Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 23 August 2014

Olympic history looms for brothers

The Gleghorne brothers Mark and Paul are stepping up their bid to play in the London 2012 Olympic hockey finals ... but if they succeed they will be in different teams.

Mark has been called into the Great Britain squad for the forthcoming Champions Trophy competition and will make his debut in New Zealand later this month.

But while he has chosen the GB route, younger brother Paul remains part of the Ireland set-up and will be pulling on the green shirt early next year as they attempt to make it through a qualifying competition.

It’s early days yet, as Mark must hold his place in the GB squad who have already qualified as hosts, and Paul must remain part of Paul Revington’s plans as the Irish bid to win their Qualifier and reach the Olympic arena for the first time.

But if all goes well and both make it to London, it will not only be an unusual scenario for father Andy, but also a possible Olympic first, with two brothers on opposing sides!

Mark, of course, had been part of the Irish set-up but opted out after winning over 80 caps and decided to go the GB route. That meant a three-year wait for eligibilty during which he sustained a foot injury which ruled him out for the best part of a year.

But he has come back stronger this season with East Grinstead, helping them into the Eurohockey League’s second round.

“The surgeon gave me only a 25% chance of recovering fully, so my target was just to get playing hockey at a decent level again, so to get selected for GB at this stage is a majoar bonus,” beamed Mark.

“It’s now up to me to establish myself in the squad, and hopefully Paul can do likewise with Ireland and that they can qualify too.

“It surely would set some sort of record if we both made it to London but with different teams ... but of course there is a long way to go!”

Paul meanwhile features in defence with Instonians here at home and was a regular during Ireland’s successful summer which saw them win the Champions Challenge II and the Celtic Cup and finish a record fifth in the Eurohockey Nations Cup.

The Irish squad will resume training next month ahead of their Olympic Qualifier, and Paul hopes to be part of his plans.

Ireland, in fact, will know whether their bid to host their Qualifier has been successful after the International Hockey Federation Board meets this Friday.

The 18 teams attempting to gain the last three London slots through the three Qualifiers — listed according to their world rankings — are Spain, Korea, India, Canada, Malaysia, Japan, China, Ireland, France, Poland, Russia, Austria, Czech Republic, Chile, Egypt, USA, Ukraine and Cuba.

Using the usual ranking method, Ireland (17) are most likely to be in with Korea (5), Malaysia (14), Russia (20), Chile (24) and Ukraine (31).

Korea would then be the biggest threat in a series in which only the winner will progress, with Malaysia also a difficult hurdle. But Russia, Chile and Ukraine should present few problems.

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HOCKEY MATTERS: Total coverage of Ulster hockey every Monday and Wednesday in the Belfast Telegraph

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