Gibraltar hockey prepares to compete in Europe
Three of Gibraltar’s top hockey clubs will be making their final preparations ahead of their Eurohockey campaigns next week. Both Europe womens hockey and Grammarians, both of which have won their respective first division titles this season, will be travelling abroad.
Europa will be playing in Portugal where they will face stiff opposition from one of two home sides, Lisbon Casuals and Swedish side SLF Mesaicos. The three teams making Pool A of the Eurohockey Club Challenge III women’s tournament.
Europa named their squad last week as they prepared for their final weeks of training. Having claimed the title during the Coronation Bank holiday weekend, Europa had hoped to get some extra match practice with their rescheduled match against Bavaria Hawks. Unfortunately the match was never to be played with Bavaria Hawks unable to field a team on the day. This met by a public statement from Europa expressing their disappointment.
In the men’s division Grammarians will be travelling to Croatia where they will by playing in the Club Challenge I tournament. Playing in Pool B, Grammarians will be looking to maintain the momentum which saw Gibraltar clubs promoted into this tier knowing that they will be competing again next year in the higher tiers after claiming the league title again this season.
They will face Lipovoci (SLO) , AD Lousada (Portugal) and Polisportiva Ferrino Cagliari from Italy. The Challenge I tournament will be a tough competition for Gibraltar’s league champions who have struggled this season with player availability.
Eagles, who secured promotion last season for Gibraltar clubs, although unable to play in the higher tier after coming runner up in the league will once again host a Euro Hockey tournament in Gibraltar.
Eight teams, including Eagles will be competing as from next Thursday until May 28 for the Eurohockey Club Challenge III. Local side Eagles hoping to repeat their feat once again in front of their home crowd to secure Gibraltar’s place in the Challenge II next season.
Eagles, under the guidance of Stephen Valarino named their squad recently as they prepare for the competition. They will face FHC Akademik Plus Sofia, Qormi Daikin HC and Valhalla Landhockey Club in their Pool B matches.
In Pool A Gibraltar will host Furuset Landhockeyklubb, HC Kilppari, HC The Wolves and Zuvedra Tauras. Some of the clubs arriving on the Rock for next week’s tournament already having visited the Rock on previous occasions for Eurohockey competition.
Local hockey fans can expect four days of high level excitement culminating with the crossover finals on May 28. With Eagles already having hosted a Eurohockey tournament last season, expectations will once again be high for the local club both on and off the field having successfully produced the required results to earn a second opportunity at hosting a tournament on a consecutive season.
Although Gibraltar hockey has seen very slow progress in lifting itself from a reduced number of players involved in the sport compared to previous decades, the sport continues to produce results, especially in Eurohockey competitions.
Whilst both Eagles and Grammarians have experience of participating in such tournaments on a near to yearly basis in recent years, with just two men’s teams competing in the Gibraltar men’s first division, in the women’s category this will be only the second time Europa women enter the competition.
All eyes will be on the progress made by what is a relatively youthful team which has stayed together since launching.
Claiming the women’s league title once again has secured their participation in next years Eurohockey competition once again, although they will be looking at returning with better results than they faced last season in their European debut.
A year-long preparing for next week Europa women head to Portugal with a determination to try and succeed and put Gibraltar women’s hockey back on the map in Eurohockey after several years of absence.