Hockey: Poignant weekend in store as top-class line-up contests Richard Docherty Cup

THE inaugural Richard Docherty Indoor Cup, to be held at the Engage Sports Centre at Edinburgh’s Napier University over this weekend, fulfils several functions – but most importantly it is a chance for Richard’s family, the Inverleith club and the hockey community within Scotland to pay tribute to the 27-year-old diabetes sufferer who tragically passed away on 27 June 2010.

It is also a chance for the Scotland squad and Subway indoor national league champions Inverleith to hone their preparations before their respective European nations and club tournaments over the next couple of months.

Finally, it is an opportunity for the public, for whom entry is free, to gaze at the skills of top-level Continental opposition in the form of Dutch outfit HC RGD and Grossflottberger from the German Bundesliga. Not since the days of the Glenfiddich International Tournament a couple of decades ago has such quality been on view in Scotland.

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Inverleith, Grove Menzieshill and Grossflottbecker contest one pool while the other group comprises the Scottish squad, under the guise of Highland Jaguars, HC RGD and the Welsh side Celtic Panthers. The top two in each pool will contest tomorrow’s semi-finals, with the gala final due to start at 2pm.

Inverleith, who broke the 17-year Tayside monopoly of the indoor league title, won the championship for the first time in the club’s history with an undefeated record and the loss of only two points. Now the Edinburgh side makes its European debut next month with the Club Championships being held in Edinburgh, at the same Napier venue, on 17-19 February.

Stuart Neave, Inverleith’s coach, said: “I will probably be minus a couple of players to the Scotland squad, I also have a couple of players unavailable, so this provides me with another opportunity to use other players in the squad. The Richard Docherty tournament is an excellent situation to play high-quality games going into the second half of the season. Our group games will provide two difficult games against a well-organised Menzieshill side and a good German league team.”

However, Neave will have the services of Inverleith exiles Stephen Dick and Chris Grassick, who now play their outdoor hockey with English premier league sides Reading and Surbiton respectively. Inevitably, Neave’s objective is to reach the final, as his charges did in the recent Grove Menzieshill tournament, only to lose 5-3 to the Caledonian Cougars.

Inverleith will open the tournament with a clash against Grove Menzieshill. The Taysiders won the recent league encounter 2-1 and while the Edinburgh side were well on top with an 11-2 victory at Menzieshill’s own event, the latter were short of eight squad players that day.

Tayside legend Bruce Cuthill again leads Grove, but the prior claims of the Scotland call have ravaged his squad.

“With so many in the Scotland squad, we have not set any targets but will use this tournament as experience for the younger players,” he said.

It is generally assumed that German outfit Grossflottbecker, with Scottish striker Kenny Bain as a guest in their ranks, will be too much for both Scottish sides and the team from Hamburg should ease into the semi-finals.

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The class act in the other pool should be the Dutch side HC RGD, a side specially raised for the occasion by Laurence Docherty, Richard’s older brother, who now lives and plays in the Netherlands. This side is awash with international talent, but pride of place must go to Taco Van der Hornet and Floris Jan Bovelander, who between them have 456 international caps and have appeared in three Olympic Games with a gold and bronze medal to show for their efforts.

The game of this pool is certain to be the RGD encounter with the Highland Jaguars, the Scotland squad that is preparing for the European Nations Championships in Italy at the end of next week.

Billy McPherson, Scotland head coach, said: “We would like to win the tournament, but all the players and the teams are of the highest quality.”

Welsh side Celtic Panthers are also preparing for the European Nations Championships but they will have to show considerable improvement from the Menzieshill tournament where they finished last.