Ronnie Smyth and Colin Hutchinson to be honoured at Ireland clash
Two Ulster hockey stalwarts, Annadale's Ronnie Smyth and international umpire Colin Hutchinson, are to be honoured by the Irish Hockey Association at the opening international against Canada at Stormont.
The Irish are taking on the Canadians as the next stage of their preparations for the Rio Olympics, with tomorrow's game (7.30pm) followed by a second on Friday evening (7.30pm) and then two more in Dublin, on Sunday and Tuesday.
The presentation of Life Member pins to Smyth and Hutchinson will take place at half-time in tomorrow's game.
Smyth has been the backbone of the Annadale club since its inception, not only as a player and then coach, but also instrumental in the formation and success of the club's junior system which has produced many talented players as well as internationals.
These include Iain Lewers, Chris Jackson, David Smyth, David Robb, their newly appointed player/coach Peter Caruth and Michael Robson who won his 50th cap against Korea last week.
Hutchinson has been one of the top umpires in the game, having officiated at the 2010 World Cup in Delhi, the 2012 London Olympics, the 2006 Mebourne Commonwealth Games, and the European championships in Barcelona (2003), Manchester (2007) and Amsterdam (2009), totalling over 100 international caps.
The international games at Stormont gives Ulster hockey fans the opportunity to give Craig Fulton's squad a rousing send-off before they head to Rio, and optimism is high that they can repeat last week's series win against the Koreans when they take on the Maple Leaf men.
Canada are in Ireland's pool in the Olympics, so Fulton won't be wanting to give away too much, although still wanting to land a psychological blow ahead of the Games.
Meanwhile the four Ulstermen in Great Britain's squad remain in the frame for Rio - they have been selected in the 18-strong panel to take part in the prestigious Champions Trophy in London, starting on Friday.
Cookstown's Ian Sloan, now with Wimbledon, joins up with Lewers, Mark Gleghorne and David Ames after missing the trip to Australia after he contracted Chicken Pox.