Men's Hockey NewsIn one of the biggest weekends in years in Irish hockey, with two international Test matches against France, a Leinster Senior Cup final and an Irish Senior Cup final, Ireland coach Dave Passmore has also announced his final squad of 18 players to compete in the BDO men's World Cup Qualifier in Changzou, China, in April.
Passmore has opted for some of the experience from his victorious European Nations Trophy campaign in Rome in 2005, but also includes some younger squad members who have contributed to notable recent wins for Ireland against South Africa, Egypt, Italy and France.
A number of players will be gaining their first experience of world-ranking tournament action including Trinity student Phelie Maguire, Timmy Cockram, Ronan Gormley and goalkeeper Mark Ruddle, with John Jermyn making a return after being unavailable last year.
Other younger players who have impressed after performing well in Rome retain their places, such as Iain Lewers and Mark Gleghorne.
The team is supported by a group of experienced senior players, headed by captain Patrick Brown, who clocked up his 100th cap for Ireland recently against France.
Brown, Justin Sherriff, Mark Irwin, Jason Black and top goalscorer Stephen Butler have 456 caps between them and will balance the squad's youth with important experience.
Several players have also been named as non-travelling reserves and include goalkeeper Mark Lennox, Eugene Magee and Seán Nicholson.
"Selection was very tight and Eugene Magee was very unlucky to miss out as he has had some promising performances this year," said Passmore.
"He misses out due to the overall squad's requirements, in particular from set-pieces, rather than the nature of his performances."
Magee may still be selected if Munster's Karl Burns fails a fitness test on his lingering hamstring injury on 25th March.
"Karl adds much to the squad because of his versatility and his attacking and defensive corner attributes," said Passmore. "He is completing daily rehabilitation sessions and we are hopeful he will have recovered in time to be fully fit for China."
Ireland complete what has been an intensive preparation programme with two more Test matches against France at Three Rock Rovers at 6pm today and as a curtain-raiser to the men's Irish Senior Cup final on Sunday at the National Hockey Stadium in UCD (11am).
Ireland's quest to qualify for the World Cup finals in September starts in China on April 12th with a first pool game against England. Ireland also play Belgium, Egypt, Pakistan and Canada before finals/classification matches concluding on April 23rd.
It has also been decided that the Irish Senior Cup winners will be the team automatically selected to represent Ireland in European competition, contrary to what was first indicated by the Irish Hockey Association's restructuring programme.
IRELAND: A Barbour (Cookstown) - 50 caps; J Black (Cork Harlequins) - 95 caps; M Black (Cork Harlequins) - 64 caps; P Brown (Instonians) - 102 caps; K Burns (Cork C of I) - 41 caps (subject to fitness test on March 25th); S Butler (Glenanne) - 90 caps; T Cockram (Lisnagarvey) - 25 caps; M Gleghorne (Loughborough Students, England) - 34 caps; R Gormley (Pembroke Wanderers) - 17 caps; C Henderson (GK - Corinthians) - 21 caps; D Hobbs (Cork C of I) - 65 caps; Mark Irwin (Instonians) - 86 caps; J Jermyn (Cork C of I) - 31 caps; I Lewers (Annadale) - 37 caps; P Maguire (Dublin University) - 21 caps; M Ruddle (GK - Cork C of I) - 7 caps; G Shaw (Glenanne) - 76 caps; J Sherriff (Pembroke Wanderers) - 83 caps.
FIXTURES: Today: Leinster Senior Cup Final: Three Rock Rovers v Pembroke, Grange Road 3.30; Test Match - Ireland v France, Grange Road 6pm. Leinster U16 Boys Final - Corinthians v Pembroke Wanderers, 11.10am. Sunday: Test Match - Ireland v France, Belfield 11am; Irish Senior Cup Final - Cork Harlequins v Lisnagarvey, 2.15, Belfield.