Rob Abbott is hopeful his Railway Union indoor side can catch Rotterdam on the hop on Friday morning as they take on a side featuring two World Cup winners just five days after reaching the pinnacle of the sport.
Bjorn Kellerman and Timo Kranstauber were both part of the Dutch indoor side that stunned Germany to claim gold last Sunday in Leipzig. Their very next engagement is a group match at the EuroHockey Club Indoor Champions Challenge I against Railway and skipper Abbott says he is “absolutely buzzing” for that challenge.
“I can’t wait; knowing that Kellerman and Kranstauber’s last game was the World Cup final and being captain, it is pretty special.”
On the indoor scene, it is not the first superstar Abbott has come up against having played a 16-year-old Ashley Jackson in a local dust-up with East Grinstead. A year ago, meanwhile, he was part of the Railway side that took on a WKS Grunwald Poznan side that featured six of last week’s Polish World Cup panel.
Then, Abbott says the panel was somewhat undercooked having played just a couple of games to become Irish national champions. This year, they have more games and training sessions under their belt with a top four finish the goal.
They finished their training on Wednesday evening and will play a challenge match against Portugal’s AD Lousada in Rotterdam. After the hosts are out of the way, Railway meet Slovenia’s HC Lipovci before meeting Slovakia’s SK Senkvice on Saturday morning in their final group game.
“Make no mistake, we are targetting a top four place. We are better prepared than last year and reckon that the game with SK Senkvice is the key. We don’t know much about the Slovenians and so won’t rule them out.”
They fell 5-4 to the Slovakian side a year ago so they know they are at a similar level but the addition of German player Nic Wilmshofer, Mateusz Nowakowski – fresh from a Polish Under-18 indoor training camp – Spaniard Miguel Villar and Australian James Dick has bolstered their panel.
Kenny Carroll brings the experience and will play in his fourth European campaign having player in 2006, 07 and last year while coaching team Paul O’Brien and Bruce Thompson were also in Brussels in 2001.
And Railway will be hoping they are competing for promotion not just for personal pride but also, potentially for themselves as they hope that the IHA will reconsider their decision to announce Queen’s as the national indoor champions.
For now, though, full focus is on their huge date with Rotterdam on Friday morning in what should be an eye-opener to the levels required for promotion.
Railway Union squad: Simon Thornton, Rob Abbott, Kevin King, Nic Wilmshofer,Kenny Carroll, Miguel Villar, Mateusz Nowakowski, Richard Forrest, David McCarthy, Mark English, Fiachra Maher, James Dick
EuroHockey Indoor Club Champions Challenge I, Group B fixtures (all CET)
Friday: Railway Union v Rotterdam (NED), 12.50pm; SK Senkvice (SVK) v HC Lipovci (SLO), 2pm; Railway Union v HC Lipovci, 5.50pm; SK Senkvice v Rotterdam, 7pm
Saturday: Rotterdam v HC Lipovci, 11.50am; Railway Union v SK Senkvice, 1pm
Saturday afternoon/Sunday morning: Classification matches