EUROPEAN HOCKEY LEAGUE RANKING CUP COMPETITION Three Rock Rovers v HC Minsk (8.30am) THREE ROCK ROVERS will carry the Irish flag in European club action when they take on the men’s EHL Ranking Cup competition at the Dragons’ Den in Brasschaat, just north of Antwerp.

The competition is part of the finalisation of the 2020/21 European season which was put on hold in the spring due to the Covid-19 spread across the continent. Three Rock will take on Belarus’s HC Minsk on Saturday morning and then, depending how they do, face the winner England’s Hampstead & Westminster or Germany’s Mannheimer HC on Sunday. For Rovers, it will be their fifth season in the EHL, the elite level club tournament in which they have reached the KO16 each time they have competed. Most recently in 2019, they became the first Irish side to win a knockout game before putting it up to German champions Rot-Weiss Köln in a 4-2 battle in Barcelona.

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They have their place in the EHL by virtue of being the last side to win the EY Champions Trophy back in 2019 following the abandoned 2019/20 and 2020/21 seasons. As such, only seven of that vintage are likely to be in a position to reprise that relative EHL success after seven players emigrated in the summer while Mitch Darling retired.

A late summer influx of players, though, from UCD has seen them bolstered and the bedding in process has seen them accrue seven points out of nine in the EY Hockey League to date. And coach Elun Hack says this tournament will help hasten their ability to gel together. “Naturally, I think we were all delighted to welcome our TRR boys back to the club from UCD, and a couple other really nice additions in Matteo Romoli and Ryan Spencer,” he said. “We have not had as much time together as we would have liked but there is huge amounts of talent in this group, and I think their natural ability will make ‘gelling’ somewhat easier, but there is a lot of work to do.”

Caption: Three Rock Rovers newcomer Matteo Romoli in action

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