Irish chiefs clear Lewers for early GB switch

FORMER Irish international Iain Lewers will be able to begin his new career with Great Britain six weeks ahead of schedule. The Irish Hockey Association’s appeal commission has confirmed they have approved Lewers’ application for early release from his international “wilderness” period.

Belfast native Lewers, 27, withdrew from the Irish national side to make himself eligible for Great Britain in time for the 2012 Olympics.

Lewers claimed he owed Irish hockey nothing after winning 82 caps, citing a belief that Ireland could not achieve Olympic qualification due to major structural flaws.

Under the International Hockey Federation’s (FIH) three-year quarantine rule, Lewers was ineligible to play international hockey for his adopted nation of England, or for GB, until July 2011. However, the IHA has confirmed they are happy for him to end this period six weeks early on May 1 — pending FIH approval — allowing him to play in a tournament in Malaysia a couple of days later.

Another former Irish international, Mark Gleghorne, is also eligible to play for GB having completed his quarantine period this month — three years after his last appearance in a green shirt at the 2008 Olympic qualifiers.

Meanwhile, the first leg of a potentially decisive rivalry in the Munster women’s season gets underway tomorrow when UCC and Catholic Institute clash at the Mardyke (3pm).

Institute have a 100% league record and a five-point lead. Second-placed College will be determined to test that record to the full over the next five weeks; the sides meet twice more, once in league action in Limerick, and in the IHL at the Mardyke.

It doesn’t get any easier for College this weekend as they meet Quins, three points further back in third, at Farmer’s Cross less than 24 hours later, a back game leftover from December’s big freeze. C of I and UL are both seeking a second win of the campaign when they meet at Garryduff.

Cork C of I host Cookstown in round two of the men’s Irish senior Cup, with the carrot of a home tie against Fingal in the quarter-finals for the winner. This represents C of I’s best chance of national silverware after a recent IHL mauling by Glenanne.

UCC carry Munster’s hopes in the men’s Irish Trophy, where they meet Rathgar Chiefs in the quarter-finals.

College have earned themselves a dark horses tag after brilliantly seeing off Ulster’s Raphoe in Donegal last week, and will hope to repeat the feat against a dangerous Chiefs outfit who must do without the suspended Dan Needham and recently-emigrated Paul Tuthill and Aengus Stanley.

Catholic Institute will hope they can put an end to their wretched recent league run as they visit Cork C of I B, while Cork Harlequins’ Sunday morning visit to Bandon will provide an intriguing test of the former’s title credentials.

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