** To see the Irish team line-up for the INSEP Five Nations, click here
With the training panel trimmed to around 25 players, the pearing down process to the final 18 for the European championships begins in earnest for Paul Revington, starting with this year’s INSEP Five Nations event in Paris.
Playing world top eleven sides Korea, Argentina and Australia will provide a stern, but suitably high quality, challenge in the run-up to facing the Netherlands and England as well as France in Monchengladbach.
Indeed, it is a rare thing for Ireland to face such opposition. During the week, Ireland will be aiming to get a first ever result against the Aussies, having lost to the world number ones in each of their six prior encounters.
That last one was back in 1990 in Lisburn, though, so it is a special treat even if they do arrive in Europe shy their talisman Jamie Dwyer and top class defender Mark Knowles.
Today’s opposition, Korea, have not been met since 1997’s World Cup qualifier in Poznan but have been beaten once in three attempts.
But they come into the competition in outstanding form, having just won the London Cup ahead of the likes of New Zealand, Belgium and England.
They are yet to qualify for the 2012 Olympic Games, but were strong performers at the 2010 World Cup and will be fielding a very experienced line up, with the majority of their players having 100 international caps or more.
Their most in-form player is Nam Young Lee, who was named Player of the Tournament at that London Cup having netted no fewer than seven goals in just four matches, all of which came from open play.
Argentina bring some fantastic players to the table with many representing some of Europe’s finest clubs. Lucas and Rodrigo Vila – the latter of which returns to the Argentina squad after a lengthy absence – were both part of the HGC team which won this year’s Euro Hockey League. The team are coached by Pablo Lombi, brother of legendary striker Jorge who is also part of the backroom staff in the role of assistant coach.
France, meanwhile, will use the vast majority of the side which played in the Champions Challenge II, with coach Scott Goodheart , like Revington, also looking forward to the prospect of another challenging tournament for his young charges.
“This is a great opportunity to give our players further experience at this level. The hockey will be world class, and this is one of the last chances we will have to try different combinations of players in an international competition prior to the Euro Nations.”
The tournament will start at 2.30pm (Irish time) when Korea will meet Ireland, and later this evening, France will take on Argentina. Australia will play their first game of the tournament on Wednesday against the Irish at 3pm.
Fixtures – All times are Irish
Tuesday, July 26: Korea v Ireland, 2.30pm; France v Argentina, 5pm
Wednesday, July 27: Australia v Ireland, 3pm
Thursday, July 28: Australia v Argentina, 2.30pm; France v Korea, 5pm
Friday, July 29: Ireland v Argentina, 3pm
Saturday, July 30: Australia v Korea, 2pm; France v Ireland, 4.30pm
Sunday, July 31: Argentina v Korea, 12pm; France v Australia, 2.30pm
** The Hook will not be in situ for this tournament so will not be providing live twitter updates for the moment unless a person in Paris can be co-opted to help. We’ll provide updates when we find out more about the tournament’s media arrangements. For more information on the tournament, check out the tournament’s Facebook page
** In the meantime, the FIH World Hockey Monthly came out this week and features the Champions Challenge and Irish hockey in general quite frequently. Check it out below: