Garvey stars on the road to Rio

Wallace hockey coaches Maggie Hunter and Gareth Kidd pictured with Irish international players Eugene Magee, Chris Cargo, Neal Glassey, Matthew Bell and Jonny Bell at the recent #obsessed coaching session at the Lisburn school.
Wallace hockey coaches Maggie Hunter and Gareth Kidd pictured with Irish international players Eugene Magee, Chris Cargo, Neal Glassey, Matthew Bell and Jonny Bell at the recent #obsessed coaching session at the Lisburn school.

Four of Lisnagarvey’s international hockey stars took another step on the road to Rio week they were named in the latest Ireland squad.

Jonny Bell, Timmy Cockram, Paul Gleghorne and Mikie Watt all made it through to the latest cut of the Ireland squad.

Coach Craig Fulton named a 21 man squad to travel to Valencia for the Six Nations tournament, which begins on Monday, although missing out was fellow Lisnagarvey HC man Neal Glassey.

The 21 man squad will be further cut to 16 for the Rio Olympics on Sunday 10th July, with two travelling Reserves.

Before then, Garvey’s four stars will have plenty of opportunities to impress the boss.

The Six Nations tournament will see the Green Machine face off against the world’s best in their final tournament before the Rio Olympic Games.

Ireland will face no fewer than four of the world’s top 10 teams, meeting Germany, India, New Zealand and Argentina, as well as Spain who, at 11th, sit marginally above the men in green. They will then play a two match series against the Netherlands in Cork on July 4 and 6.

Garvey captain Jonny Bell says he is ‘delighted’ to have been named in the latest squad, but with a niggling calf injury, he is hoping to be back playing in Valencia to stake his place in the Olympic squad.

“I’m obviously delighted to be included in the squad and have the opportunity to push for selection for the Olympics,” Bell said.

“I’ve had a bit of a calf strain, which is a wee bit worrying, but I’ve been in rehab working hard and I’m hoping to be back playing in Valencia.

“It’s great that the club has strong representation. Neal Glassey won’t be going to Valencia, but we have strong representation. It’s nice for the club and I hope we go on to represent Ireland and the club in Rio. Fingers crossed we all play well,” he said.

Ireland’s Olympic qualification last October saw them become the first Irish sports team to qualify for an Olympic Games since London 1948.

“It really is history in the making,” Bell added. “To be part of that squad would be special. Being part of the squad that qualified was special. To set foot on the world stage would be truly special. We just have to try to play our best and give our best to put our hat in the ring.”

Jonny and his Ireland teammates have been fundraising to make up the shortfall towards their Olympic dream through the Obsessed crowdfunding initiative.

“Out of all the hockey nations we wouldn’t be the most generously funded,” Jonny explained.

“This campaign has been set up to make up the shortfall to allow us to concentrate on hockey ahead of the Olympics. Both Friends’ and Wallace held separate events for us. There was a mixed tournament at Friends’ and a coaching session at Wallace, which were great and both schools raised considerable funds.

“It’s great to get out there and meet people. It’s nice to see the kids get energised.

“It’s really important now that we’ve qualified for the Olympics that we build on that and that Irish Hockey build on that to strengthen the local game and build for the future.

“Garvey will also hold a coaching camp in the first week in July to raise funds towards the Olympics. It’s an opportunity for kids to have an enjoyable camp at the club and if anyone is interested in attending, I’d encourage them to go along,” Bell concluded.

Lisnagarvey Chairman, Mark Murray said the club is ‘proud’ to see so many Garvey players represent Ireland.

“The club are proud to see so many Lisnagarvey players represented,” he commented. “It’s also a testament to the guys who contributed to winning the inaugural season IHL by such a wide margin.

“Jonny Bell, Timmy Cockram, Paul Gleghorne and Michael Watt are all still in contention for those final squad places. Neal Glassey was very unfortunate to miss out after such a massive first season at the club but his time will come. We hope all the hard work put in by the squad pays off in Rio as the qualification from the group stages looks like it will be very tight.

“The club are actually holding a fundraising camp on behalf of the Lisnagarvey Rio bound athletes in the first week of the school holidays at the club. Hopefully this will help offset some of the costs the players have incurred taking so much time off work as we are donating all the profits from this camp to them.

“There are plenty of spaces left if parents want to sign up their children for some fun and skills improvement.”