Tickets sold out as international indoor hockey returns to Ireland

These will be Ireland’s first home international indoor matches for over 30 years

While Covid-19 has laid waste to much of the traditional post-Christmas schedule, Ireland’s first home international indoor hockey matches for over 30 years are set to hit the boards at the Antrim Forum on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Scotland are travelling over for six games in total, three men’s and three women’s, for an event whose tickets sold out – albeit at reduced capacity – within seven hours of launch two weeks ago.

It shows a strong appetite from players and fans alike for the shortened format which is enjoying something of a rejuvenation. In 2019, Ireland fielded its first indoor international teams since the 1980s with the women travelling to South Africa for a six-game series before landing second at the EuroHockey Challenge II in January 2020 in Bratislava.

The men also made their return that month with a third place finish in Santander before the pandemic slowed the momentum.

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Nonetheless, the Irish Under-21 men did manage to beat the restrictions to compete in their first ever European competition in Portugal, widening the playing experience once more.

Lisnagarvey's Ollie Kidd was the star of that show, scoring 11 times in five games and, along with Cookstown's Jack Haycock, he gets a call up to the senior panel.

For the men's squad, seven of the 2020 Euros panel is back in action. There is a volume of senior outdoor internationals involved including Olympian John Jackson, Neal Glassey, Callum Robson, Jason Lynch and Jeremy Duncan.

Ross Canning has been Three Rock Rovers' driving force for the guts of a decade with his father Liam providing a link to the indoor scene of the 80s.

Men's coach Kenny Carroll added: "It is really important that we showcase International indoor hockey in Ireland once again.

“It is a brilliant spectacle and great we have the opportunity to play at the Antrim Forum and it is especially brilliant our international men and women’s teams can play back-to-back to the same crowd.”

On the women's side, 16-year-old Mikayla Power looks set to become one of Ireland's youngest ever senior internationals. A daughter of Olympic umpire Carol Metchette, she has enjoyed a breakout season with Old Alex, scoring some glorious goals outfield and her trickery on the ball is well suited to the game.

Reigning Irish champions Railway also provide four players – Patton sisters Orla and Sarah; Lily Lloyd, and captain Orla Fox. Chloe Brown and Amy Benson have lots of experience with Ards on the European club stage and will be key players along with Sophie Barnwell who was an almost-ever present in the 2019/20 series.

Elsewhere, the annual St Stephen’s Day Neville Cup final in Leinster and Peard Cup final in Munster along with the Ulster Kirk Cup semi-finals were all postponed after a number of cases in the various competing teams made the games unviable.

Fixtures

International Indoor series (all at Antrim Forum)

Men

Tuesday, December 28th: Ireland v Scotland, 6.30pm

Wednesday, December 29th: Ireland v Scotland, 10am; Ireland v Scotland, 2pm

Women

Tuesday, December 28th: Ireland v Scotland, 8pm

Wednesday, December 29th: Ireland v Scotland, 11.30am; Ireland v Scotland, 3.30pm

Squads

Men: John Jackson (Bath Buccaneers), David Howard (Corinthian), Jack Haycock (Cookstown), Mark Crooks (Cookstown), Ross Canning (Three Rock Rovers), Oliver Kidd (Lisnagarvey), Callum Robson (Annadale), Neal Glassey (Mossley/Crefelder HTC), Jason Lynch (Cork C of I), Stephen O'Keeffe (GK, Railway Union), Richard Couse (Glenanne), Jeremy Duncan (Monkstown), Jakim Bernsden (GK, YMCA), Rory Patterson (Antwerp).

Women: Emma Buckley (GK, Pembroke), Becky Maye (GK, Cork C of I), Orla Fox (Railway Union), Orla Patton (Railway Union), Sarah Patton (Railway Union), Lily Lloyd (Railway Union), Sophie Barnwell (Muckross), Amy Benson (Ards), Emilie Ryan Doyle (Old Alex), Chloe Brown (East Grinstead), Sally Campbell (Pembroke), Mikayla Power (Old Alex), Rebecca McMullen (Muckross), Laura Graham (Limburger HC).