Belfast Telegraph

Friday 22 August 2014

Corner king Butler's title under threat

Instonians striker Mark Gleghorne is battling to be Ireland's set-piece king

Mark Gleghorne and Ulster colleague Timmy Cockram, as well as Cork's John Jermyn, are challenging Stephen Butler to become Ireland's first-choice to take the strike at penalty corners.

Butler has been the set-piece king over the last few years, and has pulled well clear as Ireland's top goalscorer ever.

But his failure to make an impression from corners at August's European Nations Cup in Manchester left head coach Dave Passmore with a problem which needs sorting out ahead of February's Olympic Games Qualifier in New Zealand.

Now, though, Jermyn has become quite a set-piece expert since joining Dutch club HGC during the summer.

And out in Chile at the moment, where the Irish are taking part in a Four Nations tournament as build-up to the Olympic Qualifier, Gleghorne and Cockram have shown that they too are capable of fitting the bill in the absence of Butler who was one of four who didn't make the trip to Santiago due to business commitments.

Instonians striker Gleghorne converted three in a six-minute spell during the 6-0 win over Chile on Tuesday evening while Cockram - who converted five penalty corners in Lisnagarvey's recent Irish Senior Cup win at Fingal - set up a goal for Michael Watt from another such award against the South American team.

This evening the Irish take on tournament favourites Argentina in Santiago, and the ability to do well at corners will be key to who wins the series.

It will also be a strong indicator as to what might happen in Auckland when the two teams meet up again in that Olympic Qualifier, with the Argentinians down as the pre-tournament favourites to make it to Beijing in the summer.

Altogether, nine Ulstermen are in the 20-strong squad in Chile.

Meanwhile Cookstown High will begin their bid for a schools' grand slam when they go to either BRA or Laurelhill in the Ulster Bank Burney Cup second round.

The Tyrone lads have already won the All-Ireland title and the McCullough Cup, and now their attention is focused on the main schools' cup competition.

They were one of 13 who received first round byes and so will kick into action at the second round stage on January 20.

Banbridge Academy, the team Cookstown beat in both the All-Ireland and the McCullough deciders, are the current Burney Cup holders.

The Academy also had a first round bye and will face Wellington College in the second round.

Ulster Bank Burney Cup 1st round (on or before January 12): Lurgan College v Antrim Grammar, Portadown College v Ballymena Academy, BRA v Laurelhill.

2nd round (on or before January 20): Banbridge Academy v Wellington College, Royal & Prior v Lurgan College or Antrim Grammar, Kilkeel High v Methody, Grosvenor Grammar v Regent House, RBAI v Sullivan Upper, Campbell College v Portadown College or Ballymena Academy, BRA or Laurelhill v Cookstown High, Friends v Bangor Grammar.

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