Craig Fulton helps guide Belgium to maiden hockey World Cup

He had previously overseen Ireland’s incredible rise to the top 10 in the world

Former Irish coach Craig Fulton was celebrating World Cup gold just a few months after moving on from the Green Machine as Belgium landed the title for the first time in Bhubaneswar.

During his tenure, he had overseen Ireland’s incredible rise to the top 10 in the world, European bronze and qualification for both the World Cup and the 2016 Olympic Games.

But he left his position in July for an assistant coach’s role with the Belgians, citing the ceiling imposed by the limited resources available to push on further.

And it has proven an incredible switch as the Red Lions made their own breakthrough, reaching the final four for the first time.

And they followed up with a 6-0 semi-final hammering of England before beating the Netherlands in a shoot-out on Sunday evening to take gold.

The Irish teams, though, did get a boost on the government support front with a pair of almost simultaneous announcements.

At Abbotstown, Sport Ireland confirmed they will be replacing the sand-based pitch at the National Sports Campus with a state-of-the-art water surface matching the spec for Tokyo 2020.

It is expected to cost €600,000 and be complete by next April. This will be primarily a training base without recourse to renting out club venues while also being able to avail of the additional high performance support options at the NSC.

For big games and tournaments, though, UCD is likely to be back in favour as the venue of preference. The college confirmed they will replace the turf at Belfield for around €350,000 on their own without splitting the costs with Hockey Ireland.

Nonetheless, the pitches will be available for rental and it is expected that it if the pitch is ready in time, it will be the venue to host the women’s Hockey Series final, part of the Olympic qualification process, in June.

Stephen Findlater

Stephen Findlater

Stephen Findlater is a contributor to The Irish Times writing about hockey

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