Mark Tumilty says he is keen to seeing his Ireland side getting back to deploying players in their regular positions as he announced his Olympic qualifiers panel to meet Canada on October 26 and 27.
In so doing, he has made six changes to the 18 for August’s Europeans with David Harte, David Fitzgerald, Chris Cargo, Jonny McKee, Matthew Nelson and Peter Caruth all coming in.
Stephen Cole and Ben Walker will be travelling reserves for the two-game series while Mark Ingram, Kirk Shimmins, Paul Gleghorne and Jamie Carr – who sustained a knee injury against England – are not included.
The most obvious change will be the use of players in positions they are more accustomed to with Sean Murray and Michael Robson likely to be used in midfield roles rather than being used as auxiliary forwards.
That opens the door for both Caruth and McKee to return for first world ranking games in over two years. With Nelson also returning, it gives the forward line some serious pace to work with.
“We want to have people playing in their regular positions so we have selected full-backs as full-backs and centre backs as centre backs,” Tumilty said of the squad named.
“That was something me and [assistant coach] Jason Lee were clear on when we first met the group. It is hard enough playing international hockey and then try and adapt to new positions. So I am happy with the squad – I think there is a good balance and shape about it.”
Welcoming back Caruth and McKee, he added: “Peter has been excellent since he came back in, particularly after so much time away with injury. He brings real pace and an intelligence to the forwards and is also a really positive person to have around the squad.
“John is another one who had his issues with illness and injury over the last year or so. He was excellent in the second game against the French, he’s hungry and gives us an energy and focus.”
He can also call on Cargo to bring experience to the midfield, returning after work commitments ruled him out of much of this year’s calendar to date. He captained Hampstead & Westminster to a memorable win over Dutch club HGC last weekend in the Euro Hockey League.
In the EHL’s history, English teams have beaten Dutch sides just three times – Cargo has been present on each occasion, twice with Reading in 2011 and 2013.
“Chris’s style of play is the style we want to be playing. With his penalty corner pull-out and his vast experience, he brings a lot to the side, especially with a very young midfield with Daragh [Walsh], Sean [Murray] and Michael [Robson], and he understands that role.”
20 days and counting! Canada gets set to host Ireland in a two-game Olympic Qualifying series at home in West Vancouver, BC.— Field Hockey Canada (@FieldHockeyCan) October 6, 2019
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The tournament comes too soon for Luke Madeley following his foot injury while Walker and Cole will travel as cover with Eugene Magee the main issue.
He suffered a hamstring tear in club action for Banbridge against Three Rock Rovers but it is not as severe as originally feared and Tumilty says the 293-time international is “definitely worth taking a gamble on”.
He will not be risked, though, in their final warm-up game against Belgium on October 15 in Wavre. The side will fly out to Canada a day later to acclimitise to conditions.
Irish senior men for Olympic qualifiers (West Vancouver, Canada; October 26th and 27th): David Harte (SV Kampong), David Fitzgerald (Monkstown), Lee Cole (Oree), Conor Harte (Racing Club de Bruxelles), Jonathan Bell (Lisnagarvey), Stuart Loughrey (Reading), John Jackson (Bath Buccaneers), Tim Cross (Tilburg), Daragh Walsh (KHC Leuven), Sean Murray (HC Rotterdam), Chris Cargo (Hampstead & Westminster), Shane O’Donoghue (KHC Dragons), Michael Robson (Crefelder HTC), Eugene Magee (Banbridge), John McKee (Banbridge), Matthew Nelson (Lisnagarvey), Jeremy Duncan (Oree), Peter Caruth (Corinthian)