David Ames and Ian Sloan became the third and fourth Ulster players to switch allegiances from Ireland to England in recent times, following in the footsteps of Mark Gleghorne and Iain Lewers.
The Cookstown pair formally notified the Irish Hockey Association yesterday of their decisions, withdrawing themselves from Irish selection and confirming they will pursue playing for England once a three-year wilderness period is served.
This is dated back to April 11, 2012 when they lined out against Germany, both scoring in a 2-1 win over the soon-to-be crowned Olympic champions.
Since then, though, both players have made themselves unavailable for selection for the World League round one and the Champions Challenge I in Argentina. Sloan spent much of this time injured with a broken metatarsal while Ames took an extended break from the sport before returning to club action with Beeston.
While speculation was rife the pair would make the switch to pursue playing for England and subsequently Great Britain, an article with the Belfast Newsletter raised hopes that this may not be the case from an Irish perspective.
However, the news leaves Ireland shy two young midfield talents. Ames has represented Ireland 64 times since 2008 while Sloan made his debut while still in school in Cookstown HS in 2011, playing 21 international games.
Both starred in the 2011 European campaign in Monchengladbach as well as the agonising Olympic qualification campaign last March, the last major tournament they played in.
Ames released a statement explaining his decision, saying: “It has been an extremely tough decision both in terms of a life choice and hockey choice, but one I feel at this point in time is the right thing for me to do.
“I have many goals and aspirations for my hockey career that I want to try and achieve. The Olympics is a high ambition of mine, not just to play in, but to also challenge for medals.
“It is also my ambition to play in more high-level competitions such as the World Cup, Champions Trophy, and the Commonwealth Games, and in order to give myself this chance, now is the best time to declare for England.
“It may seem a very selfish move but unfortunately competing at International level doesn’t last too long in a player’s life time and so to have more of an opportunity to compete at these high level events, would give me a sense of accomplishment in what I want to achieve in my short hockey career.
“I do not want to finish my career regretting not giving myself the best opportunity to play hockey at the highest level possible.”
He adds that, from a practical perspective, as a full-time hockey coach in Nottingham, this will allow him to commit more to a full-time programme but does admit it is a “massive risk” to try and break into the English side, currently ranked fourth in the world.
“Things are not always guaranteed in life as I know, but I feel making this decision will give me the best chance and opportunity to achieve my goals.”
He wished Ireland all the best for the future and particularly thanked Paul Revington for helping to “shape me into the player I am today. I am truly indebted to what he has done for me and cannot thank him enough.
“To Peter Jackson who has always been a massive help both on and off the pitch during my time with Ireland. Finally to Ronan [Gormley] and the rest of the squad for all there much valued guidance and support both on and off the pitch over the last four years.”
Ian Sloan, meanwhile, was more forthright, saying the move was not something he was initially considering: “Both on a personal level and on a sporting level, but it is one that I feel is right for me and for my future in the sport.
“The sequence of events that have occurred since the departure of former coach Paul Revington have made me question the probability of sustained success for the Ireland team, and also the likelihood of the team consistently competing in major World and European level competitions over the next 12 years.
“Whilst I have every confidence that the current Ireland team will continue to battle against adversity and achieve excellent results, I believe that this can only be done in the short-term and that the structures are not in place to deliver consistent success.
“My decision to switch to Great Britain and England has primarily been based upon my desire to fulfil my potential, compete at the highest level on a consistent basis and to compete for medals. It has always been my ambition to compete in the Olympic Games.
“There is, of course, no guarantee that I will achieve any of these things, but by making this switch I think that I am giving myself the best chance of doing so. England and GB have made significant progress in recent years and are now fourth in the FIH World Rankings.
“The prospect of going to major competitions with a chance of success is one that I deem too good to turn down.
As a student just beginning a four-year accounting course at Loughborough University , he is also likely to be based in England for the foreseeable future, too.
“It is with regret that I will no longer be a part of the Ireland team, as I thoroughly enjoyed my time with the squad and was lucky to be influenced by some great people.
Again, he gives special praise for Revington and his assistant, Arul Anthoni, for bringing him in at such a young age – while still captaining the Irish U-18s – as well as Peter Jackson, the support staff and his now former team mates.