Irish hockey squad plan January training trip to South Africa

Coach Craig Fulton’s charges will face the Netherlands, Belgium and the hosts

The Irish senior men's team have opted for warm-weather training in South Africa in January, rather than Alicante this week, as their key preparation camp ahead of next February's World League Round Two competition in San Diego.

That tournament in California marks the first phase in the Olympic qualifying process with a top-three finish required to go through to the all-important round three where tickets to Rio 2016 will be doled out.

Craig Fulton’s charges were due to play four games each against Poland and Spain this week but the decision was taken to cancel this trip in favour of Cape Town in the New Year.

Three sides

There, they will meet three sides that competed at the 2012


Olympic Games

– world number two side the Netherlands, fourth-ranked Belgium along with the South African hosts.

Fulton said: “It is the perfect training environment and we couldn’t ask for better opposition. It has been an exciting past nine months [since taking the job] and we are really looking forward to achieving in 2015”.

On home turf, there are three Leinster league games on this weekend. Leaders Monkstown host fourth-placed Glenanne in a tie that doubles as the Gerry McCabe Memorial Trophy match.

Town have been without Irish international goalkeeper David Fitzgerald through injury for much of the past month but Jamie Carr, a St Andrew's schoolboy, has been an able deputy between the posts.

Victory will assure Graham Shaw’s side top spot over Christmas. Glenanne, though, are the only side to have taken points from’Town and, if victorious, can move into a share of first.

Pembroke host Railway Union in another key battle for the top four placings. WEEKEND FIXTURES SATURDAY – Men's Leinster Division One: Monkstown v Glenanne, Rathdown, 1.0; Pembroke v Railway Union, Serpentine Avenue, 1.O. SUNDAY – Men's Leinster Division One: Avoca v UCD, 12.30pm, Newpark.

Stephen Findlater

Stephen Findlater

Stephen Findlater is a contributor to The Irish Times writing about hockey