Masters Hockey Internationals – Connacht players to the fore

Neil Kearns and Garrett McDermott representing Ireland at the Autumn Masters International Tournament in Spain.

The Autumn Over-55 Masters International Tournament was held in Benamadena Hockey Club, near Malaga, from 30th October to 1st November.

Ireland sent two teams (the “Greens” and “Whites”) to compete at the event, in preparation for the Masters World Cup to be held in South Africa in October 2022. Both Ireland teams had mixed results in a tournament that saw them face stiff opposition in France, Spain, Italy and Gibraltar. France eventually overcame Spain in the final on penalty shuttles, the match having finished 1-1 at full-time.

Ireland’s best result came on the Sunday, with a 1-0 victory for the “Green Team” over Italy. The goal for the men in green came from Derek Squire, and Neil Kearns, as usual, was full of running in midfield. Kearns, from Circular Road in Galway city, also saw action against the highly-ranked France team and the competitive Gibraltar outfit.

Connacht’s McDermott had a busy weekend, sharing goalkeeper duties for both Irish teams with Mark Brown of Ballinahinch HC. The highlight for newcomer McDermott was an excellent penalty save in the 4-1 defeat to Gibraltar on the Saturday. 

Ireland’s “White Team” put in a brave performance to lose narrowly by 2-1 to Spain on the same day, with Ally Reilly scoring for the Irish men. Other Ireland tournament scorers were Klaas Jan de Vries for the “Green Team” and Rupert Pinion for the “White Team”, both finding the net against Gibraltar. Andy Cooke (Pembroke Wanderers HC) and Iain Getty (Lisnagarvey HC) also impressed over the weekend. The tournament will have given manager Chris Townson and coach West Thornton plenty to think about as they consider squad selections for the World Cup. They can look back with some satisfaction on a tournament where 36 players saw action in the searing heat against some top-class opposition.

Connacht Midfielder Neil Kearns said, “Three matches in three days in those hot temperatures was tough going. I felt that France and Spain were more accurate and had more composure on the ball. That’s the level we need to get to. Management have outlined what we need to do and now it’s up to us as players on the pitch to improve.”

Goalkeeper, Garrett McDermott said, “I’m delighted to have made the breakthrough to the international scene. It’s certainly a step up from inter-provincial level. As a Connacht man, the highlight for me was belting out the “four proud provinces” line, in “Ireland’s Call” – that and the saved penalty of course!”