Ronan Gormley is set to become the first Irish man to reach 200 international caps when he lines out for the national team against the Olympic champions, Germany, next Monday in Krefeld.
It will be the first of two ties against the Germans as Ireland, coached by Craig Fulton, ramp up their preparations for World League 3, the key event in the Olympic qualifying process which takes place in late June in Antwerp.
Gormley, 32, made his international debut in August 2004 against India in Leverkusen and has gone on to captain the side 111 times – the most in Irish history – having taken on the role from Paddy Brown in 2008 until 2013.
Speaking ahead of the tie, the Clonskeagh man said he is “very proud” to be on the cusp of this major milestone.
“It is truly great to be this close to reaching 200 caps,” he said. “Number of caps is far from the primary goal of a player, and I am no different. However it is a super milestone to reach and I will very much enjoy the moment when it comes.”
Fittingly, Gormley will hit the 200-mark at his adopted home club. He was initially at secondary school in England before returning to Ireland where he won a schools senior league title with Sandford Park while also linking up with Pembroke Wanderers.
With the Dublin 4 club, he won every title on the Irish calendar before furthering his career on mainland Europe, first with Club de Campo in Spain and then, for the past three seasons with Krefeld in Germany – the venue for Monday’s match.
“It is fantastic to have the opportunity to play number 200 at Krefeld. It is a family club that has really looked after me since I arrived and I am delighted to be able to share it with the Irish squad.
“Special mention must go to the club President Dirk Wellen who has not only supported me but also the Irish Men’s team – Dirk’s company Rondo Food was a key contributor prior to the Champions Challenge in Argentina in 2012.”
He sees the tie as a particularly important one in the build-up to June’s all-important World League 3. It is Ireland’s first fixture since winning World League 2 in San Diego and marks the start of their preparations in earnest after the conclusion of the club season for the majority of the squad.
“This series is very important to kick start our preparations. The German squad have played a number of matches against GB and Argentina so they are hitting their peak before they travel to their own World League 3 tournament in Argentina.
“Four days away together against this standard of opposition is ideal for us to connect again quickly and make strong progress as a team.
“We are in good condition going by last weekend’s training in Dublin and with foreign based players – involved in key league, cup and play-off matches - coming back in we will be powerful as a group.”
Coach Fulton agrees with Gormley about the importance of the upcoming series while also paying to tribute to a player he coached both at Pembroke and, in the past 18 months, as Irish boss.
“This will be a good test of where we are at as a squad and playing the current Olympic and Champions Trophy winners is always a good challenge.
“It is also a fitting occasion that Ronan Gormley will reach his 200th International cap against Germany. It is a tribute to his commitment and longevity playing at the highest level and he continues to get better as a leader and an Irish senior player of which we are all really proud of. Here is to his next 50 caps!”
Gormley, meanwhile, concluded by paying tribute to the support he received from his nearest and dearest for helping reach this point while also said that the coaching received over his career has been a massive factor in developing his game.
“My father instilled in me a need to be persistent in everything I want achieve and my mother, sister and girlfriend have been ever present on the sidelines supporting me.
“I am lucky to have had a number of brilliant coaches – the late Tony Smith, my first school coach in England, and Paul Revington were both truly world class.
“Craig has coached me at club and country and his passion and energy are infectious – it is an environment that makes you want to continue!”
The first tie against Germany will also see Gormley’s former Pembroke club mate Alan Sothern will hit the 100-cap mark, the 29th Irish player to do so. David Harte is not part of this panel due to the Dutch championship semi-finals over the weekend with Kampong currently a leg up on Bloemendaal in their best of three series.
Shane O’Donoghue, though, will conclude his first season in Belgium with Dragons in the grand final against Royal Leopold before linking up with the Irish panel.
The team travel on Saturday and return on Tuesday evening. Ireland will have a further training weekend on May 15th to 17th in Dublin after which coach Fulton will name his squad for a series against France for May 22nd to 24th. Following this, the selection will be made for World League 3.
Ireland senior men’s panel (to travel to Krefeld, Germany from May 9-12): Jonny Bell (Lisnagarvey), Jonny Bruton (TRR), Drew Carlisle (Banbridge), Peter Caruth (Monkstown), Chris Cargo (Racing Club de Bruxelles), Timmy Cockram (Lisnagarvey), Mitch Darling (TRR), Stephen Dowds (Banbridge), David Fitzgerald (Monkstown), Paul Gleghorne (Instonians), Ronan Gormley (Krefeld), Conor Harte (Racing Club de Bruxelles), John Jackson (Reading), Stuart Loughrey (Cannock), Eugene Magee (Banbridge), Shane O’Donoghue (Dragons), Michael Robson (Annadale), Kirk Shimmins (UCD), Alan Sothern (Racing Club de Bruxelles), Stephen West (TRR)
Monday, May 11: Germany vs Ireland, 6.30pm, Krefeld
Tuesday, May 12: Germany vs Ireland, 3.30pm, Krefeld