Three Rock Rovers’ Peter Blakeney – along with Mitch Darling – is just one of two members of the club’s last EHL experience back in 2008/09 but while he was part of the first Irish side to reach the KO16, he says he is the last person to ask about his memories of it.
They meet French side Saint Germain in the KO16 on Saturday morning, now hoping to be the first Irish side to reach the KO8 of the competition. It is probably the best draw they could have received but they meet a French side packed with players who helped the country reach the 2018 World Cup.
For TRR, there is a bit of nostalgia to it. Back then, they reached the KO16 with two draws, first 0-0 against Atletic Terrassa and then 1-1 against KHC Leuven with Blakeney scoring the crucial goal.
“I can’t really remember too much of it to be honest!” he told the EHL website. “The first game, we were completely out-played by Atletic and just about held on.
“The second game was the same until they went ahead but when we got that goal, it was jubilation and a major chance of going through. There was potential it was going to a shoot-out so I couldn’t even go for beers!
“Once that went out the window, it was straight into the stands and the songs began.”
Blakeney admits himself he is coming to the end of a varied career, one in which he won the Italian title with HC Roma as well as the AHL in Australia with the West Australia Thundersticks. He also played in the Under-19 Cricket World Cup before hockey took over in college.
Back in 2008/09, Blakeney was one of the young firebrands; this time he is one of the elder statesmen though he reckons you would not know it.
He is one of only a couple of players in the panel aged over 23 with six Irish Under-21 players in the line-up. The majority of the side came up through the youth system with 14 of the travelling panel of 20 rising the ranks.
Does he consider himself a mentor to the young guns?
“I doubt it! Maybe to a degree but hockey is unique in that you can play to a high level but still be working full time. The priorities from work to hockey fluctuate.
“At EHL time before, I was in and around the national team. Now because I am at the twilight of my hockey career, it becomes a priority again because I recognise there is only a season or two left. Being involved in the team is really rewarding and you want to make sure you give it your all.
“I have played in the club since I was very young. Sometimes you question is it my time to still be sticking around or should I be hanging up the stick? But it’s the events like the EHL, when you start getting to that level and competing, they add that reward for all the hard work and it means a lot.”
As for the opponents on Saturday, what does he make of the challenge of Saint Germain? “I am the worst person to ask! I don’t think I have watched a hockey match in my life. Ask Mitch Darling that question!”