Fulton confident despite missing nine Olympians for World Cup tilt
Ireland men will be without half of their Rio Olympics squad when they begin their World Cup qualifying campaign in Belfast in just 11 days' time.
National coach Craig Fulton has named an extended squad of 24 players, which includes just nine of the 18 that featured in the Brazil showpiece last summer, for the World League 2 series which will run from March 11-19 at Stormont's Playball.
But the South African, who has lifted the Green Machine to their highest world ranking of 10, remains confident his relatively inexperienced squad will make it through to this summer's World League 3 series from which tickets to the 2018 Tokyo finals will be handed out.
"Many took sabbaticals last year in the build-up to Rio and can't afford more time off when there are potentially three major tournaments, and a couple more are out injured," said Fulton.
"But no one has retired, and many of those missing should be available for selection for the summer's other tournaments."
There is one more training camp this weekend, which gives Fulton the chance to assess two players returning from injury, and then he will reduce the squad to 18 on Monday.
He has named 13 from Ulster, including five each from Banbridge and Lisnagarvey, with Johnny McKee and Matthew Nelson firmly in the frame.
"Peter Caruth is just back from injury, as is John Jermyn, so we'll see whether they are ready for the six games in nine days schedule," he said. Ireland, ranked 10, are in a pool with Austria (25), Ukraine (24) and Italy (35), with France (17), Poland (19), Scotland (37) and Wales (34) in the other pool. The pool phase takes place from March 11-14, the quarter-finals on March 16, the semi-finals on March 18 and the gold and bronze play-offs on March 19.
Ireland: Eugene Magee, Paul Gleghorne, Jonathan Bell, Matthew Bell, Sean Murray, Matthew Nelson, Chris Cargo, Drew Carlisle, Johnny McKee, Peter Caruth, Neal Glassey, Callum Robson, Jamie Wright (all Ulster); Jamie Carr, Ronan Gormley, Shane O'Donoghue, Jeremy Duncan, Lee Cole, Luke Madeley, Mark Ingram (all Leinster); David Harte, Conor Harte, John Jermy, Julian Dale (all Munster).