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Magee is all fired up for major events on home soil

By Graham Hamilton

Published 14/09/2016

On the up: Eugene Magee says the EHL in Banbridge and World League in Dublin are big boosts
On the up: Eugene Magee says the EHL in Banbridge and World League in Dublin are big boosts

The Rio Olympics will be long remembered for the glamour of the opening ceremony, the spectacular fireworks, the parade of nations, the lighting of the cauldron, the scenic backdrop and some wonderful sporting action.

But for the Irish men's hockey team, their memorable journey to Brazil's iconic city is now a thing of the past - and the players must look forward to the domestic season which hits off this week at club level, while another international campaign will determine whether they make it to the World Cup finals in India.

There's no question that hockey north and south of the border is on the up after the televised Rio programme highlighted to the watching world the leaps and bounds that the sport has made, and no more so than here where the Green Machine's heroics touched many a heart.

Interest is sure to hit an all-time high this term, especially with the staging of two significant events, one at Banbridge and the other in Dublin.

Bann, of course, have been given the go-ahead to stage a round of the Euro Hockey League while Dublin got the green light to host a World League 2 tournament.

So don't be surprised to see sell-out crowds at Bann's Havelock Park base from October 7-9 to watch 12 of the leading European clubs in action, among them England's Holcombe who boasted seven players - including Ulster's Iain Lewers - in the Great Britain squad in Rio.

Expect big crowds too in Dublin in March as eight international teams, including the Irish, bid to make it to the next qualifying stage for the World Cup.

Ireland haven't been at the World finals since 1990, but judging by recent performances from Craig Fulton's lads and the fact that an additional four teams will be in the 2018 series, there is every chance they'll qualify through the World League semi-finals in the summer.

Ulster's most capped player Eugene Magee hopes to feature in both the EHL and the World League in what he believes is going to be another memorable season.

"The EHL is a big event and we aim to put on a good show so the town can be proud of us," said the Banbridge midfielder.

"The standard of clubs coming is very high and the tournament should attract hundreds.

"Regarding the international scene, we don't know our budget yet, nor the training schedule, but to reach India has to be our aim, especially with an additional four teams getting into the World Cup finals, and to do well in the Europeans."

Domestically, the hockey season is already up and running with the Kirk Cup pool games. But the EY Irish Hockey League, however, doesn't begin for another 10 days.

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