Andy McConnell has told hoofdklassehockey.nl he is hoping his club, Hurley, can achieve a level of stability in this year’s Dutch top division following an excellent 2013/14 season.
They stayed in the Hoofdklasse for the first time in their history after a number of seasons bouncing between that league and the Overgangsklasse.Former TRR and Pembroke player McConnell captains the side and is hopeful his side can now go on and upset some of the “top six” teams in a league very much divided between in two.
Therefore, an eighth place finish and avoiding the relegation playoffs was very much an acheivement for the Amsterdam club.
“Being a promoted side is always difficult. You have to get used to the level. With Hurley, unfortunately we do not a big budget like other teams but nevertheless we still managed to get a lot of new players in without spending much money. That has paid off. I thought it was pretty special that no play-offs were needed.”
For this season, former Wesley schoolmate Phelie Maguire has moved to Voordaan, a club closer to his Utrecht home, but McConnell says the panel has strengthened for his eighth year with the club.
“About four players stopped or moved to other clubs it is the first time we have a group of about 20 players who are all about the same level. Therefore, everyone needs, every week, to fight hard to win a place in the first 16.
“Last year, we did very well against our direct competitors. At Tilburg, Den Bosch and Pinoké, we took enough points. However, the upper six easily overcome us.
“I would like it if we could get points against one of those teams but it is especially important that we get the points against direct competitors.”
Last term, the top six of Oranje Zwart, Kampong, Bloemendaal, Amsterdam, Rotterdam and HGC had 22 points between them and seventh placed Pinoké. Asked about how that gap has occurred, McConnell says there is “no one sole reason”.
“You have to deal with the budget that a club has available and I think the top six have a bigger budget to spend than the rest. Also, if you look at the current training group of the Dutch team, there are only players from the top six teams.
“That’s probably right but this is of course makes a big difference. The international’s life compared to players from the lower six teams hockey is different, many who have to work full-time.”
Looking to the new season, Hurley start with an important early battle against newly promoted Push on Sunday and McConnell says that the target is similar to last year, avoiding the relegation playoffs.
“The ninth place would be nice, he said. “But I would like to goa a place better like last year, so eighth.”