Hockey: Hughes targets title win
University of Ulster men's coach Scott McNeill has announced his squad for the intervarsities tournament which is being hosted by arch rivals Queen's this weekend.
Included will be goalkeeper turned poacher Ian Hughes, brother of Northern Ireland skipper Aaron, who will be hoping to build on last season's scoring heroics as he once again prepares to ditch his pads and kickers.
The UU men have high hopes for this year's tournament and hope to take the title off last year's winners Trinity College Dublin.
The squad is made up of experienced varsity players such as Peter Younger, Scott McNeill, Stuart McWilliams, Ewan Butler, Ricky Lee, Simon Todd, Chris Speers and Mark Moreland.
Unfortunately three Banbridge players were forced to pull out of the competition as the Vi-Sport Premier League club would not release them.
Coach McNeill has consequently called Portadown's Scott Beattie up to the squad and two Mossely boys Stuart McIvor and Colin McClean.
McNeill said: "The three boys that have been brought up into the squad are in every way as capable as those who pulled out, plus we have the experience of Scott Beattie who played last year."
The boys will play their first round match against University College Cork at 5.30pm on Saturday after their usual league fixtures.
UU will also take on University College Dublin, Royal College of Surgeons and University of Limerick in their group matches.
These three matches will all be played on Sunday.
If the boys are successful they will play their semi-finals and finals on Monday.
Ian "the hitman" Hughes will also be lining out for the UU squad after the 22-year-old, due to his outfield abilities, was chosen to play as centre forward for the Irish Universities team in Paris where the men, who were made up of University players from all over Ireland, took on a French national team in February 2007.
Everyone who knows the happy-go lucky character knows that he can be dangerous in the circle as he boasts 20 goals in 17 matches.
His drag flicking ability in last year's competition was certainly something of a talking point, as there were rumours that Hughes splintered a defenders stick with his sheer power.
This will be the sports science students fourth hockey intervarsities and he was a member of the winning squad in Cork 2004
"It was a great experience to win the Varsities in Cork, we had a great team spirit that year and I trust it will be the same this year," he explained.
"The tournament is a great experience for students, I also represented the university in a darts competition three years ago and it is fantastic to be a part of university sport and when I heard that Varisites were coming to Belfast I was in a glass cage of emotion.
"Last year myself and a few others were selected to play in the Irish Universities team in Paris following our performance.
"I scored a five goals in three games out there and I am currently working on my drag flick in preparation for this tournament and hope to score a few goals for UU."
Ian said he was looking forward to the weekend and "can't wait to take on our rivals in the competition".
"Queens are our biggest rivals, that's a given, but we are looking to take the title of Trinity as we always face tough matches against them," he continued.
" In 2005 we were beaten in the semi-final and last year we were narrowly beaten in the final so this year we hope to go one step further and win the cup, especially in our home town."
This will be the first time in eight years that a Northern Irish University has hosted the competition and hockey lovers in the province will be treated to some top class hockey.
Catch the men in action in their first match against Cork on Saturday at Shaw's Bridge at 5.30pm.