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Picking sidelined Magee a risk, admits Tumilty

 

Ireland head coach Mark Tumilty
Ireland head coach Mark Tumilty

By John Flack

Eugene Magee and his fellow Ulstermen Michael Robson and Matthew Nelson will sit out tonight's international between Ireland and Belgium, which is their last warm-up match ahead of the Olympic qualifiers against Canada in Vancouver at the end of the month.

Magee is still sidelined after tearing a hamstring in Banbridge's Irish Hockey League game with Three Rock Rovers a fortnight ago, casting some doubt on his fitness for the Canada double-header.

Robson and Nelson, meanwhile, are being rested for tonight's match in Belgium due to the fact that they played two games for German side Krefelder at the weekend.

While Ireland's women, who also face Canada with a place in the Tokyo Olympics at stake, have been withdrawn from club hockey to prepare for their games in Dublin next month, the men don't have such a luxury.

With the majority of the squad playing their hockey on the continent, Hockey Ireland has no control over their club commitments while the women's internationals are almost all based at home and the governing body is able to call the shots.

Ireland head coach Mark Tumilty has revealed that picking Magee, who is one of nine Ulster players in the squad, was something of a gamble.

Tumilty said: "We are hoping to get Eugene up and running at full speed but there's always the risk that he'll have difficulty turning due to the nature of the injury but we have two excellent physios dealing with him, so fingers crossed he'll be okay for the Canada games."

The former Banbridge coach expects a tough test against the Belgians tonight as Ireland's hosts are the reigning world and European champions.

Tumilty added: "They've named a strong squad so it'll be a good challenge for us, but we just need to focus on our own game.

"It's more pitch time for us as a group so it's a good opportunity to practice what we want to do against Canada.

"We'll probably have less of the ball so we'll be able to concentrate on our defensive work before we get out to Vancouver."

Fixtures: International: Belgium v Ireland (7pm). Kirk Cup Pool B: Ballynahinch v Banbridge (7.30pm).

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