Bann boys target a European medal with Ireland

Eugene Magee and Matthew Bell are off to the EuroHockey Championships. INBL1423-231EB
Eugene Magee and Matthew Bell are off to the EuroHockey Championships. INBL1423-231EB

Banbridge lads Matthew Bell and Eugene Magee are hoping to claim a EuroHockey Championships medal.

The duo have been named in Craig Fulton’s side for the tournament, that they begin in London on Saturday.

Ireland’s best ever finish in the championships is fifth place but Bell, who replaces his namesake Jonny in the squad, is confident they can better it.

“Our primary aim is really to get fifth at least but we’d love to make it into the semi-finals,” he told the ‘LEADER.’

“What we really want is to qualify for the semis and from there, we’ll do our best to come back with a medal.”

Ireland are fresh off the back of all but securing a place in next year’s Olympic Games thanks to their fifth place finish in World League Three.

“Everyone’s in a good place,” said Bell. “I think we have all realised that we can compete with the best teams in the world now. In our second warm-up game against Holland, we only lost 3-2 and they’re the team ranked second in the world.”

Ireland fly to England today (Tuesday) to put the finishing touches to the preparations and a favourable winner in this tournament could edge their plane tickets to Rio another step closer.

Of course, if Ireland were to win, they would secure their place. But even if Germany, Netherlands, Belgium, England (GB) or Spain are victorious, Ireland would be one step away. No team outside that list has ever won this tournament.

Bell, however, says he doesn’t think of this call-up as a chance to play for his place in Rio.

“It’s got to the point that nobody really talks about it because we can only wait and see,” he said. “All we can do is try and win this tournament, because that would get us there too so our focus is totally on playing our matches.”

After the tournament, the Banbridge duo will return to begin preparations for the new Irish Hockey League season at Banbridge Hockey Club.

“Everyone’s looking forward to getting going,” said Bell. “It will be a lot more competitive, which is what we all want so it’s exciting.”

Ireland begin the tournament against France at 8.30am on Saturday before facing Germany at 8.30pm on Sunday night and completing their Pool B matches against Belgium on Tuesday (pass-back 1.15pm). The tournament ends with the finals the following Saturday (29th August).