Edinburgh hosts international stars as policeman leads Scotland for 20th year

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International volleyball event returns to Capital for first time in 7 years

Edinburgh will host its biggest international volleyball event in years from Thursday to Saturday next week when teams from six countries descend on Oriam at Riccarton.

The Small Countries Association Zonal Finals features Luxembourg, Northern Ireland, Iceland, San Marino and Ireland as well as the hosts. It will be a landmark occasion for Niall Collin, 39, the City of Edinburgh Club captain who also leads the national side.

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Scotland coach Ally Jack said: “This will be Niall’s 20th year competing at international level and it is amazing to think our debutant player, Matthew Allan, wasn't born when our captain first stepped on to the international stage against Luxembourg in 2003. Since then so many players have come and gone at international level but Niall’s resilience and dedication is such that he keeps giving to our sport. Niall is a policeman in Perth who lives in Dundee but his travelling commitments at club level we’ve estimated to be equivalent to 12 times around the world.”

Niall Collin is in his 20th year as a Scotland international volleyball playerNiall Collin is in his 20th year as a Scotland international volleyball player
Niall Collin is in his 20th year as a Scotland international volleyball player

Collin is one of five Capital representatives in a 14 man squad. Others from City of Edinburgh are Johnny Black, Liam Darling and Mark Cathro, while James McHardy flies the flag for Edinburgh University VC. The rest of the squad are expats playing in Norway, Hungary, Luxembourg and Finland.

Jack added: “Our team are all Scottish-born some of whom have jobs that have taken them away while Marc McLaughlin is a pro player in Hungary. Rarely getting what is more or less a full strength squad together does make our task a bit harder but the fact our players have so little opportunity to play on a home court makes this tournament a very big deal for us.

“On the upside City of Edinburgh hosted a Challenge Cup tie against Norwegian opposition in 2016 so some of our players have played at Oriam to a high level. Niall Collin would normally be up there with those of our past players who reached the 100 cap mark instead of on 66 appearance. But for the last few years less funding has meant fewer matches.”

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Scotland can draw on success in the same competition as recently as 2019 so what are the chances this time? “We are drawn in a pool with Luxembourg and Northern Ireland and would like to think we have a good chance of progressing,” added Jack.

“We’ve not faced Luxembourg for a few years and they benefit from being placed, geographically, close to some quality leagues which benefit their players so that will be particularly tough. Looking beyond the pools were we to progress San Marino are defending champions while Iceland has had some serious investment in the sport although we beat them last time we met.”

Meanwhile, domestically, some of the City of Edinburgh players may want to prove a point or at least bounce back from recent disappointment. “In the Scottish League season just ended City of Edinburgh were unbeaten only to lose a play-off final to Glasgow always a difficult situation,” added Jack, who also serves as high performance coach and coaching manager at Scottish Volleyball.

In the women’s tournament, held in Luxembourg last month, Scotland finished a creditable second. Scotland’s men open on Thursday, June 15 against Northern Ireland at 2pm. For ticket details and other info. go to scottishvolleyball.org.