Kinsale’s Conor Harte has overcome a knock to take up a place in the Irish men’s squad for next month’s World League semi-final tournament in Johannesburg, the main qualifier for the 2018 World Cup.
The Irish squad travels to South Africa in great shape, winning 11 of their last 12 matches and have lost just once in 16 games in 2017 to date.
That culminated in a brilliant 4-2 win over 2016 Olympic bronze medalists Germany to win the Hamburg Masters event, adding to victories over Spain (4-1) and Austria (7-2).
In total, there are four changes from March’s World League Round 2 with Olympians John Jackson and Alan Sothern providing excellent additions having returned to the panel after a six-month break after Rio. Sothern scored in all three ties, raising his international scoring tally to 74, second only to John Jermyn’s 91 and current squad mate Shane O’Donoghue.
That shows the potency in the forward line along with rising star John McKee who proved crucial in pulling the strings, notching several assists.
Stu Loughrey and Stephen Cole are back in for their first world ranking tournament for a number of years. They edge out Lee Cole and Daragh Walsh in the final selection for places in defence and midfield, respectively.
On the debit side, Olympic duo Michael Robson and Peter Caruth are both out injured for the summer while Kirk Shimmins is unavailable for this tournament, too.
In Johannesburg, Ireland need to finish in the top five from the ten-team event to be guaranteed a ticket to the 2018 World Cup.
However, a finish as low as eighth could well be enough for Ireland given how the other World League semi-final tournament panned out in London.
Ireland, at ninth in the world, are the fifth highest ranked side in their competition and will fancy wins against Egypt and South Africa — in the opening game on July 9 — in the group stages. Belgium and Germany will provide tougher tests.
Ireland (Hockey World League Semi-final, July 9-23):
D Harte (GK, SV Kampong), Jamie Carr (GK, Three Rock Rovers), J Jackson (Bath Buccaneers), J Bell (Lisnagarvey), M Bell (Banbridge), C Cargo (Hampstead & Westminster), M Nelson (Lisnagarvey), A Sothern (Pembroke), E Magee (Banbridge), N Glassey (Lisnagarvey), S O’Donoghue (Glenanne), S Murray (Lisnagarvey), J McKee (Banbridge), P Gleghorne (Lisnagarvey), J Duncan (Herakles), C Harte (Racing Club de Bruxelles), S Loughrey (Hampstead & Westminster), S Cole (Monkstown).
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