Henderson back to ease ’keeper crisis

NIGEL HENDERSON has returned to the Irish senior men’s team to help solve national coach Dave Passmore’s goalkeeper crisis.

Henderson retired from international hockey last year after the European Nations Trophy tournament in Rome, but has stepped into the breach as three of Passmore’s first-choice ’keepers are unavailable.

Henderson’s younger brother Charlie had been selected as Irish ’keeper for this weekend’s four-nation tournament in Egypt, but he injured himself at work yesterday and was forced to withdraw from the trip with concussion.

“The most important thing is that Charlie wasn’t seriously hurt,” said a philosophical Passmore.

“He seems to be recovering well, but still has to take at least three weeks away from contact sport.”

Passmore was already struggling with a terrible run of luck that left him without his three senior goalkeepers. Both Mark Ruddle and Gareth Lennox were unable to travel to the tournament due to essential academic commitments, forcing Passmore to select Charlie Henderson for the tournament.

His withdrawal has in turn opened the way for Nigel to travel instead, and now the 37-year-old Pembroke Wanderers star has the opportunity to add to his impressive tally of 63 international caps.

“Given our circumstances, we couldn’t have any better replacement than Nigel,” said Passmore.

“He has been working with the goalkeepers in a coaching capacity so knows our set plays and defensive strategies. Things never go according to plan at tournaments, so we just have to get on with the task in hand.”

Cork Harlequins’ Sean Nicholson is also out of the trip with an ankle injury, but while Cork Church of Ireland’s Karl Burns has a hamstring problem, he’ll travel with the squad and get daily physiotherapy. Leading goalscorer Stephen Butler of Glenanne is also absent, due to work commitments.

Ireland travel to Egypt tomorrow for the tournament which will provide important preparation fixtures for the team in their continued preparations for the BDO World Cup Qualifier in China in mid-April. The match against Egypt will be particularly important, as they have been drawn in the same pool as Ireland in the Qualifier in China.

Ireland open their tournament against Egypt on February 25 at 4pm and take on Italy the following day, also at 4pm. Ireland’s final pool game, against Poland, takes place on Tuesday, February 28, at 6pm, with classification matches closing the tournament on Thursday, March 2.

Ireland will play France at the National Hockey Stadium, UCD Belfield, on the March 19 (11am).

This match will be followed at 2.15pm by the Irish Senior Cup Final between holders Lisnagarvey and Cork Harlequins.

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