Ireland’s men’s hockey squad ‘raring to go’ for World Cup qualifier

Mark Tumilty’s side face Russia in opening knock-out encounter in Cardiff on Thursday

Ireland goalkeeper Jamie Carr  has been playing with Belgium club KHC Leuvan. Photograph: Gary Carr/Inpho

Ireland goalkeeper Jamie Carr has been playing with Belgium club KHC Leuvan. Photograph: Gary Carr/Inpho

 

The asking of the men’s Irish team in this week’s World Cup qualifying event in Cardiff is not quite as demanding as that of the women but a tricky assignment. Seeded second behind France, Ireland must win two matches in Wales to qualify for the 2023 World Cup in India.

Ireland are ranked 12th in the world and meet competition seventh seeds Russia in their first must-win game on Thursday (4.0pm) before facing the winner of Wales and Italy on Saturday.

For coach and former international player Mark Tumilty, the rebuilding exercise has been done at pace. In August’s EuroHockey Championship II campaign in Poland Ireland featured a team with eight tournament debutants and won the bronze medal in a first competitive outing in almost two years.

Since then more experience has funneled back into the squad. Conor Harte has returned as have Luke Madeley, goalkeeper Jamie Carr and Lee Cole, who were unfortunate to miss out on playing time at the Euros when they were deemed close contacts of a Covid-19 case in the lead-up to the event.

Carr and Madeley spent 10 days in a Polish hotel in Gniezno in quarantine. All players have arrived in Cardiff this time without Covid related issues.

Missing out, however, is twice world goalkeeper of the year and Olympian David Harte, the twin brother of Conor, who is recovering from injury sustained in the spring.

“We’re headed in the right direction for sure,” said Carr, who plays with Belgian club KHC Leuvan. He is one of nine players in the Irish squad of 18 to play for clubs outside Ireland.

“We have checked all the boxes before the tournament, made sure everything was covered and the lads are raring to go.

“We have learned a lot over the last year from the last qualifiers through the Euros this summer. We are ready to put right our shortcomings in the past and put a big performance in.”

Carr has been playing in Belgium on Sundays before flying back to Ireland for Irish sessions early on Monday mornings for the last four weeks.

“It’s refreshing in a way to not have a group stage, straight knock-out to focus the mind. You have to win at all costs and there’s no time to build into the tournament so we have to hit the ground running. We can’t afford to start slow. This one has been in the back of our minds for months now and so we’re excited to get going.”

After poor umpiring in an Olympic qualifier playoff against Canada that kept Ireland out of Tokyo, a little luck this time would not just be helpful but over due.

Ireland squad for Hockey World Cup qualifiers

Jamie Carr, Mark Ingram, Tom Cross, Luke Madeley, Lee Cole, Conor Harte, Peter McKibbin, Kyle Marshall, Shane O’Donoghue, Sean Murray (captain), Neal Glassey, Daragh Walsh, Michael Robson, Johnny McKee, Conor Empey, Sam Hyland, Ben Walker, Jeremy Duncan.

Travelling reserves: Matthew Nelson, Kevin O’Dea.

Coach: Mark Tumilty

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