UCD start their EuroHockey Club Cup challenge on Thursday afternoon with one of the toughest possible draws, taking on Dutch giants AH&BC Amsterdam in Surbiton in the quarter-final stage.
Upset the odds and they will go through to a semi-final on Saturday; lose and they will face a fifth to eighth place playoff on Friday, both times the next opponent being one of the German sides, Mannheimer HC and UHC Hamburg.
As such, it is a big ask for Miles Warren’s side but he says UCD are in a good place to hit their own internal targets this weekend in London following success in both the EY Hockey League and the Irish Senior Cup.
“Looking at the season as a whole, it was a huge success; we were obviously disappointed not to win the Champions Trophy at the end but fair play to Loreto for beating us on the day.
“Winning the league by a new record total of points was a big source of pride for us, conceding less than 10 goals in an 18-match league is also an achievement that will be very hard to better and to win the ISC final by four goals was very satisfying.
“When you look at those points and the fact that we only lost two matches all season in Irish competitions, we are extremely proud of what we have done.”
The tie against Amsterdam will be another level, though. 1999 was the last year anyone outside the Netherlands has won the top European competition with Amsterdam having won the title 13 times.
They finished runners-up last week in their national competition to Den Bosch – who are also in London – and bring an array of superstars like Eva de Goede, Anne Veenendaal, Kitty van Male, Kelly Jonker, Lauren Stam and German hard-hitter Julia Muller while Marijn Veen is a definite one to watch for the future.
“Amsterdam are probably one of the top two club teams in the world so we are aware of the massive challenge we face,” Warren says of the tie.
“They have no real weaknesses which you would expect from a team loaded with Dutch senior and Under-21 internationals, they will look to put us under a massive amount of pressure from the start but we will stick to our plan and hopefully create a few chances of our own.
“We have prepared well by playing matches against male opposition which forced us to defend for extended periods of time and to prepare for the very direct running and attacking game that Amsterdam and the German teams will pose for us.
“We are realistic about what we can achieve and have set our goals accordingly while still looking to surpass expectations.”
They travel at full strength with support from the college with whom the sports department and academic faculties have worked together in moving exams around to free players up.
“It is any players dream to represent your club in Europe and to be fortunate enough to be doing it in the A division against the best clubs in the world is a massive privilege. We will; be going out their as best prepared as possible and hopefully make ourselves and UCD proud.”
Like all Irish clubs who play in European competition, serious fundraising has been undertaken/
“The players have put in a massive amount of effort on and off the pitch to get to this point and we would not have been able to do it without all the support we have received. I’d like to take this opportunity to thank our sponsors: Bank of Ireland – Montrose branch, Arena Kitchens and UCD Sport.”
Women’s EuroHockey Club Cup, quarter-final (Thursday): UCD vs AH&BC Amsterdam, 2.30pm – live stream on www.eurohockeytv.org