Jackson to return while Madeley set for ranking tournament debut

Alexander Cox has rung the changes in the Irish men’s squad for the next stage in the Olympic qualifying process – June’s FIH Series Finals in Le Touquet, France – with six changes from December’s World Cup line-up.

Ireland will be the top ranked side with a top two finish in France assuring them of a ticket to next October’s direct Olympic qualifiers.

John Jackson, 33, is the big name to come back in after the feisty full-back missed the World Cup. He was named in the English conference team of the season for his performances with Bath Buccaneers after a fine campaign.

Jackson makes his comeback alongside Neal Glassey, Ben Walker, Stephen Cole and goalkeeper Jamie Carr. Luke Madeley was a reserve in Delhi but forms part of the main panel but this will represent his first international caps in a ranking event.

On the debit side, Olympian Chris Cargo is unavailable for this tournament but has indicated he is keen to continue on with the side later in the year.

Mitch Darling has since retired while the vastly experienced Alan Sothern, Kirk Shimmins, Stuart Loughrey and David Fitzgerald miss out on selection this time around. Jeremy Duncan is also not included but did enjoy a fine second half of the season after his injury sustained in Delhi, helping Herakles to a third place finish and an EHL place.

It means a number of positional changes are likely, particularly given the annotated positions on the Hockey Ireland announcements.

Among the eye-catching ones, Shane O’Donoghue looks set to be deployed in defence where he has been used for his Belgian club KHC Dragons this term. Matthew Bell is listed in midfield while Sean Murray has been placed in the forwards.

However, coach Cox has hinted there will be plenty of fluidity between the lines, saying: “The selected squad gives me the opportunity to use certain players in multiple lines which I feel is an advantage for us.”

John Jackson returns to the line-up for the first time since July 2018. Pic: Adrian Boehm

The Dutchman will continue to combine the Irish job with his work with SV Kampong; he signed a two-year extension this week ahead of the first leg of their playoff semi-final series on Wednesday afternoon.

David Harte will be part of that Kampong side who only missed out on the Dutch regular season title on goal difference to Bloemendaal. They meet HGC in that best of three series.

Le Touquet will be something of a trip down memory lane for the Harte family. David and Conor both made their debuts at the coastal venue with the latter’s call-up coming at short notice while at his now wife’s debs ball with Dave Passmore giving him his cap a day later in a 3-1 win over the French at the Celtic Cup. For good measure, their sister Emer also made her debut at that tournament.

In the lead up to the FIH Series Finals, the men will play host to the USA and France with international matches scheduled against the USA on May 24 and 26, and against France on June 4 and 5.

There will also be an open training session for media and fans to attend on Friday, May 31 in Lisnagarvey Hockey Club, from 4pm to 5.30pm.

Ireland men’s squad for FIH Series Finals (June 15-23, Le Touquet, France): David Harte (SV Kampong), Jamie Carr (Three Rock Rovers), Conor Harte (Racing Club de Bruxelles), Jonathan Bell (Lisnagarvey), John Jackson (Bath Buccaneers), Luke Madeley (Three Rock Rovers), Lee Cole (Oree), Paul Gleghorne (Crefelder HTC), Shane O’Donoghue (KHC Dragons), Stephen Cole (Oree), Daragh Walsh (Three Rock Rovers), Neal Glassey (Lisnagarvey), Matthew Bell (Crefelder HTC), Sean Murray (HC Rotterdam), Eugene Magee (Banbridge), Matthew Nelson (Lisnagarvey), Ben Walker (Three Rock Rovers), Michael Robson (Crefelder HTC)

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