Ards on European indoor adventure in Lisbon

BOSS: Ards coach Phil Mills
BOSS: Ards coach Phil Mills

Ards will be hoping their failure to beat Armagh in the Premier League earlier in the week won’t have any adverse effect on their confidence as they move indoors over the next four days.

The title race took another twist as the Orchard County girls scored with the last action of the game to secure an unlikely point from a 1-1 draw after Caroline Adams had put Ards ahead from the penalty spot.

Maybe Ards had one eye on this weekend’s European Indoor Challenge tournament being staged in the Portuguese capital.

Ards admit it’s trip into unknown territory when they represent Ireland at the third tier of the competition but they have their eyes on promotion.

The Co Down outfit are up against teams from the host country, Turkey, Sweden and Hungary as well as slightly more familiar nations like Sweden, Wales and Belgium.

One team has withdrawn meaning that the format of the tournament has been changed from two groups of four to a round robin series involving six matches, two each day from today through to Sunday.

“We know very little about any of the teams to be honest but we expect the Welsh, Belgians and the Swedes to be the toughest opponents because of their reputation in hockey.” said Ards manager Phil Mills.

“We have tried getting footage from youtube but with limited success and some of the videos are from a year or two ago so that hasn’t been much help.

“It’s great being able to be in control of our own destiny though and our aim is to finish in the top two and secure promotion to the second tier for next year if we can.”

That is because Ards will be ‘playing for themselves’ in that they retained their all Ireland title recently and so will be back in Europe again next year.

European Indoor Challenge (Lisbon): today: Agyse (Hungary) v Ards (12 noon BST), Anadolu Atesi (Turkey) v Ards (5pm); Saturday: Ards v Partille SC (Sweden) (1pm), Ards v Howardian (Wales) (6pm); Saturday: Ards v Royal White Star (Belgium) (10am), Artds v Cf Belenenses (Portugal) (12 noon).

While the European indoor tournament takes centre stage this weekend there are still several important outdoor games back home.

Randalstown are up against Portadown on Friday and the latter will be hoping they can repeat the draw they achieved the last time the teams met.

Victorians, who trail the Ports only by goal difference at the bottom of the table, have a tough one against Queen’s on Saturday but with the notional advantage of playing on their own sand-filled surface at the Dub.

Elsewhere on Saturday, the Ulster Elks realistically look to be chasing a ‘wild card’ entry into next season’s Irish Hockey League but they have a very difficult task against in-form league leaders Lurgan.

Lurgan have already beaten Pegasus and drawn with winners Ballymoney and now look to be genuine challengers.