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Ireland's men make the world top 12 for first time

By Graham Hamilton

Ireland's men have jumped three places to their highest ever world ranking of 12th, after what has been an exceptional year.

And Craig Fulton's lads will get another chance to take on top opposition when they face Spain three times next month at a training camp in Barcelona from November 30 to December 3 in what is the start of the build-up towards next year's Rio Olympics.

The Green Machine have already beaten higher ranked teams including Pakistan, Malaysia and England and drawn with Belgium as they finished fifth in the World League 3 and were bronze medallists in the Europeans.

These results have leapfrogged them over Malaysia, Canada and South Africa to become a top 12 nation for the first time.

Fulton, though, has decided to rest some of his regular squad for the Spanish trip, including Ulstermen Eugene Magee, Peter Caruth, Paul Gleghorne and Michael Watt as well as goalkeeper David Harte and striker Mitch Darling.

And he aims to have a closer look at rising stars like Lisnagarvey's James Lorimer and Neal Glassey, as well as Matthew Bell and Michael Robson, and also Dubliners Luke Chadwick, Stephen Cole and Jamie Carr while recalling the experienced Gareth Watkins and Maurice Elliott.

There are eight Ulstermen altogether but, strangely, Bell is the only one from Banbridge.

Fulton will be out and about keeping a close watch on his players this weekend ... and he has plenty of games to choose from, as it is a double-header weekend with Irish Hockey League teams playing on both Saturday and Sunday.

Banbridge have two tough games coming up, with a trip to Three Rock on Saturday and a home game against Cork C of I on Sunday while Garvey's back-to-back games see them take on Cookstown at Hillsborough followed by a trip to Glenanne.

Cookstown and Annadale are in need of points soon but both have difficult weekend programmes.

The Tyrone men host champions Monkstown on Sunday after their visit to Garvey while the Dale go to Pembroke and then are at home to Railway Union.

In the Ulster Premier League Instonians will be out to put more daylight between themselves and the chasing pack when they host Raphoe while Senior One leaders Bangor expect to stay top after they visit Portrush.

IRELAND SQUAD: Matthew Bell (Banbridge), Jonathan Bell, Timmy Cockram, Neal Glassey, James Lorimer (Lisnagarvey), Jonny Bruton, David Fitzgerald, Kyle Good, Gareth Watkins, Stephen Cole (Monkstown), Luke Chadwick, Jamie Carr (Three Rock Rovers), Chris Cargo, Conor Harte (Racing), Maurice Elliott (Beerschot), Ronan Gormley (Krefeld), John Jackson (Reading), Michael Robson (Annadale), Alan Sothern, Kirk Shimmins (Pembroke Wanderers)

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