak pulling off a sensational double-save as Poland played out the match in untidy but effective fashion.

* For more of Adrian Boehm's pictures from Poland vs France, click here

Champion's Challenge II: 5th-8th playoffs

5th-8th place playoffs: Russia 2 (Alexander Likov, Alexandre Platonov) Chile 1 (Thomas Kannegiesser)Russia’s greater proficiency in both circles proved the vital factor as Chile created much but threatened little except in the closing four minutes.

Alexander Likov’s 14th minute reverse-stick effort was the sole highlight of the first half as the South American side let four penalty corners slip through their fingers.

Their fifth and sixth corners were comfortably dealt with by Roman Rogov just after the break, too, before Chile goalkeeper Mauro Scaff produced the save of the day.

Diving the opposite direction, he got a strong glove to Sergey Kostarev’s point-blank deflection from the Russian’s first corner of the game in the 44th minute.

And with Alexis Berzcely in the sin-bin, Russia began to turn the screw, winning three corners. The game-winning goal eventually came with seven minutes to go from a pitch-length move.

Felipe Montegu appeared to be heftily fouled but no free ensued. A superb break-out ended with skipper Alexandre Platonov and Alexey Mamoshkin exchanging three passes to round Scaff, the former roll into the open net.

Chile pulled one back with two minutes to left - Thomas Kanegiesser snapping up at the third attempt from Sebastian Kapsch’s wriggle down the left touch-line.

And they had a chance to force extra-time seconds later from their seventh corner but - after a lengthy discussion at the top of the circle - the move broke down at the switch phase.

Russia, therefore, qualify for Sunday's 5th place playoff against Japan while Chile play Austria for the 7th place ranking points.

Japan 4 (Ryuji Furusato, Yoshihiro Anai, Genki Mitani 2)Austria 2 (Benjamin Stanzl, Wolfgang Laminger)
Japan qualified for the fifth place play-off, taking the spoils from a lively opener to the fourth day of the Champion’s Challenge II in Belfield.

Benji Stanzl broke the deadlock from Austria’s second serious break-out of the day in the 18th minute, bashing home first time Michael Korper’s right wing pull-back.

Japan, though, turned the game on its head with two goals in two minutes when Ryuji Fukushiro deflected in a well-worked auto-pass move and Yoshihiro Anai spectacularly clattered in a bouncing backhand shot after his initial drag-flick was blocked down.

The lead was extended out to 4-1 in the second half thanks to Genki Mitani’s double strike from close range - the second showing a neat first touch to escape goalkeeper Lukas Graser and roll into the ensuing open goal.

Wolfgang Laminger cut through the centre to the Japanese defence for a consolation, though Japan should have concluded the game with a three-goal advantage when a beautifully worked corner found only Ryuji Furusato’s foot mere inches from the goal.

* Live streaming of the games will be available online at throughout the day.

European U-18 Championships: Day Five

Ireland U-18 girls 3 (Chloe Watkins, Brenda Flannery, Katie Codyre) Russia 2
Ireland's U-18s survived relegation from the A division, scoring three minutes from time against Russia to end their EuroHockey Youth Championships in fifth place courtesy of their 3-2 win over Russia this morning.

France's 3-0 defeat of Lithuania meant only a win would see Ireland advance, leading to a frenetic opening which saw the scoreboard up to 2-2 within eight minutes before the game settled down.

Chloe Watkins broke the deadlock in the first minute, striking home first time from Deirdre Duke's (pictured, left) cross. Russia levelled but Brenda Flannery's straight strike from Ireland's first corner five minutes in. A diving deflection completed the early exchanges

A tense, end-to-end battle followed thereafter with the stalemate, which would have suited Russia, eventually broken when Hannah Matthews' 67th minute pass was finished off by Katie Codyre at the near post. Watkins, Gillian Pinder and Ali Meeke subsequently played keep-ball to run down the clock and complete the win.

Coach Mary Logue saidd afterwards: "I am delighted to win today after the dissappointment of yesterday's defeat to Lithuania. The girls showed tremendous character to get the win we needed to secure 5th position and the A Division for 2011.”

5th-8th playoff pool (points/goal difference): 5. Ireland 6pts (+1) 6. France 4pts (+2) 7. Russia 4pts (0) 8. Lithuania 3pts (-3)

* For more pictures from Ireland vs Russia, click here

Ireland U-18 boys 5 (Steven Dowds 3, Kyle Good 2) France 3
Ireland took first place in the EuroHockey Youth Trophy with this final win over France to go with the promotion they earned the previous day in Vienna.

Steven Dowds' impressive hat-trick - featuring two reverses and a forehand slap - combined with Kyle Good's double did the damage as Ireland outlasted the French.

France took an early lead but Dowds' and Good's first turned the game around and they were never to trail again. France pulled back from 2-1 and 3-2 down to level twice but two goals in the final 20 minutes saw Ireland pull clear, aided by a couple of decent Stephen West saves.

Anthoni to face old friends for first time

Given the spectator numbers to date, Ireland's match with Malaysia should prove the biggest draw of the Champion's Challenge II to date with the South-East Asian side adorning the crowd with bodhrans and plenty of noise (seen talking to players post-match, below right).

Some may have hoped for the fixture to have been the final but, after Pakistan last year at the Setanta Trophy, the influx of an Asian side to Belfield has brought a distinct extra bit of magic to the tournament and so having the glamour tie against the hosts needed to happen at some stage.

Like Pakistan, Malaysia have shown a 100pc commitment to attacking hockey - fittingly throwing nine men forward with 45 seconds to go of their tie with Russia despite holding a 4-3 lead.

A 70-metre Russian overhead almost caught them out but the Malaysians tend to give sides a chance to play and express themselves, making this afternoon's semi-final Ireland top billing.

For Ireland assistant coach Arul Anthoni, the game will be his first against his country of origin having missed out on that occurrence during his time in South Africa when he was unable to travel to a tournament.

However, he is confident he has the inside track, saying he knows the opposition 'inside-out'. His direct opposite number - Noor Zaiful - was one of his team-mates during his 83-cap career as was current forward Chua Boon Huat (left) while Anthoni has encountered all bar Malaysia's two U-21 players in club action.

Whether that knowledge can lead Ireland to victory tonight remains to be seen but it should be the highlight of what has been a high-scoring tournament to date.

Elsewhere, Ireland's U-18 girls start Saturday's action at 10am (Irish time) against Russia needing a win to secure their A division status in Nivelles. A draw could be enough but only if France win by a single goal against Lithuania though the Irish have the benefit of playing second and knowing the exact equation.

Finally, after two last-gasp results, the U-18 boys have achieved the primary objective of promotion to the A division and can now add the cherry of some silverware should they beat France in the EuroHockey Championships Trophy final.

Saturday match schedule:
Champion's Challenge II:
5th to 8th playoffs:(9.30am) Japan vs Austria; (12pm) Russia vs Chile
Semi-finals: (2.30pm) Poland vs France; (5pm) Malaysia vs Ireland

EuroHockey Girl's Youth Championships: (8am) Lithuania vs France; (10am) Ireland vs Russia
EuroHockey Boy's Youth Trophy final: (4pm) Ireland vs France

Friday, July 10, 2009

European U-18 Championships: Day Four

Ireland U-18 Boys 1 (Stu Loughrey) Wales 0
Andy Smyth's side showed their steely determination for a second successive game as they struck late to beat Wales in an extremely tight-fought battle in Vienna.

Stu Loughrey finished off fellow Leinster man Kyle Good's brilliant cross with just four minutes to go of their semi-final for the game's only goal - coming off the back of a late goal against Switzerland to earn the last four spot in the first place.

The win guarantees Ireland's place in the A division for 2011 and they now have a shot at outright glory when they face France in the final on Saturday afternoon at 5pm.

Ireland U-18 girls 1 (Gillian Pinder) Lithuania 2
Ireland face a testing final day of the EuroHockey Youth Championships after they again struggled to make the best of their chances against Lithuania.

They dominated play for long periods but could not convert any of their four corners while enjoying the lion's share of possession.

All the goals came in the closing ten minutes with Gillian Pinder latching onto Chloe Watkins ball to give Ireland the lead in the 60th minute. However, Lithuania struck twice in the closing minutes to turn the game on its head and raise the importance of Ireland's battle with Russia - the current table-toppers in the relegation pool.

The bottom two sides in the group face the drop to the Trophy level of competition in 2011.

Results: Ireland 1 Lithuania 2; Russia 1 France 1
Relegation pool standings (points/goal difference): 1. Russia 4pts (+1) 2. Lithuania 3pts (0) 3. Ireland 3pts (0) 4. France 1pt (-1)

* For more pictures from Ireland vs Lithuania, click here

Potential club v country tug of war as EHL and WCQ dates named

The announcement of the dates for the first round of the EuroHockey League (EHL) and the 2010 World Cup qualifying (WCQ) tournaments has led to concerns over men's player availability for both club and country.

Just one week separates the EHL's round 1b from the first of three WCQ events with a very real possibility that, depending on the draw, Pembroke and Glenanne's international players - comprising eight of the current panel - could be double-booked.

Plenty of gaps remain to be filled in, the first of which happens next week when the EHL committee will announce the venues for the first round of their competition. Round one will be split into two weekends, running on October 9-11 and 23-25.

Two of the WCQ events have been announced already with Lille hosting on October 31 to November 8 followed by Invercargill, New Zealand on November 7-15. A third tournament will be announced in due course.

Should Ireland finish in the top 5 in their division of the European championships, they go into a WCQ tournament with their destination to be decided once all continental competitions are completed.

Whilst there currently seem a fair amount of variables, the recent convention has seen Irish players withdrawn from club action for well over a month ahead of major tournaments of this ilk.
As such, the proximity of the two tournaments is likely to cause problems for a number of the EHL's second tier countries.

Europe's top four countries in the European A-division in August qualify directly for the World Cup but the next four countries go into the WCQs while also supplying a minimum of six clubs to the EHL.

On the women's side, Ireland can qualify directly for the World Cup should they reach the semi-finals of next month's Europeans. Failing that they will go into a WCQ of their own with Seville, Spain and Santiago, Chile announced as two provisional venues. India and USA will vye for the third space though if Spain take one of the top places, both could be hosts to guarantee the IHA an expensive away trip.

Meanwhile, as reported by Southern Fried and the Examiner, Irish men’s hockey got a boost this week with news of a €70,000 grant from the Olympic Council of Ireland (OCI) in its campaign for qualification for the 2012 Games in London.

The OCI financial support aims to enhance the team’s effort at the Champions Challenge Cup in Dublin, the European Championships in Wales and a World Cup qualifying tournament later this year.

President of the OCI president Pat Hickey said: “The Olympic Council has negotiated this special team sport grant through an International Olympic Solidarity programme in order to assist the Irish Hockey Association’s goal of qualifying an Irish men’s team for the first time at an Olympic Games.”

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Champion's Challenge: Ireland 2 Poland 3

Ireland 2 (Mikey Watt, Alan Sothern) Poland 3 (Tomasz Gorny, Maciej Janiszewski, Tomasz Dutkiewicz)
Despite the match being solely to decide semi-final pairings, Ireland and Poland played out the most intense battle of the Champion’s Challenge II to date.

Tomasz Dutkiewicz’s low corner strike early in the second half proved the vital moment of a helter-skelter battle with both sides taking the most direct route to goal.

Ireland led twice but could not hold onto the advantage in the face of the Polish onslaught.
Mikey Watt opened the scoring in the fifth minute just moments after Dariusz Rachwalski applied the pitching wedge over David Harte’s goal.

The Grange man dug the ball out from under his feet to reverse home after Eugene Magee’s baseline foraging pulled goalkeeper Marcin Trzaskawka. Tomasz Gorny levelled soon after as he burst two tackles before smashing home via a defensive stick.

Sothern restored the lead in the 24th minute from the first corner of the game - won after Tim Lewis’ sublime long ball reached Graham Shaw on the circle’s edge. But the sides were on level terms when Maciej Janiszewski’s snap-shot beat Harte in the 33rd minute.

Magee had a chance to restore the lead yet again when Timmy Cockram hared through but his lay-off was slipped across goal to leave the game 2-2 at the interval.

And Poland’s Tomasz Dutkiewicz put Ireland behind for the first time in the competition as he fired his side’s first corner low after Miroslaw Juszczak spun the ball into his path.

From there, a rip-roaring encounter saw plenty of circle penetrations but no more goals. Four Irish straight strikes from corners went by the wayside as Poland placed two men on the line with goalkeeper Trzaskawka.

Sothern hit the post with the third of those while Jermyn’s drive was saved on the final hooter. Dutkiewicz, for his part, drew a top drawer save from Harte to keep Ireland in contention.

Afterwards, Paul Revington felt his side came up second best in the game’s key battles. “We are disappointed that we lost the penalty corner battle and the counter attack battle. These two areas of the game must improve for the weekend.”

Final group standings (points/goal difference):
Group A:
1. Poland 9pts (+3) 2. Ireland 6pts (+5) 3. Japan 3pts (-3) 4. Chile 0pts (-5)

Fixtures (Saturday):
Semi-finals: 2.30pm France vs Poland; 5pm Malaysia vs Ireland

* For more of Adrian Boehm's photos from Ireland vs Poland, click here