In terms of contrast in levels of competition, Lisnagarvey are facing one of the biggest jumps as they return to the EHL after five years away just three months since playing in Europe’s fifth tier.
In Copenhagen in June, they scored 38 times in four games to storm to EuroHockey Club Challenge I success. This week in Hamburg, though, will be a completely different level of competition for the Irish champions as they prepare to meet their French counterparts CA Montrouge in the KO16.
There are elements of that tournament will serve them well says captain Jonny Bell, in tandem with an immaculate Irish season in which they won four more trophies.
“We can take a lot from last season from the way we played generally, winning tight games and learning how to win. We take a lot of strength from that.
“Obviously there are changes in the team but that is just an opportunity for our next young player to come up the ranks and give it their best shot. Copenhagen was a great trip, good for the team-bonding and we are now really looking forward to this challenge.”
It will be the Olympian’s third season in the EHL, the only Garvey player to line out in each fixture in the competition for the club.
It is one which holds lots of fond memories for Bell, particularly their last meeting with a French club in 2012’s ROUND1. Three goals in an incredible four-minute spell in the final quarter set them on course for a KO16 spot.
“We played Lille back in 2012 in East Grinstead and found ourselves 3-0 down and managed to come back and get it to a draw! Definitely fond memories. I don’t think there is anyone left in the side bar me.
“The only one I can really chat about it with is the coach Erroll Lutton. It is a really great memory and gave us a great chance to go through to the KO16, only losing to Bloemendaal by three goals.”
Like their KO16 opponent Montrouge, they are very much a side built on their own production line. International brothers Matthew (Australia) and Ben Nelson (Uccle) both emigrated during the summer with the club intent on promoting from within.
“It is a challenge for Irish club sides. The side that gets you there isn’t always the one that plays in the EHL. We are bringing in the next youngster off the production line as opposed to any outside player.
“It is a challenge but it helps us grow the depth of talent for the sport in Ireland. That’s a positive. The French will be in the same boat as us. The big challenge is the different styles; on paper, the teams are evenly matched but adapting to that style is the challenge compared to what you get week-in, week-out in the Irish Hockey League.
“For any young player, going to the EHL you are aware of the rich history the club has playing in Europe and that adds to the level of excitement everyone is feeling of the privilege it is to represent the club and Ireland in Europe.
“Montrouge obviously won their league last season so will be good and French sides are always tough, whether at international or club level.”
EHL Men’s KO16 will be available for broadcast across the globe from September 29 to October 2, 2022 via the following outlets
- www.EuroHockeyTV.org – every game live on pay-per-view for €6.99 (all regions except Latin America and France)
- ESPN Latin America will broadcast each game live
- SportAll hold the rights for each game in France.