DAVID Harte insists Ireland aren’t overawed by drawing the world’s number one hockey team at the World Cup in India later this year.
Ireland have been drawn in Pool B alongside the world number one side Australia, neighbours England and China, with the Green Machine’s campaign getting underway on November 30th against defending world champions Australia.
‘It’s a World Cup so no group is going to be easy,’ Kinsale hockey star Harte said.
‘You never aspire to having the number one team in your pool but that’s the way it’s turned out. We have had good battles with Australia in the past, haven’t turned them over with a result but you never know, stranger things have happened.
‘Against England, our games are always close-fought and we had a very close tie in the recent European Championships last year, going down 2-1 in the end.
‘China are not to be underestimated either, they might not be as high ranked as Australia and England but they’ll present their own challenges.
‘Having not experienced a World Cup before – the last time an Irish team was involved was 1990 – it’s all going to be a new experience and it’s something we are all looking forward to.
‘We are definitely going to go there and try to punch above our weight and like we always do, play above our ranking.’
Goalkeeper David, a two-time world goalkeeper of the year, and his twin brother Conor will backbone the Irish team at the World Cup and after the Australian test, Ireland will take on China (ranked 17th in the world) on December 4th and then the final pool match is on December 7th against England.
There has been a change to the World Cup structure with 16 teams now involved instead of 12, which means four groups of four instead of two groups of six, a decision that Ireland coach Craig Fulton is not a fan of.
‘I don’t agree with not playing any classification matches which is a real shame in this World Cup. Worst case scenario is you could potentially only play three pool games and then go home, when in the past you played seven games to a final position and that’s real value for money,’ Fulton said.
Ahead of the World Cup, Harte will be kept busy and is currently back in Holland with his club SV Kampong after spending six weeks competing in the Malaysia Hockey League with Universiti Kuala Lumpur where he helped the club win the competition for the first time.
‘It was the first time my team had got to the final and won it since the creation of the event back in 2009. It was incredible,’ Harte said.
‘I was in Malaysia for six weeks, just after New Year’s Eve up to mid-February.
‘Hockey India League wasn’t running this year and the Malaysian league is held around the same time of the year though it doesn’t get the same media attention as regards world-wide promotion and coverage of the event – but it’s certainly a country that’s trying to grow and promote hockey.
‘It was an opportunity to experience a new culture and different style of hockey for six weeks – and then we ended up winning it for the first time!’
Harte will be hoping to keep that feel-good momentum going right throughout the year up until the World Cup next November.