Dozen decided on for nations
After months of training and preparations, a panel of 12 players have made the final cut for the European Small Nations Volleyball Championships in Andorra next month -- three players each from the Ballymum Patriots and the Aer Lingus Jets are included.
From the Patriots, setter Cillian Bracken-Conway, outside hitter Alex Gibbons and universal player Joe O'Keeffe are picked.
Outside hitter Andrew Goti, middle Jonathan Whitty and libero Tommy Kilfeather are the trio from the Jets.
Oisin McArdle and Benny O'Regan both play their club volleyball with UCD, while Sean Mac Seoin and John Grace come from Division 1 team Garda.
Although the Ulster Elks are current Premier 32 champions, most of their players will line out with Northern Ireland in the same competition. Just Niall Madden had been selected to play for the Republic.
From UCC, Andrew McCarthy is the only Munster-based player on the team. Missing from the team is former Irish captain Hugh Nohilly, who is injured.
Ireland's opponents in the group stages of the European Small Nations Championships are Scotland, Cyprus, Andorra and the Faroe Islands, with matches taking place from June 17-19.
Although restricted by their small budget, the squad has played a number of local teams, most notably an All-Star Selection last Sunday in UCD, which was packed with non-Irish nationals, who play with local teams. In a hard-fought game with only a few points in it, the Irish team came out 3-1 victors.
They had dropped the first set 20-25, but dug in to even the score by winning the second 26-24 after the scores were even at 24-24.
They kept up the momentum by winning the third 25-23, again under severe pressure, and then wrapped up the match 25-17 in the fourth.
"It was a good volleyball match, played at great pace between two good teams," said head coach Laurent Cauet.
"The fourth set was very important for us because in the last two friendly games, we had lost the fourth set and the match. But we have learned from the experience and we were in control this time."
Training is continuing and the team is also looking the part, thanks to a deal with team uniform suppliers Errea.
"We aren't going to rest. Our serves need improvement and our block can get better. We need to keep moving forward," says Cauet.