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Belfast-born Great Britain star Iain Lewers calls time on glittering hockey career

Fond memories: Ulsterman Iain Lewers played at the Olympics in 2012 and 2016 for Great Britain
Fond memories: Ulsterman Iain Lewers played at the Olympics in 2012 and 2016 for Great Britain

By Graham Hamilton

One of Ulster's most successful hockey stars - Iain Lewers - has played the last game of his exceptional career.

Belfast-born Lewers, now 35, feels the time is right to stand down, with his English club Wimbledon having just completed their league programme and missed out on the end-of-season play-offs.

The former Annadale defender won a total of 238 international caps, firstly with Ireland before he pursued his career with England and Great Britain, with whom he featured at the 2012 London Olympics and the 2016 Rio Olympics.

Lewers began with Annadale and also had a successful spell with HGC in the Netherlands.

He moved to England and featured with East Grinstead, Holcombe and Wimbledon, during which he was named the UK's Player of the Year twice, and he also had spells in the India Professional League with the Uttar Pradesh Wizards and the Delhi Waveriders.

There were many highlights in his career, including those two Olympic Games, and altogether he had a fourth-place finish in the 2012 Olympics, won bronze at the Europeans in Germany in 2013, bronze in the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Scotland and bronze at the World League finals in India, also in 2014.

"When you have been involved in the sport for 30 years, you clearly must enjoy it and have a passion for it, and I have had many fond memories along the way," said Lewers.

"That goes right back to the Annadale days under Ronnie Smyth and Graeme Francey, the Ulster under-age teams with Stephen Watt and through my time with Ireland, England and GB.

"The London Olympics, when we came fourth, was unique, but there were probably better performances in other tournaments.

"It has been a big experience which many people never get in sport let alone in hockey and I feel privileged."

Meanwhile, the EY Irish Hockey League has reached a crucial stage of the season with Ulster giants Lisnagarvey and Banbridge involved in the title race with Dublin's top teams Glenanne and Three Rock Rovers.

And it's equally important at the other end of the table where Ulster duo Annadale and Cookstown are battling to avoid either the automatic relegation spot or the relegation play-off place.

Garvey take on third-placed Glenanne for the second time in six days at Hillsborough, having beaten them 3-1 in the Irish Senior Cup last Sunday, while second-placed Bann head to fifth-placed Pembroke Wanderers looking to maintain their push to qualify for the end-of-season play-offs as well as stay in the title frame.

Third-bottom Cookstown have a tough clash against Three Rock, knowing they need something from their final three games to stay out of trouble, while Annadale have a chance to ensure survival by avoiding defeat at second-bottom YMCA.

The IHL 2 Pool B game between Instonians and Kilkeel has been brought forward to Friday evening at Shaw's Bridge to accommodate the wedding of Kilkeel player Mark Stevenson.

Saturday also sees three finals at Stormont - the McClements Cup, Junior Cup and Minor Cup.

FRIDAY: IHL 2 Pool B: Instonians v Kilkeel (8.15pm).

SATURDAY: EY IHL: Lisnagarvey v Glenanne (3pm); Pembroke v Banbridge (2pm); YMCA v Annadale (3.15pm); Cookstown v Three Rock (2.30pm); Cork C of I v Monkstown (2.30pm).

IHL 2 Pool A: Bangor v UCD (2.30pm); Bandon v Railway (2pm). Pool B: Corinthian v UCC (1pm).

McClements Cup final: Portadown II v Queen's II (12.30pm). Junior Cup final: Kilkeel II v Mossley III (2pm). Minor Cup final: South Antrim IV v Civil Service IV (11am).

SUNDAY: Monkstown v Cork C of I (2.30pm).

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