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Hockey World Cup trophy could be lifted by Ulsterman

 

Title tilt: Ian Sloan could lead England to World Cup glory
Title tilt: Ian Sloan could lead England to World Cup glory

By Graham Hamilton

Is it possible that hockey's World Cup trophy could be presented to an Ulsterman come tomorrow afternoon?

That's what they're hoping in Cookstown as England continue their quest for world glory in Bhubaneswar, India, with Tyrone man Ian Sloan wearing the armband as Danny Kerry's team take on Belgium this morning (10.30am) for a place in tomorrow's decider.

In fact there are two former Cookstown players in the England ranks, with David Ames starring in the defence alongside a third Ulsterman in Mark Gleghorne, who has been transformed into an attacking wingback from a striking role.

But Sloan and his players are not getting ahead of themselves, even though they answered a few critics in knocking out New Zealand 3-2 in the crossovers and Olympic champions Argentina in the quarter-finals by the same scoreline.

They have slowly got stronger in each game since beating Ireland 4-2 in the final Pool B game and remain a big threat to marginal favourites Belgium, who happen to have former Irish coach Craig Fulton as part of their coaching set-up.

With Netherlands taking on current champions Australia in today's other semi-final (1pm), in what is a repeat of the 2014 final, it means Europe have supplied three of the last four and that host continent Asia's four representatives - China, India, Malaysia and Pakistan - have all fallen by the wayside.

Ireland exited at the first hurdle, a disappointing 1-1 draw with China doing the damage.

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