Rovers’ Barcelona opponents known but Euro indoor tournament cancelled

Three Rock Rovers found out one leg of their European season but also had a disappointment with the news they will not have a Euro indoor competition to look forward to in 2019.

Rovers were drawn in Pool D of the Euro Hockey League where they have been grouped with Spanish debutants Junior FC and Racing Club de France for ROUND1 which takes place from October 5-7 in Barcelona.

TRR’s Daragh Walsh in action in the EHL against Saint Germain. Pic: Frank Uijlenbroek/World Sport Pics

It means they avoid heavy hitters like HC Oranje-Rood and Germany’s Mannheimer HC who have Argentinean superstar Gonzalo Peillat in their armoury.

Junior, though, do have serious quality accumulated in recent times with Spanish skipper Sergi Enrique and Gabriel Dabanch – an EHL winner with Oranje Zwart in 2015 – in their line-up.

Indeed, they only missed out on their national title in a controversial shoot-out in June at the hands of Real Club de Polo.

Racing Club de France are a seasoned EHL side, too, reaching the KO8 two years ago when they survived a Banbridge onslaught to eventually win a shoot-out in Eindhoven.

They feature former Rover Ali Haughton in the line-up but long-term injuries to Simon Martin-Brisac and Jean-Laurent Kieffer could see them shy some of their firepower. Three Rock bowed out at the hands of French opposition – Saint Germain – last season but will hope the experience of last Easter will stand to them.

A strong performance is likely to be important with the news that the EHL will reduce from 24 to 20 teams for the 2019/20 season, making the margins for Irish inclusion that bit tighter.

The competition will also see the cancelation of the two-for-one deal on field goals with every goal reverting back to normality following feedback from fans, players, umpires and coaches.

On the indoor front, however, Rovers’ hard work in gaining promotion in Europe may go unrewarded with the cancelation of the EuroHockey Indoor Challenge I event next February.

This is because none of the teams in the competition were either able or willing to host the competition. Hosting rights were also offered to the highest ranked team from Challenge but to no avail.

From Three Rock’s perspective, their most used venue at St Columba’s is unsuitable for hosting a tournament of this magnitude with limited run-off space around the pitch.

The club approached the National Basketball Arena, Gormanston Park and Abbotstown but all were booked out for the assigned tournament weekend. An alternative date was sought but the international calendar does not allow for the move in dates.

The EHF said that one team will be relegated from the competition for 2020 from the third tier but this will be from Wales, meaning the Irish place is safe at that level for another year.

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