Decision to withdraw Ireland to have far-reaching consequences

Wed, Oct 3, 2012, 01:00

HOCKEY CHAMPIONS CHALLENGE I TOURNAMENT:THE IRISH men’s senior team were left stunned as the Irish Hockey Association board announced their intention to withdraw them from the Champions Challenge I in Argentina which gets under way in late November.

The IHA board cited the lack of a current coach and manager as the reasons in a statement yesterday, saying they “could not see how the squad could be properly prepared for this prestigious world tournament”.

Paul Revington handed in his notice in May from the senior men’s role after one of Ireland’s best runs of results, reaching the final of the Olympic qualifying tournament in March. Manager Peter Jackson subsequently stepped down after over 200 international games. Since their departure, replacements have yet to be found by the IHA with suggestions the announcement of a new coach will be delayed until the new year.

The decision to withdraw is likely to have far-reaching consequences. To do so less than 12 weeks before the competition, the FIH regulations state there is a fine of up to 15,000 Swiss francs (€12,500) and possible further financial payments due to the Argentina national association for any related financial losses for Ireland’s non-appearance.

Furthermore, there will be a loss of hard-earned world ranking points that have lifted Ireland to their highest ever standing of 15. An eighth-place finish in Argentina would have at least garnered 80 points while an equivalent number will be deducted as a penalty, representing a deduction of almost a fifth Ireland’s total.

It will leave Ireland under serious pressure to stay in the world’s top 16, something that has become more important with the advent of the World League. Falling outside this realm would mean an extra tournament in the Olympic cycle. A couple of eligible players are said to be considering stepping away from the Irish selection to pursue 2016 Olympic aspirations with Great Britain.

Senior men’s players were left devastated by the decision, many responding on Twitter, questioning too why a new coach had not been appointed.

Responding to these criticisms, IHA chief executive Angus Kirkland said: “In reality, we held off looking straight away as there was a big push to try and retain Paul [Revington]. We could have looked concurrently. The Sports Council, who advised us in this process, suggested to advertise during the Olympics to get our best chance of a high quality coach as this is hopefully for four to eight years.

“Clearly the players are unhappy, not just about the message but also the way it was related.” He did, however, add a glimmer of hope of a rethink: “While we made the decision, we haven’t finalised the withdrawal with the FIH as yet.”

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