Loreto coach Gareth Evans is hopeful the lengthy lay-off from competitive action will not prove a stumbling block for his charges as they take on the EuroHockey Club Champion’s Challenge II, the fourth tier of club competition, in Lille this weekend.
It has been almost ten weeks since the Beaufort club’s last outing in the Leinster league, a 3-2 success against Railway Union, making preparations tough.
Evans, who works in tandem with Graham Shaw on the coaching front, gave the squad a three week break in the wake of that game but says it’s been like starting pre-season again and has strong words for the EHF over the timing of the competition.
“It’s made training really difficult. For motivation as well, keeping the girls motivated for a ten-month season. It has been a bit of a juggling act from that end, people with college exams not being able to train and this, that and the other. It’s been tough but we’ve battled on.
“The last two weeks we’ve had the full squad training together and we’re ready to go. The only thing is Nikki Symmons and Nicci Daly are playing in the Champion’s Challenge so we have to limit what they can play which will be a pain.
“We can’t blame the Irish setup for that, we blame the EHF for putting a club tournament during the international calendar.”
Being so far out of the Irish season, Loreto have been unable to secure many friendlies but have met the Irish U-18s on a couple of occasions, adding to the sense of the competition being “a complete and utter journey into the unknown” though there is a modicum of expectation.
“We haven’t got much video or info on the other teams and we don’t know what the standard will be, what the pitch is like; we just find out when we get there.
“But myself and Graham[Shaw] discussed our targets. If Railway got third in the B division and we were fifth in that division last year, this division is two below so we hope to reach a final anyway.”
Standing in their way are Swansea, hosts Lille and Austria’s HTC Wien before facing a classification match on Monday, barring a third place group finish which would see the club automatically finish fifth as only seven teams are taking part. The top two in each group go into the two ‘finals’ on Monday.
A strong finish, when combined with Railway’s strong result in Dublin over Easter, could see Ireland’s ranking lifted sufficiently to see Hermes promoted a division for 2011/12.
Elsewhere, Ireland will be guaranteed a finalist in the top tier of club action in the continent as Slough’s Hannah Bowe takes on Leicester’s Emma Clarke in the semi-final of the EuroHockey Club Champions Cup in the Hague.
Match schedule (all times GMT)
Friday, June 10, Group A: Rotweiss Wettingen (SUI) v Penarth (WAL), 1pm; Group B: Loreto v HTC Wien (AUT), 2pm; Lille (FRA) v Swansea (WAL), 4pm
Saturday, June 11, Group A: HC Olten (SUI) v Rotweiss Wettingen, 11am; Group B: HTC Wien v Swansea, 1pm; Lille v Loreto, 3pm
Sunday, June 12, Group A: Penarth v HC Olten, 11am; Group B: Loreto v Swansea, 1pm; HTC Wien v Lille, 3pm
Monday, June 13, classification matches: 3A v 4B, 9.30am; 2A v 1B, 11.45am; 1A v 2B, 2pm