Banbridge coach Mark Tumilty has admitted his side will need to focus on getting the better of French champions CA Montrouge after his side were also drawn against double champions UHC Hamburg in Pool F of the 2011/12 EuroHockey League.
Co Tyrone side Cookstown, meanwhile, have one of the toughest draws going, paired against Dutch champions Amsterdam H&BC who make a return to the competition after a season’s absence in Pool A. 2011 EHL bronze medallists – and home to Chris Cargo – Reading make up an imposing line-up with two from three to advance to the KO16.
Both sides will play in Round 1.2 of the competition in Antwerp at KHC Dragons, home club of Stephen Butler and Eugene Magee. And while both Irish sides – the first from Ulster to represent the country in the EHL – have a serious job on their hands, Tumilty says Bann’s draw holds plenty of possibility for the Co Down club:
“It is a tough draw for us with Hamburg being one of the top sides in Europe. I feel it is an excellent opportunity for our younger players to get chance to play against Hamburg so they see first-hand how good some of the top players in world hockey are.
“The big challenge for me and the players is too channel our efforts towards the French game as that is the important one regarding qualifying for the next stage. Too often Irish teams at all levels have come close against the top teams but ended up not winning the crucial game in the tournament.”
By way of comparison, Glenanne impressed in a backs-to-the-wall effort against UHC two years ago but the expended energy against a fresh Grunwald Poznan saw them come a cropper on day two. It a lesson Tumilty hopes to heed but, as group top seeds, his side are likely to have a rest day in between their two ties.
His side is currently easing itself into preseason with Scott Caruth and Ross Beattie added to the panel but their young panel is currently waiting for four of their number to return from being involved in the NI Schools game’s team.
Hosts Dragons look to be strong candidates for the KO16 with Rotterdam from Pool E with Swiss top dogs Rottweiss Wettingen left with a mountain to climb.
Jason Lynch’s new club Racing club de Bruxelles will also be present in Antwerp, facing off against Ronan Gormley’s Club de Campo and German side Club an der Alster in what looks the pick of all eight groups in the competition, Pool D.
In Round 1.1, Irish interest is less pronounced with former Cookstown man David Ames helping his side Beeston, the English Hockey League titles winners last term, to face Polo de Barcelona and Poland’s Pomorzanin Torun in Pool C.
Round 1.1, October 7-9 (HTC Uhlenhorst, Mulheim):
Pool B: Atletic Terrassa (Spain), HTC Uhlenhorst Mulheim (Germany), AHTC Wien (Austria)
Pool C: Beeston (England), RC de Polo de Barcelona (Spain), KS Pomorzanin Torun (Poland)
Pool G: WKS Grunwald Poznan (Poland), East Grinstead (England), Dinamo Elektrostal (Russia)
Pool H: Dinamo Kazan (Russia), Bloemendaal (Netherlands), Olimpia Kolos Sekvoia (Ukraine)
Round 1.2, October 21-23: KHC Dragons, Antwerp
Pool A: Amsterdam H&BC (Netherlands), Reading (England), Cookstown (Ireland)
Pool D: Der Club an der Alster (Germany), Club de Campo de Madrid (Spain), RC Bruxelles (Belgium)
Pool E: KHC Dragons (Belgium), HC Rotterdam (Netherlands), HC Rottweiss Wettingen (Switzerland)
Pool F: Banbridge (Ireland), UHC Hamburg (Germany), CA Montrouge (France)
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