Ireland's call has Jamie on Wright path to success
Jamie Wright is ready to embark on one of the most important weeks of his hockey career to date - not only are there two crucial games coming up for his club but he's all set to make his international debut in Spain.
The Banbridge midfielder could hardly believe the news that he had received a call-up from Ireland coach Craig Fulton for a two-game series against the World's No.9 side, as he never even realised that he was on the international radar.
And with Bann's table-topping Irish Hockey League clash with Cork C of I this Saturday and the Irish Senior Cup tie against Three Rock the following weekend, the international matches in between make it a hectic four games in eight days - and he is extra keen to impress.
Bann coach Mark Tumilty said: "Jamie may be surprised by the call-up, but there's no doubt he warrants it.
"He's confident on the ball, has excellent movement and is relishing the midfield role this season instead of being up front.
"He worked on his fitness over the summer and is well capable of playing at international level."
Wright certainly won't feel alone on the Irish trip as Bann team-mates Matthew Bell, Drew Carlisle, Johnny McKee and Owen Magee are also in the squad as Fulton takes the opportunity of watching his young talent take on quality opposition.
In all, Fulton has just five of his Rio Olympics squad bound for Spain - goalkeeper David Harte and Ulster quartet Jonathan Bell, Paul Gleghorne, Michael Watt and Michael Robson.
But he has put his faith in Ulster's rising talent, with a total of 12 from the province in the squad of 20. That includes Lisnagarvey trio Sean Murray, Matthew Nelson and Neal Glassey.
The two games will take place on Tuesday and Thursday of next week, the first at the Atletic Terrassa club and the second at Club Egara, both based just over 20 miles north of Barcelona, and will be the first phase of the build-up towards March's World League series being hosted in Belfast.
First of all, though, it's this Saturday's IHL round of fixtures and Wright knows Bann's clash with second-placed Cork C of I is crucial if they are to maintain their table-topping position and stay ahead of giants like Monkstown and Lisnagarvey.
Last year Bann struggled against the team inspired by Irish international John Jermyn, drawing 2-2 at home and losing 2-1 in Cork, so an improvement is needed.
Garvey go to Glenanne and Monkstown to UCD and both should win.
But it's also a big day for Instonians - they could move out of the bottom two if they can beat fellow strugglers Railway Union at their Shaw's Bridge base.
The big game in the Ulster Premier League sees leaders Annadale go to third-placed Newry while second-placed Cookstown head off to Mossley.
MEN’S SENIOR FIXTURES
FRIDAY: Premier League: Civil Service v Campbellians (Stormont, 8pm)
SATURDAY: EY Irish Hockey League: Instonians v Railway (Shaw’s Bridge, 2.30pm); Banbridge v Cork C of I (Havelock Park, 2.45pm); Glenanne v Lisnagarvey (Tallaght, 3.30pm); UCD v Monkstown (Belfield, 1pm); Three Rock v Pembroke (Grange Road, 3pm)
Ulster Premier League: Harlequins v Portadown (Deramore, 2.30pm); Newry v Annadale (Newry, 2.30pm); Kilkeel v Raphoe (Kilkeel HS, 2.30pm); Mossley v Cookstown (The Glade, 2.30pm)
Senior 1: Ballynahinch v Portrush (1pm)
Irish Hockey Trophy 1st round: Antrim v South Antrim (Antrim, 2.30pm); North Down v Armagh (Comber, 2.30pm); Bangor v Cork Harlequins (Aurora, 1pm); Queen’s v Bandon (The Dub, 1pm)