After last autumn’s heroics, Lisnagarvey are hopeful of becoming the first Irish side to reach the KO8 of the EuroHockey League when they take on KHC Dragons in the last 16 (4pm, Irish time).
It comes after a nightmare preparation period with their Comber Road home succumbing to a dump of snow that made training impossible there while their final preparation game at nearby Annadale was cancelled too.
But coach Kyle Lunn believes this weekend is a shot to nothing following their progression ahead of Lille from the group stage, keeping Bloemendaal to just three goals in their vital decider.
Speaking before leaving for Amsterdam, Lunn said to the Belfast Telegraph: “We are delighted to be there, it is a one off game and we will be giving it our best shot. For a lot of our guys, with the exception of Timmy Cockram, this will be the biggest game of their hockey playing careers.
“It is great for the club to be the first team from Ulster to go this far in the EHL and makes it a memorable season for us no matter what happens.
“Obviously we recognise that Dragons are an excellent team with a superb EHL record. But I would say that it was the kindest draw of all the ties.”
They arrive in Amsterdam with over 130 supporters in tow and they hope to go one step further than Three Rock Rovers, Pembroke and Glenanne who have all reached this phase of the competition.
But Dragons are a formidable opposition having won bronze in last season’s edition of the competition. Stephen Butler is well know to Irish eyes while Felix Denayer is a wonderfully graceful pillar in centre-back.
Up top, Florent van Aubel was one of the stars of the Olympics while skipper Jeffrey Thys is a seasoned international. Indeed, they have never lost a game in regulation time in their 12 EHL games to date, only knocked out on penalties in the previous years.
But, from video evidence, Thys says he is concerned by the physicality of Lisnagarvey while his side are struggling to make it back into the EHL for next season with three regular season games to go, offering a sniff of hope for the norther side.
Ulster will be well represented at the tournament with Mark Gleghorne playing for East Grinstead against English champions Beeston, who include David Ames in their side along with former Pembroke man Tim Lewis. Chris Cargo has been named in Reading’s squad for their game against Rotterdam.
Euro Hockey League, KO16
Friday, March 29: Lisnagarvey vs KHC Dragons, 4pm (Irish time)