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John Jackson

John Jackson

©INPHO/James Crombie

John Jackson

Ireland captain John Jackson has welcomed the return of indoor hockey to the international calendar but the Ulster man admits his team will be up against it when they contest the European Championship in Santander this weekend.

It's 32 years since Ireland last competed on the European stage and, as a consequence, they are taking part in the third tier of the Euros - and having no world ranking, they must start at the bottom and try to work their way up.

It's a big ask as they must win the tournament to secure the one promotion spot available and will be competing against teams who play indoor hockey on a much more structured basis in their respective countries.

However, with Jackson, who plays for Bath Buccaneers, and his fellow Ulster men Callum and Michael Robson and Neal Glassey lining out in the notoriously tough German league, several of the Ireland squad have plenty of experience indoors.

But Jackson isn't expecting too much from his team, who begin their campaign against the highest-ranked teams Scotland and Wales today before facing Spain and Slovenia in the round-robin stage of the event.

Jackson said: "Knowing our team, the experience we have, the quality we possess and the determination to launch indoor hockey back on our map, we are aiming for a top three finish in the face of unfamiliar opposition."

European Indoor Championship: Today: Ireland v Wales (11am), Ireland v Scotland (5pm); Tomorrow: Ireland v Spain (11.25am), Ireland v Slovenia (4.40pm); Sunday: classification matches

Belfast Telegraph