Garvey boys on road to Rio

Jonny Bell, Lisnagarvey. Pic by Rowland White / PressEye
Jonny Bell, Lisnagarvey. Pic by Rowland White / PressEye

Lisnagarvey duo Jonny Bell and Paul Gleghorne have been named in the Ireland squad for the final series of Olympic qualifiers in Belgium which starts later this month.

The tournament will run from June 20 to July 5, with the Irish taking on Malaysia (June 25), China (June 26) and Belgium (June 28), following their opener against Great Britain on June 23.

Garvey new boy Gleghorne is in line to face his brother Mark in Ireland’s opener against Britain.

Mark Gleghorne is among three former Ireland internationals who have been named in the British squad for the World League 3 campaign, which is the final Olympic qualifiers. Ireland need a top-three finish in the competition to be guaranteed a place in Rio although a top-six spot could eventually prove enough to book their Olympic passage.

Garvey’s Jonny Bell said he was looking forward to beginning the tournament.

“I’m feeling good,” Bell said. “We’ve had intensive preparation ever since San Diego. We finished the club season and since then we’ve had a lot of fixtures against teams from Germany, France and Belgium.

“They were maybe not always the right results, but you can see the improvement in our performances and hopefully we will just be hitting our straps in time for Belgium.

“San Diego was a good platform to build from. Our goal off the back of that would be Olympic qualification. It’s hard to say where we will need to finish up to qualify, but if we win our crossover match that should be enough to get through.

“I’ve never participated in the Olympics, this would be the first time for Ireland to reach the Olympics so we are dealing with uncharted waters.

“It will be challenging and tough, most of the players are full time athletes, but we have put a massive amount of work in,” he commented.

Of the ten nations involved in the qualifiers, Ireland will be looking to secure wins over Malaysia and China, with hopes of letting them avoid a potential crossover with Australia, and thus securing a match against the likes of India, Pakistan or France, which Bell says would “not be easy, but winnable.”

Garvey new boy Paul Gleghorne will face his brother in the opposing squad, when Ireland take on Britain, in what is sure to be a tough encounter.

However, Bell said there is no reason Ireland can’t cause an upset.

He continued: “We’re quite familiar with the Great Britain team. We’ve played them quite a bit, we played them in an Investec match in London last year, which we lost in a shoot-out, and we beat them at UCD, they are full time players, although I see no reason why we couldn’t cause an upset.

“There will be the added intensity with the two brothers there,” he said.

“Paul has just joined Garvey, making the move in the close season. He is a massive addition for us, he’s a top top defender with international experience.”

Despite it being close season and with such important fixtures ahead, Bell still has his mind on Lisnagarvey.

He stated: “Another player in the Irish set-up we’ve added is Neal Glassey from Mossley, and he will be another fantastic addition for us.

“I always have that shirt on under my Irish shirt,” he added.

The Irish team will travel to Belgium on Monday, to prepare for the tournament.

“We have an extensive programme of training and games,” said Bell. “We need to make sure we are hitting the ground running.

“It would be a dream come true to qualify for the Olympics, but it would also be reward for a lot of hard work by a lot of people.”

Ireland coach Craig Fulton added: “We are all proud of the individual work done by the players to get as conditioned as they are right now and we look forward to World League 3 in Antwerp.”