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Ireland set for South Africa challenge ahead of US trip

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Sunnier climes: Ireland coach Craig Fulton will take his boys to South Africa after a trip to Alicante was postponed

Sunnier climes: Ireland coach Craig Fulton will take his boys to South Africa after a trip to Alicante was postponed

Sunnier climes: Ireland coach Craig Fulton will take his boys to South Africa after a trip to Alicante was postponed

The Irish men fly out today to South Africa for a 13-day training camp - which takes in six international games - as they step up preparations for next month's World League 2 tournament in California.

Coach Craig Fulton is hoping the warm-weather training will benefit his players and get them acclimatised to conditions similar to what they can expect when they reach the west coast of the USA for the next stage of the Olympic qualification process.

The international Test games are all against teams ranked considerably higher than the Green Machine on the world ranking ladder, but should set them up nicely for opposition all ranked beneath them in San Diego.

The first two games are against hosts and 12th-ranked South Africa in Capetown on Sunday and next Monday, the next two against World No. 2 Netherlands in Stellenbosch on January 28 and January 29, and the final two against World No. 4 Belgium in Capetown on January 31 and February 1.

Fulton will assess his players and on their return home on February 2 he'll sit down and consider his 18-strong squad for the California tournament which runs from February 28 to March 8.

The 18 will be chosen from the 22 players taking in the warm-weather training as well as the Harte twins Conor and David, who were unavailable for the Capetown trip as they are featuring for Dubang Mumbai in the professional Hockey India League.

There are 13 Ulster players in the frame and quite a few are expected to get the nod for the final squad for California - but one regular who will be missing is Lisnagarvey's Timmy Cockram.

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Cockram, though, has a good reason for his absence - his wife gave birth to twins before Christmas and can't afford to be away.

For the record, 10 of the 13 Ulster players on their way to South Africa are home-based - Bann quartet Drew Carlisle, Eugene Magee, Stephen Dowds and Bruce McCandless; Lisnagarvey's Jonathan Bell and James Lorimer; Instonians' Paul Gleghorne; Monkstown's Peter Caruth; Annadale's Michael Robson and Mossley's Neal Glassey.

The others play their hockey elsewhere - Chris Cargo with Racing Club Bruxelles in Belgium; Michael Watt with English side Surbiton; and John Jackson with English club Reading.


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