WHILE most players have hung up their stick for the season, a veteran member of Omagh Hockey Club men’s team will be pitting his wits against some of the best in the business when representing the Ireland Masters for the first time at two major international tournaments over the course of the next few months.
On Friday (today) Jimmy McCutcheon heads to Glasgow as Ireland take on Scotland, Wales and France in the Celtic Cup this weekend. The Irish team will play three matches in as many days and the competition will be ideal preparation for the men in green who in June travel to Rotterdam for the FIH Masters Hockey World Cup.
Barring injury or other unforeseen circumstances McCutcheon hopes to be on the plane to Holland where Ireland will face the host nation among others at the Hockey Club Rotterdam complex that boasts seven artificial pitches and a stadium that holds 3, 500 spectators.
“I know we play Holland, one of the tournament favourites in our group so that’ll be massive test for us,” said Jimmy.
“Their B team played against Ireland in a competition last season and beat them 7-1! That gives you some idea the challenges we’ll face.”
The World Cup will last a total of 10 days and the group format will mean that all teams will play at least seven matches. That’s a punishing schedule by anyone’s standards but Jimmy is certainly relishing the challenge.
“The Celtic Cup will be the first time I will have played competitively for Ireland and it will allow me to get to know the players better and how the team play ahead of the World Cup,” said the veteran who helped Omagh to win the Junior League Six title this season.
“We have been training hard since October in Dublin and Banbridge so it’ll be good to get stuck into the real action. I’m looking forward to both tournaments and it’ll be interesting to see what the standard is like.
“I’d imagine we’ll match Wales and Scotland in the Celtic Cup although I’m not sure what France will have to offer.
“As for the World Cup it goes without saying that the standard will be very very high. No doubt these players are still playing a very competitive level and it’ll be huge test for us,” said the Ulster veteran who is also pretty useful with a tennis racket.