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Busy Magee just can't get enough of life on big stage

By Graham Hamilton

Published 07/10/2016

Fired up: Rio is now a memory as Eugene Magee looks ahead to the EuroHockey League in Banbridge
Fired up: Rio is now a memory as Eugene Magee looks ahead to the EuroHockey League in Banbridge

It has been a remarkable 18 months for Eugene Magee, the Banbridge player who has been capped more times for Ireland than anyone else from Ulster - and yet the big events just keep on coming.

Already the experienced midfielder has sampled considerable success with his club and with the international team during that period, and even found time to get married.

And next up on his busy agenda is the EuroHockey League - the equivalent of football's Champions League - this weekend when world-class players like Australia's Glenn Turner and Ulsterman Iain Lewers are among those taking part as Bann become the first club outside mainland Europe to host the first round of the series.

Twelve of the leading Euro clubs have already arrived in the Co. Down town and games get under way today, although Bann's two matches aren't until tomorrow and Sunday.

And Magee is relishing the event - just as he did when Bann won the Irish Senior Cup in March 2015 and finished runners-up in the Irish Hockey League last May, and when the international team won gold at World League 2, finished fifth in World League 3 to qualify for the Olympics, got bronze in the Europeans, and had an absolutely memorable occasion in Rio.

"It has been a whirlwind 18 months and now this will be a great weekend for the sport in Banbridge," said Magee. "We have hosted Irish Hockey League finals in the past and created a great atmosphere for both fans and players, so I'm really looking forward to the EHL.

"We are a passionate club who play with a lot of heart and the fans appreciate that.

"We hope this event will be a spectacle that the whole town can be proud of and that we can progress from our pool to the competition's knock-out stages."

There's little doubt it will be a spectacle, with around 20 Olympians spread around the 12 competing clubs.

The teams are split into four pools, which means two games each, but only the winners will go on to the next phase at Easter.

Bann sit out today's action but face St. Germain (France) tomorrow (2.45pm) and Royal Leopold (Belgium) on Sunday (3.45pm).

"Both games will be tough tests for us," admitted Magee. "The French team have the Genestet brothers while Leopold have added Olympian Glenn Turner to an already quality side.

"But we have talent of our own and with home support we might upset the odds."

Irish captain David Harte will be another star attraction with his Dutch club Kampong, while England's Holcombe boast five Olympians, including Lewers.

Hamburg from Germany have a trio of Olympic bronze medallists while the other teams come from Spain, Russia, Poland, Italy, Scotland and Wales.

Havelock Park has been transformed with the addition of two banks of seated stands along with a tented village with food stalls and sports shops, while there is a full programme of entertainment each night.

Tickets can be purchased online or at the gate each day.

TODAY: Bromac Kelburne (Scotland) v Dinamo Kazan (Russia) 11.45am; Cardiff & Met (Wales) v Amsicora (Italy) 2pm; Royal Leopold (Belgium) v Saint Germain (France) 4.15pm; Poznan (Poland) v Holcombe (England) 6.30pm

TOMORROW: Atletic Terrassa (Spain) v Dinamo Kazan 10.15am; Hamburg (Germany) v Amsicora 12.30pm; Banbridge v Saint Germain 2.45pm; Kampong (Netherlands) v Holcombe 5pm

SUNDAY: Atletic Terrassa v Bromac Kelburne 9am; Hamburg v Cardiff & Met. 11.15am; Kampong v Poznan 1.30pm; Royal Leopold v Banbridge 3.45pm

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