Interim Irish men’s senior coach Mick McKinnon has named a fresh-faced 17-player squad to travel to Terrassa, Spain for a three-game tour from January 10 to 16.
The panel has been selected with the expressed intentions of offering young players the chance “to put themselves in the frame for tournament selection”, McKinnon explained with the Champions Challenge I in Malaysia in April on the horizon.
It is the first selection made by the former Railway Union coach since stepping into the position vacated by Andrew Meredith last Friday.
Nine uncapped players are part of the panel that includes five players from UCD. John Jackson and Alan Sothern are the two most experienced heads with the latter returning to training just before Christmas after a spell out with broken bone in his foot.
David Fitzgerald, Davy Carson, Peter Brown and Shane O’Donoghue all have big tournament experience while Drew Carlisle and Jason Lynch also have caps to their names.
Other than that, the panel are uncapped. Stephen West has been part of Celtic Cup campaign squads before but has yet to earn a full international appearance. Richie Shaw and Stephen Brownlow have ‘A’ international experience.
Nick Burns, Jeremy Duncan, Michael Robson, Ross Canning, James Corry and Mark Loughrey all make the step up after playing underage international hockey in recent years, either at Under-18 or 21 level.
Ireland will play world number eight side Spain three times during the tour while McKinnon will add two or three players to the panel in the coming days depending on fitness tests.
Commenting on the tour, McKinnon said: “It’s an inexperienced squad but a great opportunity for these players to push themselves into the frame for tournament selection.
“We have a number of players unavailable due to a combination of reasons, injury, exams and work but this provides a chance for these guys who have been working hard in regional and national camps to show what they can do on the international stage.”
“This trip is the first step in creating further depth in the squad, which in turn will create the necessary competition for places to drive us forward.”
From a Leinster league perspective, it means that at least 12 players will be unavailable for the first round of matches in the New Year with seven players out of the Glenanne vs UCD game in Tallaght.
Ireland squad, Terrassa, January 10-16 2014: David Fitzgerald (Monkstown), Stephen West (TRR), Richie Shaw (Glennane), Stephen Brownlow (Glennane), John Jackson (Reading), Mark Loughrey (Pembroke), Drew Carlisle (Banbridge), Michael Robson (Annadale), Peter Brown (UCD), Jason Lynch (Lisnagarvey), James Corry (Instonians), Nick Burns (UCD), Ross Canning (UCD), David Carson (Monkstown), Shane O’Donoghue (UCD), Alan Sothern (Pembroke), Jeremy Duncan (UCD)
January 11: Ireland vs Spain, 3.30pm, RC Polo Barcelona
January 13: Ireland vs Spain, 3.30pm, Club Egara
January 15: Ireland vs Spain, 3.30pm, Atlètic Terrassa Hockey Club.