Ireland’s overachievement on hockey field hints at world of possibility

Craig Fulton’s underfunded team have still managed to finish year ranked 10th in world

Ireland’s men’s hockey coach  Craig Fulton. Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho

Ireland’s men’s hockey coach Craig Fulton. Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho

 

The infographic on the Hockey Ireland website gives a good indication of just what the Irish team has achieved over the year. Chronically underfunded as they prepared for the Olympic Games, they went to Rio, started slowly against India and paid the price.

But Craig Fulton and his squad ended the tournament well and showed that with funding and proper preparation Ireland can mix with the best sides in the world.

The Obsessed campaign to raise funds for the team took in €225,000, which is a phenomenal amount for a small sport and maybe some evidence, both for the cash-strapped national squad and incoming chief executive Jerome Pels, that there is goodwill out there for a successful national brand.

To illustrate what Ireland are up against, GB Hockey, on the back of their women’s team winning the gold medal in Rio, have awarded 80 full or part-time contracts to players (40 women and 40 men) as attentions turn to Tokyo 2020.

That is 16 contracts more than were awarded at the start of the Rio 2016 cycle. Ireland has nobody on contracts.

Highest

Still, along the way Ireland beat Korea and India, two sides that were ranked above them, while the team finished with a ranking of 10th in the world, the highest Ireland has ever been.

That should give Ireland some momentum going into 2017 as Fulton builds towards the World League round two tournament, which is being hosted in The Pavilion in the Stormont Estate on March 11th-19th.

Teams from France, Poland, Ukraine, Italy, Wales, Scotland and Austria arrive for what is the start of the process for World Cup qualification.

As it happens, some of the players who will take part in that tournament will be playing in the Neville Cup final on St Stephen’s Day at 2pm in Serpentine Avenue.

It is always good that the home side makes the final to attract a decent crowd and with this year’s gate collection going to The Cottage Home Child and Family Services, that is all the more important.

Pembroke face Monkstown in the final, with Monkstown favourites to add another trophy to their cabinet. It is a brief interlude as the EY Hockey League takes a break until January 7th.

St Stephens Day: Neville Cup final – Pembroke v Monkstown, Serpentine Avenue 2.00pm.

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