While it was a ground-breaking year for Monkstown, skipper Gareth Watkins has already set his sights on new horizons as he, along with a growing club contingent, aims to bed himself into the men’s senior Irish squad.
Dave Fitzgerald, Stephen Cole and Kyle Good have been joined in the possibles list by Richard Sykes in the extended panel for Paul Revington’s plans for a busy summer which sees the side play over 20 fixtures between now and August.
Having led the line for the Glenageary club in some style, Watkins started back training last week following a post-season rest to clear up a long-standing injury agitation, returning with a burning desire to add to his tournament appearances amid a large scrap for places.
The Town striker was in the 2009 Celtic Cup side but has since missed out on selection for major tournaments. But he is enjoying the buzz that the competition for places at the upcoming Celtic Cup, along with a potential Four Nations event in Dublin, Champion’s Challenge, Five Nations and, ultimately, the European championships provides.
Speaking to The Hook at the launch of the UCD Men’s Four Nation’s Cup last week, he says there is a chance for many guys to make breakthrough.
“It’s a big summer but everyone’s quite comfortable in the fact there is a lot of opportunity to get out there and play. There’s not too much worry just yet about who is getting in; there is plenty of opportunity to show we’re working hard and are able to take the chance as most of the guys are going to get a look in.
“There’s currently 30 or 40 lads at the moment and getting into the European squad is what everyone wants; it’s what we talk about, what we think about, what we are visualising.
“It’s why you’re up at six o’clock in the morning, going to the gym and doing all that extra work. The Europeans – England in the first match and Holland soon after… you can’t ask for more than that. There’s a lot of hockey to be played and work to be done before then but that is burning deep inside.”
Many have noted the contrast between the current men’s and women’s setup, the former fanning out across to play their hockey while the women have relocated centrally. With sister Chloe in the women’s setup, it gives Watkins an inside track on the diverging approaches but says discussion of the two methods “doesn’t come up as often as you might think”.
“There is plenty of hockey talk around the dinner table alright and one of us is always probably grumpy after training or too tired to get into it. It’s nice to see the two contrasting styles. The women and the men have gone in different routes this year.
“It’s something we looked at last summer and said we had to keep it going. We’ve taken certain steps to create that.”
Such focus has left little time to reflect on what has been a big year at club level, winning the Mills and Neville Cup while, once again, being denied at the final hurdle in the Irish Senior Cup.
“It was a long club season but I’ve always had one eye on the summer because it’s so important. With the guys coming back from Europe, the club season has already become a distant memory and the anticipation and buzz is starting to build.
“It was a great year to finally get some silverware; it was a long-time running so we got a big monkey off our back. It was painful to lose the Irish Senior again but there was plenty of encouragement.”