After the devastation of October’s Olympic qualifiers, John Jackson is grateful for a quick return to an Irish shirt and attempt to heal some of the wounds from Vancouver.
With precious little outdoor action on the horizon in 2020 for the Green Machine, the 33-year-old is thrilled to captain the Irish indoor side that will play in the EuroHockey Championships II in Santander next week. Jackson was just four years old the last time Ireland competed internationally indoors before the Irish Hockey Union decided to halt its involvement in the six-a-side form of the game.
Since then, the Belfast native has been one of the masters of the code in England, winning three championships with Loughborough University, reaching the final four regularly with Reading and then player-coaching rank outsiders Bath Buccaneers to the 2018 final. And now, he is relishing another challenge.
“When I heard the like of Rob Abbott and Kenny Carroll were putting this together [in 2018], I got straight on the phone,” Jackson said. “This is something I was desperate to be involved with. Pulling on the green shirt again is something I always relish but this is a new and exciting challenge, particularly given how the last few months have gone.”
Those last few months saw his Tokyo dreams and those of the outdoor squad crushed in horrific fashion, a hotly contested final second video referral denying them victory over Canada.
“It has been a hard period for the men’s game. This is a chance for the guys involved to have a fresh start in a fresh decade. I hope it will be part of something much bigger; I don’t want it to be a flash in the pan or a one-off. I hope it will grow and become a bigger part of our calendar and younger kids will aspire to be part of it.”
With over 200 outdoor caps, Jackson is the marquee name in an eclectic panel named by coach Carroll. Former Zimbabwean captain Rowland Rixon-Fuller has his papers in order having lived in Leinster for over a decade. Neal Glassey was Jackson’s indoor protégé at Mossley and has impressed in the German league scoring for Crefelder HTC. Michael and Callum Robson have also had an education in the code at that German club. Ross Canning, meanwhile, has been Three Rock Rovers’ star man in their recent run of dominance of the Irish scene.
His father Liam was part of the last international teams back in 1987. Brendan Parsons (40) is an indoor specialist who has not played outdoors for a number of years while Bandon man Jason Lynch is the sole Munster representative included. They will take on hosts Spain, Scotland, Wales and Slovenia in the tournament which starts on Friday, January 17th.
Jackson recognises a few names from the Scottish and Welsh line-ups but, in reality, form guides are anyone’s guess.
“We are probably the most unknown and none of them will have any info on us! The beauty of indoor is it’s a much more structured game and has much fewer moving parts. With only a handful of players, it can come together a lot quicker than an outdoor setup can and hopefully we can turn a few heads!”