Saturday, July 4, 2009

Revington to field much changed squad for Champs Challenge: Team news

After six months in charge, Irish men’s coach Paul Revington* is relishing the chance to finally get his charges into competitive action next week as hosts of the inaugural Champion’s Challenge II event.

Since officially taking the reins in January, Revington has been at the helm for Glendwyr and Celtic Cup successes but now gets his first opportunity to test his new side’s mettle on a fully-fledged ranking event.

His squad has changed dramatically from the one Dave Passmore took to New Zealand for the Olympic qualifiers 15 months ago - the last ranking event Ireland participated in.

With five senior retirements and two players looking into the possibility of playing for Great Britain seven of the changes are enforced ones while Phelie Maguire effectively ruled himself out due to his sojourn in Palestine.

Karl Burns, as such, is the only major name from the OQT panel to miss out in what is a new-look back four. Conor Harte and Joe Brennan’s ability to pick 70-metre passes has seen them elevated to their first major tournament while the immaculate Johnny Jackson should continue his progression, most likely at left-back.

Andy McConnell and Geoff McCabe are the newcomers in midfield, joining the experienced quartet of Shaw, Butler, Hobbs and Jermyn while up front young Leinster stars Alan Sothern (left) and Mitch Darling join the more established firepower of Mikey Watt, Eugene Magee and Timmy Cockram.

Japan are expected to be the front-runners in Ireland’s Pool A, although Poland – captained by Tomasz Dutkiewicz, their drag-flicking kingpin – could well be in the mix. Their side, many of whom are indoor experts, will aim to transfer their superb close stick skills to the outdoor form of the game. Chile complete the group, with 137-game veteran Felipe Montegu the man to watch.

In Pool B, based on two warm-up matches with the Irish this week Malaysia should prove a big draw for neutral supporters. A 2-1 loss and a 2-2 draw belied some of the technical ability at hand and their penchant for a dramatically two-tempo game.

Their initially languid style tends to explode into life when the mood takes them with stick-skills which are a joy to behold. Seasoned internationals such as Boon Huat Chua and Kumar Subramaniam, but also includes eight players under the age of 23, two of which are teenagers.
Ireland’s nemesis, France, looks a potential semi-final bet and will use a similar panel that Ireland encountered last week at the Celtic Cup.

21-year-old Christoph Amend – who starred for Euro Hockey League Finalists UHC Hamburg – is their rising star but Ireland should draw confidence from last week’s result.

Indeed, the vastly experienced Fredi Soyez had a serious battle with an Irish midfield of Michael Maguire, Alan Giles and Andy Herbert – just one cap between them at the start of play.

“We have selected a balanced side for the tournament”, says France coach Scott Goodheart. “We are still testing combinations of players, and with two or three players unavailable through injury, it is a good opportunity for all 18 to push for selection for the European Cup in August.

“Having said that, I have high expectations of this group at this tournament, and we will be working hard to find good form from the opening whistle.”

The group is rounded out by Austria and Russia. The former has four players in their line-up with over 100 caps, with veterans Robert Buchta and Peter Proksch both amassing in excess of over 150 international appearances. Meanwhile, Russia will be lead by Alexandre Platonov, and underpinned by 36-year-old goalkeeper Igor Dobizhin.

Ireland squad (club/caps): David Harte (GK, Pembroke Wanderers, 32), Iain Walker (GK, YMCA, 15), Ronan Gormley (Capt, Pembroke Wanderers, 75), Tim Lewis (Pembroke Wanderers, 41), Joe Brennan (Glenanne, 17), Conor Harte (Pembroke Wanderers, 19), John Jackson (Loughborough, 17), Graham Shaw (V/Capt, Glenanne, 129), Stephen Butler (Glenanne, 143), David Hobbs (V/Capt, Cork C of I, 128), John Jermyn (Cork C of I, 92), Andy McConnell (Three Rock Rovers, 7), Geoff McCabe (Banbridge, 40), Eugene Magee (Banbridge, 81), Timmy Cockram (Lisnagarvey, 74), Mitch Darling (Three Rock Rovers, 20), Alan Sothern (Pembroke Wanderers, 16), Mikey Watt (Grange, 49)

* Full interview with Paul Revington to appear on Sunday...

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