Hockey prodigy moves closer to dream

IPSWICH hockey prodigy Will Hearne is set to move a step further towards his Olympic dream by making his England Under-18 debut.

Stuart Watson

IPSWICH hockey prodigy Will Hearne is set to move a step further towards his Olympic dream by making his England Under-18 debut.

The 18-year-old Ipswich Hockey Club first team player, who has played on a number of occasions for England's U16s, received a long-awaited first call up for the U18 squad for this week's Home Nations tournament in Cardiff.

England's first game came against Wales on Tuesday, with further fixtures against Ireland and Scotland on Wednesday and Thursday respectively.

Hearne has also been selected for an England U18 squad that will play at the UK School Games in Bristol and Bath next month in the first year that the Games, which are run as an Olympic style multi-discipline event, have included the sport of hockey.

The former Woodbridge School pupil said: “It has been a long-term goal of mine to make the under-18 squad. Hopefully this will be a stepping stone now towards the under-21s and hopefully, in the long term, the senior Great Britain squad in the build-up to the London 2012 Olympics.”

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Kate Walsh knows what it takes to make that journey - the 28-year-old currently preparing to captain GB's women in her second Olympic Games in Beijing next month - and believes that the UK School Games will provide a good experience for Hearne to push onwards with his hockey ambitions.

“I used to love playing hockey at school as well as my club. It was great when we played away in tournaments at county, regional and national level,” said Walsh.

“But not even tournaments can prepare you for what it's like at a multi event. The sheer scale of Sydney was amazing, there were so many things to take in and then of course two years later I had the experience of a home competition when Manchester staged the Commonwealth Games.

“Speaking from experience, Will will have an amazing time, especially being able to compete in front of friends and family.

“Hopefully his time at the UK School Games will prepare him for future competitions, none more so than London 2012 and Glasgow 2014. It's an exciting time for British sport and I wish Will the best of luck.”

Having run the London Marathon in three hours and 41 minutes this summer, England selectors have decided to utilise Hearne's stamina in a forwards role, the teenager having previously played in defence.

Hearne now plans to play the majority of the up-and-coming season for Ipswich Hockey Club before moving to Australia for a year where he is already in talks with a number of top clubs.

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