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Hockey: Ulster duo get green light for GB

By Graham Hamilton

Ulster’s Mark Gleghorne has been granted his clearance to play for Great Britain.

And fellow Ulsterman Iain Lewers looks certain to get his go-ahead from the start of May, meaning that the province could soon have their first hockey Olympians since 1988.

Both Gleghorne and Lewers featured for Ireland for many years, winning 80 and 90 caps respectively, before opting out and declaring themselves for GB instead.

But, having lined out for one country, it can take up to three years before eligibility to play for another comes through.

The paperwork for Gleghorne's clearance has still to come through from the world governing body but effectively he is eligible to play for England and GB from today, while Lewers has been given the go-ahead by the Irish Hockey Association to become available for England and GB from May 1, providing it too is ratified by the International Hockey Federation's executive board.

Lewers wasn't due for clearance until mid-June but the IHA's Appeal Commission has now granted him an earlier release date of May 1.

Originally the IHA had turned him down, but after correspondence with the FIH, the issue went to arbitration and the IHA were asked to look at matters again, this time their Appeal Commission agreeing to cut six weeks off his three-year quarantine period bearing in mind the particular circumstances and peculiar facts of his case.

It means that Gleghorne and Lewers could well make their GB debuts in Ipoh, Malaysia, in the seven-nation Sultan Azlan Shah Cup scheduled for May 5-15.

Both have been training with GB and are included in a 26-strong panel, pending their eligibility.

Gleghorne featured with Instonians while in Ulster and then had a period abroad while Lewers lined out for Annadale before a successful stint abroad too.

Both came through the successful Sport Institute Northern Ireland programme and now pull on the Loughborough colours in England’s Premier Division.

If they make it to Malaysia and impress selectors, both could then be included in the England team for the forthcoming Eurohockey Nations Cup where they could end up playing Ireland who happen to be in the same pool.

GB, of course, are preparing for the London Olympics, and that's the target for the Ulster duo.

The last Ulstermen to play Olympics hockey were Stephen Martin and Jimmy Kirkwood who won gold in Seoul in 1988.

Ulster High Performance Director Stephen Watt said: “Having worked with Gleghorne and Lewers in their earlier days, it is sad to have lost them from the Irish set-up. However, I can understand their wishes and am pleased that the Lewers case has been resolved.”

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