Ross Canning and Ronan Gormley will become the first Irish players to take part in the Pro Series Indoor (PSi) exhibition matches as part of a “World All Stars” line-up to take on the South African national team in Cape Town.
It is part of the PSi nationals weekend with four challenge matches taking place over the course of the competition. Among the other guest stars in South Africa this week are 2015 Indoor World Cup champions Laurens Goedegebuure, Sjoerd de Wert, Teun Rohof, Nicki Leijs and captain Robert Tigges as well as German legend Benjamin Wess.
For Canning, it was an opportunity too good to turn down although it is one that almost that slipped him by.
“I had shut down my Facebook account for exams,” he said. “The message only came through when I turned it back on a week or two later!”
Once he finally read the message, there was little chance of turning down the offer. The Three Rock Rovers man has been more embedded than most in the indoor game.
His father Liam was a top exponent of the boards, regularly playing in the top tier Europe with Avoca back in the late 80s and early 90s when Ireland took the format more seriously.
With Rovers, he played and coached the team to five Tony Byrne Cup wins with Ross playing in the 2011, 2012 and 2017 successes.
“He always had me up there so from pretty much as soon as I was 15, I was playing indoor,” Ross said of his father’s influence before adding that indoor has had a strong influence on outdoor success with Three Rock.
The 2008 indoor victory fed into their run to All-Ireland club championships; another indoor victory last January preceded their EY Champions Trophy victory.
“If you look at the years we have been successful indoor, it has followed that we have gone on to do well outdoors so there is a symbiotic relationship between the two at Rovers.
“There is a lot of benefits from doing well indoor, getting that confidence up, playing close games which can change in an instant and helps build that knowledge and confidence that you can always come back and win a game no matter the circumstances.
“When the weather gets bad and we can miss training sessions – especially at Rovers which seems to freeze a lot – we know that we will always have an intense session each week.”
Looking at the PSi All-Stars series, he anticipates it will be a major step up from the regular indoor matches on the Irish scene.
“I will try and keep it simple and hold my own and am sure I will get more used to it as it goes on. There is a serious quality of player there and so it is a step up from what we play in Ireland but it is an awesome opportunity. Watching the videos from South Africa, I also think it will be something really special for hockey in Ireland next year when it come in!”
Three Rock and Railway Union are in Norway this weekend to play in an eight-team indoor tournament. Rovers are in a group with Poland’s WKS Grunwald Poznan, Team Hamburg and Norway’s MASK.
Railway will play against French club Lille Metropole and Norwegian outfits Kringsja and Furuset.
Rovers will feature Irish outdoor internationals Luke Madeley, Daragh Walsh and Ben Walker – playing in his first formal indoor game – with Jody Hosking the pivot in midfield.
Coach Liam Canning says it is a key trip ahead of the EuroHockey Club Challenge II in February in Tbilisi.
“It’s key for us to get a few more players used to tournament hockey, used to different styles and thinking on their feet. It also allows us to play without worry of making mistakes and to learn with the ultimate aim of travelling to Georgia in the new year and getting Ireland promotion back up a tier.”