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Nine Ulstermen get their plane tickets for Olympics

By Graham Hamilton

Ireland coach Craig Fulton has named his squad for the Rio Olympics - and nine Ulstermen will be making the trip to add to the four that have already been named in the Great Britain squad.

Fulton has come down on the side of experience, with the bulk of the panel that clinched the precious place through their World League semi-final exploits getting the nod.

Indeed, over a dozen were among the players that agonisingly missed out on the London Olympics four years ago when Korea scored the winner in the qualifying final with just eight seconds left.

Fulton has chosen five defenders, five midfielders, five forwards and one goalkeeper, with three travelling reserves - including a back-up keeper.

The Ulstermen given the nod are home-based Eugene Magee, Jonathan Bell, Paul Gleghorne, Michael Watt, Peter Caruth; cross-channel-based John Jackson; and Belgium-based Chris Cargo, while Timmy Cockram and Michael Robson are among the travelling reserves.

Ireland's top goalscorer John Jermyn is also among those named, as are the Harte twins David and Conor.

Banbridge's Matthew Bell and Monkstown striker Gareth Watkins are the unlucky ones to lose out from the recently reduced 21-strong training panel and must be devastated after putting so much commitment into the lengthy preparation period.

Bell looks a certainty to become a regular when there are several retirements following the Olympics, although that will be of little consolation at the moment.

Fulton has put his players through a busy summer schedule which has included a considerable number of games against teams all ranked above them on the world ladder, and some of whom they'll meet in their difficult pool programme.

And that has included almost full-time training during this period, which has been a big strain - particularly on those who are holding down jobs.

The considerable cost for the build-up and the Games themselves has been eased by the help of fundraising and pledges.

The next step is to head out to Argentina in a week's time to continue their build-up before making their way to the Olympic village in Rio in time for the opening ceremony on August 5.

Whether the Irish players will be part of the ceremony remains to be seen as their opening game is the following morning against India.

The four Ulstermen in the Great Britain panel - Iain Lewers, Mark Gleghorne, David Ames and Ian Sloan - all started their careers in a green shirt before switching allegiance.

It also means the Gleghorne brothers will both be in Rio, but with different teams. The chances of facing each other yet again remain slim, as Ireland and GB are in different pools.

However, it takes the number of Ulster players going to Rio to a staggering total of 13 - far beyond what was expected just over a year ago when Ireland were well short of qualifying and GB had just two Ulstermen as regulars in their ranks.

IRELAND'S OLYMPIC SQUAD: Goalkeeper: David Harte (Kampong); Defenders: John Jackson (Reading); Jonathan Bell (Lisnagarvey); Paul Gleghorne (Lisnagarvey); Ronan Gormley (Krefeld); Conor Harte (Racing Club Bruxelles); Midfield: Eugene Magee (Banbridge); Chris Cargo (Racing Club Bruxelles); John Jermyn (Cork C of I); Shane O'Donoghue (KHC Dragons); Kirk Shimmins (Pembroke Wanderers); Forwards: Peter Caruth (Annadale); Michael Watt (Lisnagarvey); Mitch Darling (Rotterdam); Kyle Good (Monkstown); Alan Sothern (Pembroke Wanderers). Travelling Reserves: Timmy Cockram (Lisnagarvey); Michael Robson (Annadale); David Fitzgerald (Monkstown).

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