Pembroke face real deal in Madrid kingpins

PEMBROKE WANDERERS are charged with the task of causing one of the biggest upsets in EuroHockey League history when they take on Spain’s Club de Campo at Bloemendaal, near Amsterdam, today (11am Irish time).

With influential South African trio Gowan Jones, Jethro Eustice and Brandon Panther failing to return to the club after Christmas and midfield pivot Paddy Conlon ruled out through injury, Pembroke are light on quality.

Campo, who recently annexed a first Spanish title since 2005, have plenty of that in their ranks, and also feature Irish skipper and former Pembroke man Ronan Gormley, whose insider knowledge gives a further advantage to the Madrid outfit.

That may instead mean that Ireland’s best chance of getting a side into the last eight lies with Glenanne, who take on Dutch side HGC.

The latter, for whom Cork’s John Jermyn and Belfast man Iain Lewers played for when they reached the EHL final in 2008, are living off past glories and are well off the pace in the Dutch Hoofdklasse.

They will nonetheless carry the favourites’ mantle against a Glens side recently crowned Leinster champions. Graham Shaw’s experience will be crucial to the Tallaght side’s hopes, while recent Irish cap, 18-year-old Shane O’Donoghue, will be keen to make his mark on the European stage.

Irish interest in the competition extends beyond the two ties involving Dublin sides; Stephen Butler and Eugene Magee will line out in the colours of Belgium’s KHC Dragons against Germany’s Rot-Weiss Koln.

Former Cookstown man David Ames will be leading English outfit Beeston’s charge against Dinamo Kazan, while fellow Ulster man Chris Cargo will be hoping to propel Reading in an all-English affair against East Grinstead.

Meanwhile, European hockey is also coming to Dublin this weekend, with Railway Union hosting the EuroHockey Club Champions Trophy at Park Avenue in Sandymount.

Mick McKinnon’s charges, who have already annexed a European title in the indoor game this term, are in Pool A alongside Belgium’s Royal Wellington, MSC Sumchanka of the Ukraine and HF Libertas San Saba from Italy.

Railway will play each of their pool games at 3pm today, tomorrow and Sunday, starting with Sumchanka this afternoon.

Domestically, there is one Division One men’s game in Munster, where UCC travel to Cork C of I B, whom they defeated 4-1 on home turf last weekend.

While it has an obvious end-of-season feel about it, with nothing but pride at stake, Neil Welch is determined his side will finish out a campaign full of near misses on a high note.

While there is no women’s action, Cork Harlequins stole a march in midweek in the race for second place and automatic Irish Hockey League qualification by defeating Cork C of I 3-0; Cliodhna Sargent, Orlagh Cotter and Yvonne O’Byrne on target. They now need just a score draw from their final clash in Bandon next week to overhaul UCC.

Elsewhere, Ireland’s senior women’s preparations for their summer commitments continue apace with a three-game series against France at Serpentine Avenue and UCD this weekend.

Gene Muller’s charges will be hoping for better fortune than their male counterparts, who twice drew 0-0 against Canada in Stormont and lost 2-1 in Dublin last weekend.

Picture: Shane O’Donoghue (Inpho)

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