Ireland’s Olympic qualification efforts get under way
Ukraine the opening opponents in World League at Belfield
The Irish women’s hockey team begins its qualification campaign for the Rio Olympic Games. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho
To be certain of reaching the decisive phase of the qualification process – a 10-nation tournament in Valencia in June – Darren Smith’s side must make it to Sunday week’s final in Dublin, although a spot will also be available for the best performing third-ranked country from the three World League tournaments, the others hosted by Uruguay and India.
As hosts and tops seeds at Belfield, qualification for Valencia should be attainable for Ireland who are ranked 14th in the world, the rest of the nations in their pool outside the top 20.
After Ukraine (25), they take on Canada (22) on Sunday, a team they beat 5-0 in Dublin last summer, the Canadians warming up for this challenge by scoring 63 goals in three games in Mexico last September when they won round one of the World League – the highlight, if you can call it that, their 34-0 demolition of Guatemala.
On Tuesday, Ireland complete their pool campaign against Turkey.