Glenanne skipper Joe Brennan believes Saturday morning’s tie against Grunwald Poznan will be the key factor if the Tallaght club are to follow Pembroke into the KO16 round of the EuroHockey League in Terrassa.
The Glens were confronted with a near identical draw last time round in Barcelona, playing back-to-back matches on Friday and Saturday against German and Polish opposition.
An impressive showing in the searing heat against eventual champions UHC Hamburg was following less than 16 hours later by a disappointing 6-1 final scoreline against Grunwald.
For UHC, replace Mannheimer while the Glens have their third tilt at toppling Grunwald in recent years.
But Brennan believes two early morning starts and a slightly longer rest period between ties leaves them in much better shape to challenge.
“Obviously it’s going to come down to the Grunwald game. It’s the third time we’ve met them so we really want to turn them over.”
He suggests that, perhaps, there is something to be learned from last year from a tournament management perspective after Stephen Butler’s drag-flick made a real game of it against UHC, trailing 2-1 at half-time, adding to the carried-over fatigue.
“Although we were beaten by Grunwald well last year, we do feel very confident we can do it. There wasn’t much turnaround time and played in a fair bit of heat which didn’t help.
“This year, although we’re playing very early in the morning, I think it could suit us. It will be tough against Grunwald; it will be easier for them in their first game so we’ll have to be smart in the Mannheimer game, see how that game is going and, if need be, maybe rest a couple of players and make sure we’re fresh for the second day.”
Mannheimer are an imposing force with Matthias Witthaus in their number. The German international, though, did not enjoy his last outing against Irish opposition, drawing a blank in Atletic Terrassa’s elimination at the hands of Three Rock Rovers two seasons ago.
They top the German league at the moment but this year’s EHL has already seen its share of upsets.
“It’s a tough draw but we played UHC last year and it ended up being a great game, only 2-1 I think at half-time. Timmy Lewis [now with Crefelder in Germany] has given us a bit of information on them. Although they’re a good side, we should have a good go at them. There have been a few surprise results in the EHL already so you never know.”
Any result there would be a bonus while another positive to draw is that the Poles recently suffered their biggest defeat in 15 years, falling 7-3 to Pomorzanin Torun.
“That’s good for us. It might not be the same team as the last couple of years that have been Polish champions and maybe they’re an aging team.
“The guys are feeling really good, training really well. Keeping a clean sheet last weekend – although it wasn’t an ideal result – we’re still unbeaten this season so the mood is good. As long as our work-rate is high, which I expect it to be, we should be in with a shout.”
“We will be a different team with people coming in and others going out and a new coach but we’re really looking forward to it and helping Ireland’s cause to keeping two teams in the EHL for next year.”
EHL Pool G schedule (all in Terrassa, Spain):
Friday, 8.30am: Glenanne vs Mannheimer HC
Saturday, 8.30am: Glenanne vs WKS Grunwald Poznan
Sunday, 8.30am: Mannheimer HC vs WKS Grunwald Poznan