Galway, and indeed Connacht, will host a European level competition for the very first time this weekend as they welcome the women’s EuroHockey Indoor Club Champion’s Challenge to the brand new NUIG sports complex.
And while the host club will be gunning for glory and promotion up to the second tier of indoor hockey in the continent, and head coach Richie Malones believe the event represents a huge milestone for the sport in the province.
Malone said ahead of today’s tournament tip-off: “This event will be a momentous occasion for Galway hockey club and for Connacht hockey in general.
“From a club perspective it has enable the club to come together with a unique focus and an opportunity to show case what the west of Ireland has to offer from a hockey perspective and its ability to host a major European event.
“The fact that Galway has managed to secure such a prestigious tournament serves only to reinforce the major developments that have taken in the past few years.”
Galway produced a credible debut run in European competition last year, finishing fourth out of six at this level of competition, a starting point Malone hopes his side can progress from.
“We hope to build on that success and push teams a little closer this time round. The major difference for us this year is that national competition has been strengthened and restructured thanks mainly to indoor champion Paul O'Brien.
“The fact that we reached the national semi-final this year and lost to Railway whom we had beaten to become national champions previously has ensured that we are far better prepared for the European competition that is ahead of us this time.
“Naturally we have set our sights high and will be pushing for promotion, but the reality is that we are learning more about indoor every step of the way, but hopefully we can achieve something fantastic this coming weekend.”
They compete in a four-team tournament with two promotion places up for grabs. Sweden’s Valhalla and SK Slavia Praha have dropped down from the B division while Wales’ Howardian HC – a side Galway got the better of in 2009 – make up the group.
The ever-green, former outdoor international Tara Browne (pictured, left, at the launch of the competition with the Mayor of Galway) continues to guard the goal to great effect while former Pembroke player Emma Glanville usually works the boards from the back.
The rest of the panel features a number of Irish underage talent with Emily Molloy, Louise Fahy, Lynsey Trainor and Michelle Carey part of the Irish U-18 set-up while Elaine Carey, at 14, is one of the youngest players to compete in European competition. She is currently part of the Irish U-16 squad.
EuroHockey Indoor Club Champion’s Challenge:
SK Slavia Praha (CZE); Valhalla LHC (SWE); Galway HC (IRL); Howardian LHC (WAL)
Fixture schedule: Friday, February 26: 1pm, SK Slavia Praha v Galway HC; 2.15pm, Valhalla LHC v Howardian LHC; 4.45pm, Galway HC v Howardian LHC; 6pm, Valhalla LHC v SK Slavia Praha Saturday, February 27: 12pm SK Slavia Praha v Howardian LHC; 1.15pm, Galway HC v Valhalla LHC; 3.45pm, Howardian LHC v Valhalla LHC; 5pm, Galway HC v SK Slavia Praha Sunday, February 28: 9am, Valhalla LHC v Galway HC; 10.15am Howardian LHC v SK Slavia Praha; 1.15pm, SK Slavia Praha v Valhalla LHC; 2.30pm Howardian LHC v Galway HC