Hockey: Details released on pop-up pitch for Olympic qualifier
The Ireland women’s team will attempt to reach Olympics for the first ever time
Ireland’s Emily Beatty, Leinster Rugby’s and Megan Frazer of Ireland at the media announcement in Donnybrook. Photo: Bryan Keane/Inpho
Ireland formally rolled out details of the pop-up pitch to be used in Energia Park, Donnybrook, confirming that it will be the same surface to be used in the Olympic Games next summer.
The Irish women’s team will face Canada in back-to-back matches on a hockey pitch laid over the current synthetic rugby pitch with the aggregate winner of the two games ensured of a place in Tokyo.
No Irish women’s field sport team has ever qualified for an Olympic Games.
With a number of partnerships named including Big Stadium Hockey and Sport Ireland, the pitch will take up to four days to construct in the week leading up to the games with tickets going on sale on October 1st via the International Federation website as well as on Hockey.ie.
Both matches will be broadcast by RTÉ at 7.00pm on November 2nd and 7.10 pm on November 3rd to avoid an potential clash with the men’s and women’s FAI Cup finals, also scheduled to take place on the Sunday of that weekend.
“In particular I am excited by the collaboration of Leinster Rugby and Hockey Ireland to put in place the structures for what is a unique event,” said Minister for Transport Tourism and Sport Shane Ross.
“I would be hopeful that this collaboration will be an encouragement for other sports to follow in hosting major events by making full use of existing stadia.
“I wish the athletes and all supporters an exciting weekend in November and wishing for every success in achieving the goal of a ticket to the Tokyo Olympics.”
Leinster CEO Mick Dawson added that the Donnybrook stadium “was one of the busiest rugby grounds in the world” and has already been used for GAA, soccer, American Football and concerts. One of the conditions laid down five years ago when two pitches at the facility were put down was that they would be put to a number of uses.
Irish Hockey is renting the facility from Leinster Rugby following a feasibility study, which was conducted in August.
There was some optimism that the sport would attract over 6,000 fans needed to make the event a financial success given thousands turned out on Dame Street when the team returned to Dublin with unprecedented World Cup silver medals in August 2018.
“There was an upsurge in support for the Irish women’s hockey team,” added Minister Ross. “It was a great achievement, very special. This is a great period for Irish women’s hockey and a great period for women’s sport.”
The Irish men’s team were also draw against Canada and will similarly play in a two leg tie in Vancouver on the weekend before the women play.