Ireland’s Under-21 men’s indoor side will make their international debut next week when they take on the EuroHockey Championship II in Paredes, Portugal from December 10th to 12th.
They will compete in a seven-team round-robin tournament with Croatia, Ukraine, Belarus, Denmark, Wales and hosts Portugal with two potential promotion places on offer.
It is part of Ireland’s continued return to international indoor action following the senior men and women coming back in late 2019 with the men and women coming on stream this winter.
For coach Kenny Carroll and his support team of Ross Willis, Neil Mackay and Huw Rees, it has been a tricky preparation period with indoor sports only getting the government green light to return in the autumn after the guts of 18 months.
Nonetheless, Carroll – who has lots of European club experience with Railway Union – is thrilled at the prospect of entering this new realm.
“The European Under-21 men’s indoor championships have been held since 1982 and this is the first time Ireland has entered it,” the head coach said.
“It goes without saying that preparation has been challenging but that is what International sport is all about, and the teams and players who adapt and learn the quickest do well.
“We have a good mix of players with different skills and experiences up to now in the squad which is important for Indoor hockey. There are a lot of talented and exciting young hockey players across Ireland and the players selected have an opportunity to see how high a level of performance we can reach together at a competitive European Championship.
“I would like to commend all players involved since the start of the programme on their commitment so far. The six other competing nations will all provide a very stern test, something which we are all really looking forward to.”
The side is captained by Ben O’Grady who brings big physical strength, a powerful ball carry and good communication to the defensive line.
He will be supported on the leadership front by Cookstown’s Jack Haycock who has helped his club reach the final four of the Irish Senior Cup. He has trained with the Ulster-based Irish regional training squad and will likely be the deepest player and distributor.
Outfield, Ben Ryder and Craig Mackay were all part of the Irish Under-19 boys outdoor side that impressed during their summer four nations tournament.
Ollie Kidd – a nephew of ex-international Peter Richardson – is another who has been training with the senior Irish setup and his excellent stickwork allows his to be a key player in the middle of the dice.
Jamie Orr will become North Down’s first current player to line out for Ireland since Peter McKibbin for the Irish Under-16s; an intelligent performer, he is likely to be primarily deployed up front.
Harry McCarthy is another exciting prospect, quick on the ball and excellent in one-on-one elimination spaces. He was an All-Ireland schools and Irish Hockey Trophy winner during his Newtown/Waterford days before moving up to Dublin with YMCA.
Pembroke’s Traolach Butler brings an explosivity to the side and was recently part of the TU Dublin team that won the Mauritius Cup for the first time.
Attack-minded Jake Pillow will make his first appearance in green having played for Leinster underage outdoor teams. He is one of three Railway Union players along with ex-St Kilian’s Deutsche Schule students Louis Murphy and Eoin Brennan.
Murphy is a specialist in the turnover while Brennan is very mobile in goal. He has a very different style to the other netminder, ex-Kilkenny man Ian O’Keeffe who is now plying his trade with HC Oranje-Rood in the Netherlands. He brings a big presence to the circle.
They get their campaign underway on Friday, December 10 with games against Croatia and Ukraine before meeting Belarus and Portugal a day later. Games five and six are on December 12th against Denmark and Wales.
EuroHockey U21 Men Indoor Championship II, Parades, Portugal , December 10-12 2021
- Ben O’Grady (Captain, YMCA)
- Jack Haycock (vice-captain, Cookstown)
- Traoloch Butler (Pembroke Wanderers)
- Ollie Kidd (Lisnagarvey)
- Craig Mackay (Corinthian)
- Harry McCarthy (YMCA)
- Louis Murphy (Railway Union)
- Jamie Orr (North Down)
- Jake Pillow (Railway Union)
- Ben Ryder (Three Rock Rovers)
- Eoin Brennan (Goalkeeper, Railway Union)
- Ian O’Keeffe (GK, HC Oranje Rood (NED))
Manager: Neil Mackay
Head Coach: Kenny Carroll
Coach / Analyst: Ross Willis
Physio: Huw Rees
Fixture schedule (all times local)
Friday 10th December: Ireland v Croatia: 12.15pm; Ireland v Ukraine: 5pm
Saturday 11th December: Ireland v Belarus : 12.30pm; Ireland v Portugal : 6.30pm
Sunday 12th December: Ireland v Denmark : 8.45am; Ireland v Wales : 2pm