Luke Madeley is the bolter in the Irish men’s squad named for World Cup which gets underway in late November in India after his confirmation in the 20-player panel named by new coach Alexander Cox.
It will be the Three Rock Rovers man’s first world ranking tournament and follows a memorable month in which he fired home a crucial late goal for his club to advance in the Euro Hockey League ahead of Spain’s Junior FC.
Cox said he “would be lying” if he said that moment did not impact on his decision but said it was not decisive, adding it was part of an overall improvement in his game.
“He is still young but he has the body of a real mature player; he is strong and became fitter than what we was a couple of months,” Cox told The Hook.
“This was one of the things the previous staff told him that he needed and he improved on that. He has got a high ball, a good corner and what I like is he is willing to learn. If you give him information or tactical stuff, he tries to implement it in his game and has made good progress.
“I would be lying if I said it didn’t make an impact but it was not the decisive factor. It was positive to see him step up when needed, scoring a goal in the last seconds. It means he is able to perform when it is really needed, something we need at the World Cup.”
He comes into an experienced back-line with Olympians Jonathan Bell, Conor Harte and Paul Gleghorne in front of David Harte as well as Matthew Bell, Lee Cole and Stu Loughrey.
The other big call sees Jonny McKee miss out in the forward line. Up top, Mitch Darling returns after an extended break after Rio to join established faces Eugene Magee and Alan Sothern along with Matthew Nelson and Jeremy Duncan.
“It was a tough decision as he did a good job in the camps,” Cox said of McKee’s omission. “The info I gave him to improve on for the next squads after the World Cup is he needs to get more outcomes from his attacking skills.
“He has good skills up to the 25 and the circle but, as an attacker, you want outcomes – goal shots, penalty corners etc. If I compare him to other attackers selected, at this point, they are ahead.”
The midfield features Kirk Shimmins, Shane O’Donoghue, Chris Cargo and Michael Robson who were all involved in Rio. Daragh Walsh and Sean Murray are also selected in this area.
On the goalkeeping front, David Fitzgerald edges out Jamie Carr as number two and main support for David Harte.
All 20 will travel to the event with the 18 front-line players and two reserves to be confirmed following an intensive preparation tournament in Valencia which starts on Monday.
There, Ireland will play five games in seven days, ramping up their preparations with ties against England, Spain and the Netherlands.
They will be the first official ties with Cox on the sidelines in his role but they have played a series of training games with the Netherlands in recent times. He took over the job in August following Craig Fulton’s decision to leave the coach’s role in favour of being the Belgian assistant coach.
Since then, the squad has held a series of two-day camps, initially in Lisnagarvey and then in the Netherlands at Papendaal and Kampong. During these camps, the side played a lot of 11 v 11 games as well as playing short, sharp games against the Dutch, sometimes simultaneously over two fields.
He initially called up 28 players until Peter Caruth withdrew from the squad. John Jackson also found it tough to make himself available for camps, something which saw Cox rule him out of the World Cup.
It gave the Dutchman a small insight into some of the extra issues to manage in the Irish context compared to when he was involved with the Oranje setup.
“When I came in, I asked all the players to be fully committed ‘within reason’. The within reason is because some guys have work so we take that into consideration.
“In the end, John wasn’t available for enough of the camps. Peter Caruth also stepped down. All the rest were able to make all the camps and practices of the programme. John was only really available for the tournament and that is not enough so I couldn’t select him.
“It’s a pity because he is an experienced player and he has the quality to be in the group but leading up to a World Cup, it’s not fair. When you are building a team, you need to be there.
“Other than that, it’s not actually been that difficult because all the players are very willing. The programme we put in place is all within reason. The guys who play in the German, Dutch and Belgian leagues have a tough schedule so we can’t train three or four days a week. But nor do the Dutch – they train Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday. We only lose one day compared to that.
“All the guys, even those who work, were willing to commit to the programme so I cannot complain at all about that.”
For now, he is looking forward to his first formal international matches in charge, something of a tricky one to manage as they play the Dutch next Monday and then quickfire games against Spain and England.
“The Valencia tournament is the most important one for now. We play the Netherlands on Monday already; they have had a week off since the Dutch league finished. The Belgian and German-based guys stll have games next weekend – some with two.
— Ireland Men's Hockey (@IreMenHockey) October 23, 2018
“They only fly in Sunday evening and then we play on Monday so the first real test is a physical and mental one.”
Elsewhere at the squad announcement, Turkish Airlines were confirmed as the team sponsor for the World Cup.
Hasan Mutlu, Turkish Airlines General Manager for Ireland, commented: “We are delighted to be announcing Turkish Airlines as the sponsorship partner for Ireland’s men’s hockey team.
“This is a momentous day for both organisations as we cement our relationship we can clearly see the immense potential for this team on the international stage. We are delighted to support them in their every success as the men’s hockey World Cup in India comes closer into view.”
Irish men’s squad for Hockey World Cup (November 28 – December 16, 2018; Bhubaneswar, India): David Harte (SV Kampong), David Fitzgerald (Monkstown), Jonathan Bell (Lisnagarvey), Paul Gleghorne (HTC Crefeld), Luke Madeley (Three Rock Rovers), Conor Harte (Racing Club de Bruxelles), Stuart Loughrey (Reading), Matthew Bell (HTC Crefeld), Lee Cole (Oree), Shane O’Donoghue (KHC Dragons), Michael Robson (HTC Crefeld), Kirk Shimmins (KHC Dragons), Sean Murray (HC Rotterdam), Chris Cargo (Hampstead & Westminster), Daragh Walsh (Three Rock Rovers), Matthew Nelson (Lisnagarvey), Mitch Darling (Three Rock Rovers), Eugene Magee (Banbridge), Alan Sothern (La Gantoise), Jeremy Duncan (Herakles)
Four Nations Tournament (Valencia, Spain)
October 29: Ireland vs Netherlands, 4.30pm
October 30: Ireland vs Spain, 6.30pm
November 1: Ireland vs England, 4.30pm
November 3/4 : classification games