Three Rock crew part of historic return to Euro scene

by Stephen Findlater

THREE Rock Rovers trio Ross Canning, Harry Morris and Mark English and former club man Stephen West – now with Bath in England – form a large part of the Irish indoor hockey squad that will play internationally for the first time since 1987 next week.

In so doing, Canning follows in his father Liam’s footsteps. The elder Canning lined out in that last international in Loughlinstown, providing a direct link between the two teams.

This year’s vintage face Wales on Friday, January 15 in the first of their EuroHockey Championship III contests before going on to face hosts Spain, Scotland and Slovenia. Irish coach Kenny Carroll says his side has not had an “ideal preparation” but things are coming together nicely for their campaign.

Carroll – a graduate of Oatlands College in Stillorgan – has been a long-term practitioner of the short-form of the game, playing for Railway Union in Euro club action five times, but admitted he “never thought this would come around”.

He is also a regional development officer for Hockey Ireland and says that it is a format to be embraced.

“I personally feel in Ireland and worldwide, if you are going to grow the game, you have to do it through indoor hockey,” he said.

“It’s great getting new [astro outdoor] pitches laid but it will never be a groundbreaking number. What we do have all over is indoor sports halls.

“In bad weather, you can always play. In new schools, new areas which maybe don’t have a hockey tradition, it’s so much easier to start up.”

For the top end players, meanwhile, he says it is a brilliant development tool with far more decisions to be made in a condensed space with increased requirements on a high level of close skills.

It is for this reason that elite countries like Belgium and the Netherlands have recently ramped up their allocation of time and resources to indoor.

For the Euros, the guts of Carroll’s panel took in group sessions on Saturday and Sunday in addition to most playing in Leinster league games.

Neal Glassey and John Jackson, however, were not able to attend due to club commitments in Germany and England, respectively. Nonetheless, Carroll is content with the work his panel have done over the past six weeks.

“The reality is you will never have an ideal preparation but we haven’t done too badly.

“But you can’t really say we are going to aim for this position or whatever because we don’t know the opposition.”

His side will feature seven Irish outdoor internationals along with long-time Dublin resident Rowland Rixon-Fuller who previously lined out for Zimbabwe outdoors up until 2015 but has been cleared to transfer. Jackson is the marquee name having played over 200 times for the outdoor national team.

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