Kinsale man Conor Harte will become the fifth Irish man to reach 200 international caps this evening when he lines out to face Pakistan at Comber Road (7.30pm).
He becomes the first Munster man to hit the mark, following Dubliner Ronan Gormley and Ulster trio Eugene Magee, John Jackson and Michael Watt, beating his highly decorated twin brother David to the milestone.
The twins both made their debut in August 2006 with both forming part of the Irish team that won European bronze in 2015 and qualified for the 2016 Olympic Games, the first Irish hockey team to do so since 1908.
Like his brother, Conor has been a full-time player for the last number of years, first with SCHC in the Netherlands before joining Racing Club de Bruxelles at the top end of the Belgian league.
And Irish coach Craig Fulton says those experiences have been vital in elevating his game.
“Conor is a true professional and has really raised the bar in moving across to Europe for five or six years,” Fulton said.
“He’s done immensely well to play for clubs of that size. He has brought back into the Irish team a European-style composure at the back.
“I think that we also are still to see the best of him; it’s still to come.
“We’re hoping this year and next year he can step further and bring all his experience to share with the group and we will be even more successful for it.”
And Fulton is encouraging a couple of other players to follow in his footsteps to Europe next season and take up professional contracts.
Lee Cole has confirmed a move to Royal Oree in Belgium while Jeremy Duncan, Neal Glassey, Matthew Bell and Michael Robson look set to follow suit in the coming days and formally sign terms.
“For those playing abroad, they will usually have seven or eight hockey sessions a week. The clubs we have spoken to have helped produce the likes Ronan Gormley, David, Conor, Mitch Darling and Chris Cargo.”
Ireland play the world number 14 side again on Saturday and Sunday as part of the warm-up phase for July’s World League semi-final in Johannesburg where 2018 World Cup tickets are up for grabs.
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