Conor Harte back for Green Machine’s World Cup bid

Conor Harte has overcome a knock to take up a place in the Irish men’s squad for July’s Hockey World League Semi-final tournament in Johannesburg, the main qualifier for the 2018 World Cup.

The double-centurion missed last weekend’s brilliant performances at the Hamburg Masters but has been passed fit to be a key part of the defence in South Africa.

He will form part of an experienced defensive line-up though Ronan Gormley – an ever-present for world ranking tournaments for the last decade – is a rare absentee due to work commitments.

In total, there are four changes from March’s World League Round 2 with Olympians John Jackson and Alan Sothern providing excellent additions having returned to the panel after a six-month break after Rio.

Sothern scored in all three ties, raising his international scoring tally to 74, second only to John Jermyn’s 91 and current squad mate Shane O’Donoghue.

That shows the potency in the forward line along with rising star John McKee who proved crucial in pulling the strings, notching several assists.

Stu Loughrey and Stephen Cole are back in for their first world ranking tournament for a number of years. They edge out Lee Cole and Daragh Walsh in the final selection for places in defence and midfield, respectively.

On the debit side, Olympic duo Michael Robson and Peter Caruth are both out injured for the summer while Kirk Shimmins is unavailable for this tournament, too.

Ireland will travel out to the tournament that starts on July 9th in great shape, winning 11 of their last 12 matches and have lost just once in 16 games in 2017 to date.

That culminated in a brilliant 4-2 win over 2016 Olympic bronze medalists Germany on Sunday to win the Masters event, adding to victories over Spain (4-1) and Austria (7-2).

Conor Harte is an important returnee for the Irish senior men. Pic: Adrian Boehm

In Johannesburg, Ireland need to finish in the top five from the ten-team event to be guaranteed a ticket to the 2018 World Cup. However, a finish as low as seventh should be good enough for Ireland – barring miracles in Oceania and the Americas – given how the other World League semi-final tournament panned out in London last week.

Ireland – at ninth in the world – are the fifth highest ranked side in their competition and will fancy wins against Egypt and South Africa – in the opening game on July 9 – in the group stages. Belgium and Germany are the top ranked sides.

Speaking about the squad and upcoming tournament, coach Craig Fulton said: “We are looking forward to World League in Johannesburg, the obvious goal for us is to qualify for the World Cup and finish as high as possible in the tournament.

“The selected team has a nice blend of youth and experience, and the whole squad has been working really hard to get to this point. The team is in a good place and we’re looking forward to our preparation in South Africa next week.”

Ireland (Hockey World League Semi-final, July 9-23): D Harte (GK, SV Kampong), Jamie Carr (GK, Three Rock Rovers), J Jackson (Bath Buccaneers), J Bell (Lisnagarvey), M Bell (Banbridge), C Cargo (Hampstead & Westminster), M Nelson (Lisnagarvey), A Sothern (Pembroke), E Magee (Banbridge), N Glassey (Lisnagarvey), S O’Donoghue (Glenanne), S Murray (Lisnagarvey), J McKee (Banbridge), P Gleghorne (Lisnagarvey), J Duncan (Herakles), C Harte (Racing Club de Bruxelles), S Loughrey (Hampstead & Westminster), S Cole (Monkstown)

Hockey World League semi-final
Pool A: Australia (2), New Zealand (8), Spain (10), Japan (16), France (17)
Pool B: Germany (3), Belgium (5), Ireland (9), South Africa (15), Egypt (19)

July 9: Ireland vs South Africa, 6pm
July 11: Ireland vs Belgium, 6pm
July 13: Ireland vs Egypt, 12pm
July 17: Ireland vs Germany, 4pm
July 19: Quarter-finals
July 21: Semi-finals; 5th-8th playoffs
July 23: Final, classification matches

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