Docherty backs former internationals in switch

DUTCH superstar Laurence Docherty has backed the decisions by former Ireland internationals Iain Lewers and Mark Gleghorne to switch their allegiance to Great Britain.

The Bloemendaal man can fully understand the duo’s decision, having famously switched from his native Scotland to the Netherlands, having failed to make the Great Britain squad for the 2000 Olympics.

Lewers and Gleghorne are both roughly midway through their three years in the international “wilderness” – a part of the criteria for players wishing to change from one international team to another.

The Belfast duo’s decisions were motivated by a desire to play in high-profile tournaments, though there is no guarantee that either will be selected.

They will declare for one of the constituent Great Britain nations – most likely England – in 2011, though both are playing their club hockey professionally in Holland.

Lewers is a well-established figure at table-toppers HGC, while Gleghorne is attempting to make an impact with Den Bosch having lined out for hometown side Instonians last season.

But Docherty – who guested for Clontarf at the national indoor tournament before Christmas – says his move in a different direction was a much less confusing affair from a rules perspective.

“I did the same but the rules aren’t good. It’s Great Britain and they’re from Northern Ireland so I don’t see why there was this problem,” he said.

“It’s a shame that they had to give up playing for Ireland. They’re always going to be Irish, no matter what, they’re just playing hockey for another country. But, good luck to them. They’re both decent hockey players. Lewers is a bloody good player, really calm, good range of skills,” he said.

Issues with qualifying criteria and subsequent selection issues meant, after 48 caps with Scotland, Docherty spent four years in the international wilderness.

But, having become an integral part of the Dutch set-up, he says he has no regrets about the long layoff from the international scene.

“It’s been brilliant. As you say there were a few hiccups. I worked really hard to get it all sorted out. I missed the World Cup and European Cup but was lucky enough to go to the Olympics (in 2008) and, now I’ve got a secure place, it’s time to start winning medals, rather than coming fourth.”

Lewers called time on his Ireland career in July 2008, after winning 89 caps in four years, and took a parting shot at Irish hockey, claiming his decision to declare for Great Britain was significantly influenced by major flaws in the top-level structures here.

The 25-year-old was back on home turf earlier this month to watch his former side Annadale face Lisnagarvey in the Irish Hockey League, but said that he was happy to play his club hockey in Holland for the foreseeable future.

“In Holland they have the financial clout to draw all the best players in the world, whereas the club scene in Ireland simply doesn’t have that,” he said.

“I can’t see myself coming back to play club hockey in Ulster. I don’t think its the best thing for me at the minute, I’ll stay in Holland as long as possible.”

Gleghorne only informed the Irish Hockey Association (IHA) of his decision to declare for Great Britain three months ago.

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