HOCKEY: Chloe Brown crucial to Ards chances in Vienna

Ards'  Chloe Brown
Ards' Chloe Brown

Survival will be the name of the game for Ards as they prepare to represent Ireland at this weekend’s European Indoor Trophy tournament in Vienna.

Last year Ards were promoted with a perfect six out of six wins record at the third tier event in Hungary in what was their second season at that level.

So it’s only natural that, with a more difficult standard of opposition, it will be a much tougher task 12 months on, starting with Friday’s opener against their Austrian hosts.

It’s also a bit of a trip into the unknown for Ards who have been trying to glean as much information about the opposition from whatever source.

However, with Irish international striker Chloe Brown, who hit 22 goals in six games in last year’s event, available Ards must be in with a chance of staying up.

“It’s not easy to come by information on each individual team, so we’ve not really assessed them on an individual basis,” said coach Phil Mills.

“The two teams who came down from the top division last year (Austria and Belarus) are likely to provide the stiffest competition, having played at the very top level.

“Croatia, who were promoted with us last year, should be on a reasonably similar level to us.

“Obviously we’ll be watching everyone closely on the first day to see what we can pick up, but our initial approach has got to be focussed only on ourselves for the first game or two,” he added.

“We have a different squad from last year, with a bit less experience, but the girls have trained well and worked hard to improve, and while still lacking some experience, we’re pleased with where we are.

“I think our main target is to survive and avoid relegation and I think that would be a fantastic achievement, and one which I think is realistic, though tough.

“The format of the competition has changed with the Italian team pulling out but the change in format to round robin rather than groups means we will play all of the top teams instead of only half of them.

“That could have a big impact. A secondary target is simply to get the experience of playing at Division two level.

“The main difference from last year is that a couple of our more experienced players are not involved in indoor this year, and instead are focussing on staying fit and strong for the outdoor campaign.”

Meanwhile, the Ulster Elks are the sole local survivors in the Irish senior Cup and they tackle top Dublin side Railway Union in the semi finals at Jordanstown on Saturday.

There are just two Premier League games with Pegasus facing Ballymoney and Queen’s hosting Lurgan, with both matches at Upper Malone.