Craig Fulton has named a hugely experienced panel for the first phase of the Olympic qualifying process with the release of his 18 player panel for World League Round Two which tips off in San Diego on February 28.
There are no less than eight centurions in the squad while only goalkeeper David Fitzgerald, Stephen Dowds, Kirk Shimmins and Drew Carlisle have less than 50 caps.All have played top level tournaments with no newcomers on that front, the quartet all playing roles in Ireland’s fourth place finish in the Champions Challenge in Malaysia last April.
From that panel – the last competitive outing for Ireland – 12 players are retained with former captain Ronan Gormley, key defender Conor Harte and current top scorer Mikey Watt along with Peter Caruth, Shane O’Donoghue and Mitch Darling coming back in.
As such, it is a side well versed in top-level hockey as they look to go one better than 2012 when they missed out to Korea for an Olympic ticket in the last minute of their qualifier.
This time around, as world number 14, they are hot favourites to get past Round Two in the top three places in California in order to advance to Round Three in Buenos Aires, Argentina in the summer where the Olympic places will be decided.
Ireland’s initial group pits them against Chile, Austria and Italy before potentially meeting Trinidad and Tobago, USA, Canada or Russia in the quarter-finals.
Final preparation sees Ireland play France three times in Grange Road next week to conclude a hectic build-up phase that saw them play six test matches in Cape Town in the past fortnight.
Speaking about the squad, coach Fulton said: “The recent training camp in South Africa formed the basis for World League 2 selection, given the training sessions and six quality test matches we played.
“The depth in the Irish national squad is very healthy so selection is always very difficult. The 18 selected for WL2 will also play against France next week in Dublin as we continue preparations for San Diego.”
Irish men’s senior team for World League Round Two (San Diego, February 28 – March 8): Jonathan Bell (Lisnagarvey), Drew Carlisle (Banbridge), Chris Cargo (Racing Club de Bruxelles), Peter Caruth (Monkstown), Mitch Darling (Three Rock Rovers), Stephen Dowds (Banbridge), David Fitzgerald (Monkstown), Paul Gleghorne (Instonians), Ronan Gormley (Krefeld), David Harte (Kampong), Conor Harte (Racing Club de Bruxelles), John Jackson (Reading), Eugene Magee (Banbridge), Bruce McCandless (Banbridge), Shane O’Donoghue (Dragons), Kirk Shimmins (UCD), Alan Sothern (Racing Club de Bruxelles), Michael Watt (Surbiton)
Non Travelling reserves: Jonny Bruton (Three Rock Rovers), Neal Glassey (Mossley), Kyle Good (Dragons), Mark Ingram (Pembroke Wanderers), James Lorimer (Lisnagarvey), Michael Robson (Annadale)
Tuesday, February 10: Ireland vs France, 7pm
Thursday, February 12: Ireland vs France, 7pm
Friday, February 13: Ireland vs France, 7pm
World League Round two (San Diego, all times local)
Saturday, February 28: Ireland v Chile, 1pm; Austria v Italy, 3.15pm
Sunday, March 1: Chile v Italy, 1pm; Ireland v Austria, 3.15pm
Tuesday, March 3: Ireland v Italy, 1pm; Chile v Austria, 3.15pm
Thursday, March 5: quarter-finals
Saturday, March 7 and Sunday, March 8: classification matches