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Hey brother, let's try reach Rio

Gleghornes eye Olympics but face each other first

By Graham Hamilton

Ulster brothers Mark and Paul Gleghorne are hoping to achieve what possibly hasn't been done before in international hockey - qualify for the Olympic Games while playing for different countries.

The Antrim duo have already squared up to each other a handful of times at international level but tomorrow's big clash between Great Britain and Ireland in Antwerp (11am) will have more at stake than ever before ... a possible place in Rio next year.

Mark, of course, lines out as one of GB's strike force since switching allegiance from Ireland seven years ago, while younger brother Paul features at the heart of the Irish defence and, as fate would have it, they'll face each other in the World League 3 series from which tickets to Rio can be obtained.

Their father Andy, the former Antrim stalwart, would be delighted if both could qualify for the Brazil showpiece but he knows that with so many other leading hockey nations taking part in the 10-team series, it is a difficult task.

Andy, not unexpectedly, will be in Antwerp for that intriguing opener and he should be instantly recognisable - he'll be the one with both the GB and Irish scarves around his neck! "It would be great if they both could make it to Rio," he says. "I'll be watching their progress from the grandstand and rooting for both boys, but it looks like Ireland will find it harder than GB to qualify."

There's no doubt that GB go into this game as favourites but Mark accepts that the Irish have improved in recent years and have a good chance of getting through to Rio.

"Ireland may be ranked 15 in the world but in reality they are a top 12 team," says Mark.

"I've no doubt they'll finish in the top four in their pool to reach the tournament quarter-finals, and then it effectively becomes a one-game showdown."

Likewise Paul hopes both GB and Ireland make it through, as it would give hockey a massive lift in this part of the world.

And he believes brother Mark isn't the only one to watch out for in GB's attack - Ashley Jackson is a real handful with more than 100 international goals already and, like Mark, very useful from penalty corners.

Yes, it's certainly going to be a critical game, with both teams knowing they need to get a positive result, particularly with further pool games against Malaysia, China and hosts Belgium to come, while Australia, India, Pakistan, Poland and France are in the other pool.

Also adding to the occasion is the fact that GB have two other Ulster players in their ranks who, like Gleghorne, featured with Ireland before switching allegiance.

Former Annadale defender Iain Lewers has already amassed 114 combined GB and England caps since earning 89 with Ireland whereas Cookstown's David Ames only recently started out on his GB career having completed his automatic three years in the international wilderness during the Spring.

Ames has made quite an impression with GB coach Bobby Crutchley and he was included in their panel despite having won just three caps, his third coming against Australia in a warm-up game last week. This will be Ireland's first game in the tournament but GB have already had one game under their belt - a 2-2 draw against World No.4 and tournament hosts Belgium yesterday.

All three Ulstermen featured in the game and are expected to face Ireland for whom nine Ulstermen are in their 18-strong squad.

GB went a goal down against Belgium yesterday when JJ Dohmen deflected in Simon Gougnard's crash ball into the circle but Lewers set up Barry Middleton from second phase penalty corner to equalise before Alistair Brogdon put them ahead early in the second half.

Sebastien Docker, though, levelled from a penalty corner rebound.

In the other Pool B game Malaysia squeezed out China 3-2 and in the weekend's Pool A games there were expected wins for the top three seeds Australia against France yesterday and India and Pakistan against France and Poland on Sturday.

Opening results: Pool A: India 3 France 2; Pakistan 2 Poland 1; Australia 10 France 0. Pool B: China 2 Malaysia 3, Great Britain 2 Belgium 2.

Tomorrow's programme: Pool A: India v Poland (3pm). Pool B: Great Britain v Ireland (11am); Belgium v China (3pm)

A tale of two brothers ...

Name: Mark Gleghorne

Age: 30

Position: Striker

Club: East Grinstead (England), previously Hertogenbosch (Netherlands), Loughborough (England), Instonians and Antrim

Caps: 74 GB and England caps, 80 Ireland caps

Honours: World League Finals bronze; Commonwealth Games bronze

Name: Paul Gleghorne

Age: 28

Position: Defender

Club: Lisnagarvey, previously Instonians

Caps: 117 Ireland caps

Honours: Champions Challenge bronze: World League two gold

Belfast Telegraph


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