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Irish stars are ready to tackle their busy fixture list

By Graham Hamilton

Ireland's home-based international players, including six from Ulster, are facing a massive five games in eight days as they juggle club and country commitments.

They will have scarce time to pack up their gear after this Saturday's Irish Senior Cup second round ties before boarding a plane for Barcelona where the Green Machine will take in a pre-Rio Olympics warm-weather training camp which includes games against Spain on Monday, Wednesday and Thursday.

And on their return home late in the week, it's back to their clubs for the resumption of the Irish Hockey League programme on the Saturday.

That's a hectic schedule but for Lisnagarvey quartet Jonathan Bell, Timmy Cockram, Neal Glassey and James Lorimer, Banbridge's Matthew Bell and Annadale's Michael Robson, they're more than happy to take it in their stride.

Altogether there are eight Ulstermen in the Irish squad for Barcelona, the others being Reading's John Jackson and Belgian-based Racing Club's Chris Cargo, and they're all keen to finish what has been a memorable year by taking on World No.11 side Spain, who have also qualified for Rio.

But before boarding the plane, there's the matter of the Irish Senior Cup - one of the world's oldest knock-out competitions, which is now in its 123rd year.

Garvey make the short trip to Instonians, where Paul Gleghorne will be back at Shaw's Bridge for his first competitive game since his summer move to the Blues.

It's a big day too for Bann, who continue the defence of the trophy they won last season with a trip to Railway Union.

Mark Tumilty's lads have already crushed the Dubliners 6-1 in the Irish Hockey League earlier in the season but are aware that their rivals have tightened up a lot since then, especially with the arrival of a few overseas players.

Tumilty is ready to unleash his own overseas player, with South African international Brad Logan set to make his debut after he flies into the province this evening.

Logan has come along with his girlfriend Erin Hunter to Ulster -she has linked up with Ulster Elks - and the Bann coach is confident his style will dovetail nicely.

Tumilty said: "Brad will bring further depth to our existing squad and we believe that he will fit in well to our set-up. His experience in South Africa combined with that of our current crop of Irish internationals will add a new dimension."

The 24-year-old defender won several national titles with Stellenbosch University, two senior inter-provincial medals with Western Province and has been part of the South African senior international training squad.

Annadale's Robbie McGuire, who became the first overseas player to join an IHL club in Ulster earlier this season, also makes his Cup debut as Andrew Smyth's men take on Dublin YMCA.

However, Ulster will be doing well to get three teams through to the quarter-finals, unless Cookstown, Kilkeel, Mossley or South Antrim become giantkillers.

Cookstown have a tough tie at Three Rock, Kilkeel go all the way to Cork C of I, Mossley are off to Glenanne, and South Antrim visit Pembroke.

The cup means the domestic programme is curtailed but there are still three Premier League and two Senior League games listed, as well as the Irish Hockey Trophy.

Belfast Telegraph


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