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Striker Stephen Dowds turns his back on Olympic dreams

By Graham Hamilton

Published 21/10/2015

No go: Stephen Dowds has pulled out of the Irish squad despite Rio looming on the horizon
No go: Stephen Dowds has pulled out of the Irish squad despite Rio looming on the horizon

Ulster's most prolific striker, Banbridge's Stephen Dowds, is turning his back on a lifetime opportunity to play in the Olympic Games.

The marksman, who scored over 60 goals last season and has already got three from three games this term, has informed Ireland coach Craig Fulton that he has had to withdraw from the training squad.

That effectively means that if Ireland get the expected confirmation of their place in Rio this weekend, then he will miss the opportunity of treading the Olympic stage - something the older members of the squad have been chasing for years.

It isn't a decision Dowds takes easily, but having secured employment during the summer, the time needed for training, weekend camps, build-up games and then the tournaments themselves means big commitment.

The Bann striker missed out on Ireland's European bronze medal success in London in August for the same reason but did help the Green Machine to their remarkable fifth place finish in the World League 3 series back in March which has put them within touching distance of Rio.

"It was a hard decision but at the end of the day it was impossible to fit everything in - there aren't enough hours," explains Stephen.

"I realise that could mean missing the Olympics, but unless things change, I have to accept that."

Meanwhile, Sullivan Upper have never won the all-Ireland schoolboys championships before but they are being tipped in many quarters to break their duck over the next three days.

The series is being staged in Belfast, with games at The Dub, Deramore and Shaw's Bridge, and optimism is high that an Ulster school will finally break the grip that St Andrew's College have held over the past three years.

Coaches Paul Osborne and Andy Williamson have been pleased with early season McCullough Cup results and inspired by Calum Robson - younger brother of Irish international Michael - they have been knocking in goals for fun, and have already they have hit seven against Banbridge and double figures against Cookstown.

John Matchett, Paul McDonnell, Matthew Crookshanks and Adam McCallister are others who have been getting among the goals, and there is every chance they can top their pool which consists of Bandon High, Dublin High and Cookstown.

Banbridge are still expected to get through their pool, even though they have lost many of the stars who were at the heart of so many trophy successes in recent years, while Wallace have a difficult task, having also lost a handful of key players and having been handed a pool which includes three-in-a-row winners St Andrew's.

The 16 schools play one game today and two tomorrow, with the four pool winners going through to the semi-finals to be staged at The Dub and Shaw's Bridge on Friday, with the final earmarked for Shaw's Bridge in the afternoon (2.30pm).

TODAY: Wallace: Newtown v Wallace High (3pm)

Deramore: Sullivan Upper v Cookstown High (3pm)

The Dub: Ashton v Friends (1.30pm); Wesley v Regent House (1.30pm); St Columba's v Mount Temple (3pm); Banbridge Academy v Royal & Prior (3pm)

Shaw's Bridge: St Andrew's v RBAI (1.30pm); Bandon v Dublin High (3pm)


Deramore: St Andrew's v Newtown (9.45am); Mount Temple v Royal & Prior (11.15am); Ashton v Regent House (2pm); Sullivan v Bandon (3.30pm)

The Dub: Friends v Regent House (9.45am); Wesley v Ashton (9.45am); Sullivan v Dublin High (11.15am); Bandon v (11.15am); St Andrew's v Wallace (2pm); Wesley v Friends (2pm); Banbridge Academy v Mount Temple (3.30pm); Dublin High v Cooksown High (3.30pm)

Shaw's Bridge: Wallace v RBAI (9.45am); Banbridge Academy v St Columba's (11.15am); Newtown v RBAI (2pm); St Columb'as v Royal & Prior (3.30pm)

FRIDAY: Semi-finals: The Dub (9.30am), Shaw's Bridge (9.30am).

Final: Shaw's Bridge (2.30pm)

Belfast Telegraph

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