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Holcombe take on Euro Hockey League champions SV Kampong

By Luke Cawdell

Holcombe make their European debut this week and will need to see off the defending champions to progress past the first hurdle.

Dutch side SV Kampong won the Euro Hockey League title last year and they meet Holcombe on Saturday.

Before that, Holcs face Polish side KS AZS AWF Poznan on Friday.

Dan Fox - Holcombe's only injury doubt
Dan Fox - Holcombe's only injury doubt

Northern Ireland side Banbridge are staging the first round of the Euros, where the top team from each three-team pool will progress to the knockout stage over Easter.

Getting to this stage has been some achievement for Holcombe.

Team manager Keith Martin said: “It will be a great learning curve for us and we’ll make the most of it.

“This has happened three or four years earlier than we anticipated but it has always been our aim and our aim now is to win a European medal.

“They (Kampong) have had a great start to the season and won 10-0 against a newly-promoted team, but they have no more internationals than we do. They might have more strength in depth, but we are taking a strong 18-man squad and we’re raring to go.”

Holcombe are heading into the weekend off the back of their first league defeat since March 2014, having lost to last season’s play-off champions Wimbledon 2-1.

Martin said: “We should have at least got a draw, but we didn’t take our chances having had eight penalties in the match. It was a cracking game – end to end – but the goals were scrappy.”

The team will be hosted by Cookstown Hockey Club over the weekend and Martin added: “We have been there previously in pre-season and they are hosting us. We’re at a club we know, in a hotel we know and we’ve got quite a few supporters backing us as well.

“We’re also hoping the home crowd support Iain Lewers, who is from Northern Ireland.”

Dan Fox is the only injury doubt after taking a knock to his foot against Wimbledon.

Teams progressing through from this weekend’s group stage will meet the 12 pre-qualifiers – including Wimbledon – at a knockout tournament in Holland. The best four will then progress to the grand final in the summer.

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