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Ireland hockey opponents on fire as they gear up for Rio

By Graham Hamilton

Ulster and Irish interest in the European Hockey League finals in the Netherlands may not have extended to yesterday's semi-finals stages but some of Craig Fulton's international squad were able to run the rule over key Great Britain and Belgium players whom they'll meet in both the forthcoming World League 3 tournament and the European championships.

Ulsterman David Ames and his Nottingham-based Beeston team made their exit at the KO-16 stage, followed by Irish trio Shane O'Donoghue, Kyle Good and David Harte, who line out for Belgian side KHC Dragons, in Saturday's quarter-finals.

But it gave the Irish the opportunity to scrutinise some of the key players whom they'll meet as they bid to make it to the Rio Olympics. Keeper Harte saw just how prolific Belgium's Tom Boon really is - the hit-man banged in five for his Dutch club Bloemendaal in a 14-2 romp over Polish champions Pomorzanin Torun, a hat-trick in a 4-3 success to knockout the Dragons and a goal in a semi-final defeat by Oranje Zwart.

Finally, Irish captain John Jackson got a preview of how the Rio hosts are progressing - he was home for Easter and guested for former club Mossley against Brazil who are on a training camp at Jordanstown. Mossley lost 3-1, with Neal Glassey their marksman.

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