Keeper Harte to join Green Machine 200 club
Ireland goalkeeper David Harte will join the Green Machine's exclusive club when he wins his 200th cap at the EuroHockey championships in Amsterdam over the next few days.
Voted World Goalkeeper of the Year twice, Harte sits on the 198 mark going into the tournament, which starts tomorrow when the Irish face World No.3 Germany in their opening Pool B game (2.30pm).
But it will be Monday's outing against Poland (1.45pm) when he becomes the sixth player to reach the double century behind Eugene Magee (258), Ronan Gormley (249), John Jackson (226), his twin brother Conor Harte (207) and Michael Watt (201).
Ireland's third and final pool game is against old rivals England on Wednesday (1.45pm), which means they will be up against three players who previously wore the green shirt before switching allegiance - Mark Gleghorne, David Ames and Ian Sloan.
The Irish won bronze in the previous Europeans two years ago with an experienced team, but coach Craig Fulton has been forced into rebuilding through injuries and also unavailability as players catch up on work commitments after the rigours of five major tournaments in the last two years.
It means that Fulton has just half of the 18-strong squad that travelled to Rio available, and indeed he has had to make six changes to the panel that finished fifth in the World League 3 tournament in Johannesburg last month which guaranteed a place in the World Cup finals for the first time in 28 years.
He now has three teenagers and a total of seven with 50 caps or less - but Fulton remains optimistic.
The main objective is to retain top flight status, which means finishing no worse than sixth from the eight.
In fact, the coach refuses to rule out the possibility of reaching the semi-finals, which would give his young side - which includes eight Ulstermen in Jonathan Bell, Paul Gleghorne, Neal Glassey, Sean Murray, Matthew Nelson, Michael Robson, Matthew Bell and John Jackson - the opportunity to fight for a second successive European medal.