Haughton ready for Euro elite

by Gazette Reporter
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THREE Rock Rovers captain Ali Haughton is looking forward to leading his club out in front of a fervent home support next weekend as they host the EuroHockey Club Champions Trophy from May 22nd to May 25.

Eight of Europe’s top sides will battle it out for the title, the second highest level of club competition on the continent at the Grange Road venue in Rathfarnham.

Teams from Scotland, Italy, Wales, Azerbaijan, Ukraine, Belarus and the Czech Republic are in the mix with potential promotion to the presitigious Euro Hockey League on the line.

Speaking about the upcoming tournament, the 28-year-old Haughton – now in his 11th season with the club’s first team – cannot wait to take the field next Friday in their opening group game against Ukraine champions OKS SHSVM at 5.45pm.

“It is a fantastic honour to be involved with our exciting young team and an added bonus to be captain,” he said in the build-up to the event.

In addition, Three Rock will meet the recently crowned Scottish champions Grange on Saturday and Belarus top dogs SC Stroitel Brest on Sunday. Top spot in the group will earn a place in next Monday’s final, the clear target for Haughton and his Rovers’ team.

“It will be a highly entertaining tournament for spectators and we know it will be a big challenge. Several of teams played against our rivals, Monkstown, last season at the same level of competition in Italy so we will be aware as to how they will play.

“Our main focus is to concentrate on our tactics and to get them right each day of tournament play.”

The hosts feature a side with a mix of experience with Irish internationals Mitch Darling, Stephen West, Joe Brennan, Ross Canning, Peter Blakeney and Jonny Bruton – who scored twice against Olympic champions Germany earlier this week – augmented by South African capped Jody Hosking.

The extended squad also features several Irish underage internationals, including 17-year-old Daragh Walsh who played in the Under-21 Europeans last summer.

And Haughton says the blend is working well together to make a big impact in what is Three Rock’s first European outdoor appearance since 2009 when they reached the KO16 of the EuroHockey League.

“All the players are eager at this stage to start the opening game vs the Ukrainians. Our build-up has included some tough sessions that have been setup to replicate the tight turnover schedule of four games in as many days.

“I am confident and very much looking forward to showing what we can do and hope that we can leave a lasting impression in the history of this tournament.”

Food and music will be on in the clubhouse with the tournament ending with a hog-roast on Monday evening after the medals ceremony. Entry is free for Under-18s while adult tickets begin from €5.

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