Seven games in Belfast, Northern Ireland from 14 – 27 September will prove to be the first test for our national junior squad before they go up against the big guns in the 4th edition of the Sultan of Johor Cup in October.
National Juniors team manager Mirnawan Nawawi said that the matches in Ireland will be the platform for the players to perform and prove themselves and from there they will narrow the team down to 18 players which will go on to do battle in the SOJC.
“We don’t have enough time on out hands to prepare the squad for the SOJC as the boys were busy with the Division One of he Malaysian Hockey League early this year and the recent Razak Cup. As such the seven games that we have arranged in Belfast will be vital for the coaches and players,”
The seven matches scheduled in Belfast are against teams that feature in their local national league and the final 18 players who will represent Malaysia at the SOJC will then be named on September 27.
However, Mirnawan made it clear that there is no specific target set for the team this time around as the squad was only formed last April.
“We do not want to place any pressure on the players for this tournament as it will only be their first tournament together as a team.
“The main aim is to go out there and do their best in each and every matchand from there we can work our way up,” said Mirnawan.
Since the inception of the SOJC in 2011, Malaysia emerged as champions at the inaugural edition, but in 2012 they finished at the bottom of the pack before finishing as runners up last year.
Mirnawan expects three of his experienced players Meor Azuan Muhamad Hasan (19), Muhammad Shahril Saabah (19), and Muhammad Haziq Samsul (20) who were in the 2013 Junior World Cup squad to help steer the team to success.
“I am sure their presence will play an important role,”
‘Currently, Meor and Shahril is with the national squad who are preparing for the Asian Games while Haziq will return to the Junior squad after being axed from the Asian team squad.
The junior squad will resume full training in September.