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Future plans: Mark Gleghorne

Future plans: Mark Gleghorne

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Future plans: Mark Gleghorne

Ulster's Great Britain ace Mark Gleghorne is to retire from international hockey after next year's Olympic Games in Tokyo.

The Antrim man has represented England and GB 167 times, scoring 50 goals. ​

Gleghorne had amassed 80 Irish caps before switching his allegiance to England in 2013 and then undergoing a three-year period in the international wilderness as International Hockey Federation rules dictate.

The 34-year-old former Antrim and Instonians defender played in the 2016 Rio Olympics along with fellow Ulstermen David Ames and Ian Sloan.​

He said: "The plan was to retire from international hockey after Tokyo in the summer but then the Olympics were postponed. It was the right decision although for someone who's a bit older it wasn't the one I was hoping for.​

"It's a unique situation and for me, after Tokyo this year, it was a question of whether I was going to play abroad or finish playing altogether."

While the Covid-19 pandemic has drastically changed the sporting landscape, Gleghorne's ambition remains unaltered.​

Gleghorne added: "The ultimate goal in Tokyo has to be winning a gold medal and that's been my ambition since I was a youngster back home."​​

Gleghorne says he didn't take the decision to declare for England and Great Britain lightly.​

The Holcombe star explained: "My goal was always to aim for the ultimate which is an Olympic gold medal and that is always the biggest thing in our sport.

"I thought my best avenue to achieve that would be to play for GB. It wasn't an easy decision and I changed my mind quite a few times but, ultimately, it came down to what was my best opportunity."​​

Gleghorne says there is always an added edge when he and the other Ulster players in the GB or England set-up face Ireland, especially as his younger brother Paul still wears the green shirt.​

He said: "My decision didn't go down well in some quarters and that adds a bit more pressure to games between us and Ireland.​

"I want my brother and friends in the team to do as well as they can but if I'm playing against them, I want to make sure we win because that's how it is.

"When we play against each other dad wears an English and an Irish jersey on top of each other and he is happy enough as long as me and Paul both play well and don't get injured."​

Meanwhile, Ulster Hockey will today announce which teams will be promoted and relegated after the season was brought to a premature close.

Irish Hockey had advised that provincial leagues would be decided through a 'percentage equalisation' calculation and the amended Ulster league tables are due to be published today.

That will decide the layout of the divisions for the 2020-21 campaign.

Due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, Ulster Hockey have confirmed that no play-offs will take place to decide promotion and relegation, with the top two teams to replace the bottom two sides in the league above, with the exception being between junior and senior leagues.

Belfast Telegraph