Ireland’s Men’s National Head Coach Dave Passmore has announced his squad of 18 players to compete in the Eurohockey Nations Championship in Manchester, 19-26 August 2007.

Passmore has selected an experienced squad, with 15 of the 18 selected having competing in the World Cup Qualifiers in Changzhou in April 2006. Four players have over 100 caps (Paddy Brown, Mark Irwin, Stephen Butler and Graham Shaw) and a further eight over 50.

Eugene Magee is selected for his first major competition after strong performance over the last twelve months, as is talented young defender Tim Lewis. Passmore has given the goalkeeping nod to Mark Ruddle after his impressive displays in the recent Setanta Sports Trophy and to Pembroke Wanderers’ David Harte.

“David has demonstrated his ability in the latter stages of the program and has a mature head,” said Passmore. “It was a close decision and Gareth Lennox was unlucky to miss out having made good progress this year.  The keepers we have selected give us a combination of styles.

Experienced defender Jason Black is unavailable for selection for personal reasons.

“Jason is a big loss because of his experience at this level,” commented Passmore. “He is also pivotal at our attacking and defensive corners. It will mean other players such as Tim Lewis have to step up to the mark.”

Coach Passmore still has some injury concerns and Gareth Lennox, Conor Harte, Michael Watt and Geoff McCabe have all been named as reserves if the named 18 do not make it to full fitness. Karl Burns (back), Paddy Brown (foot), Iain Lewers (hip) and Mark Gleghorne (back) are all also either nursing or recuperating from niggling injuries. But of key concern is a dislocated finger injury sustained by Phelie Maguire during a series of training games against the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) last weekend. The injury leaves him doubtful, but Passmore will wait as long as possible on making a decision as he has been in excellent recent form.

“Phelie only has an outside chance of being fit but we will stand by him at this stage as he has been playing really well and his season in Holland is really noticeable,” said Passmore.

Despite Maguire’s injury, Passmore was pleased to have had more practice matches last weekend at the level and tempo his players will face against Europe’s best in two weeks time.

“Just about everything was thrown at us during last weekend and we kept having to think out of the box,” said Passmore. “The lads showed real resilience despite all the changes.”

“I was not too concerned about the results as the AIS are a good side and regularly get good results against higher ranking nations than ourselves.  However, it was a shame that we didn’t get the opportunity to compete at full strength. We will use our final weekend’s training to sharpen our set pieces and key tactical strategies for the group matches.”

“This is a very important tournament for the squad particularly with the Olympic qualifier on the horizon early next year,” said Ireland Team Manager Steven Hiles. “We have a good blend of youth and experience and all but three of the players having played in a major tournament before which should stand them in good stead.”
“Hopefully, we can rely again on a strong Irish support over in Manchester given its proximity and easy access to Ireland,” he continued. “This has always been an important factor for both the men’s and women’s squads in the past and something the players really appreciate.”

The Ireland squad of 18 players is as follows:

Mark Ruddle, Patrick Brown, Karl Burns, Ronan Gormley, Stephen Butler, Mark Gleghorne, Mark Irwin, John Jermyn, Eugene Magee, Graham Shaw, David Hobbs, Andy Barbour, Mark Black, Timothy Cockram; Phelie Maguire, Iain Lewers, Tim Lewis, David Harte.

Source: Irish Hockey Association