Joe Schmidt lends weight to Ireland’s Rio preparations

Craig Fulton looks to rugby coach for some inspiration ahead of Olympics

Ireland rugby coach Joe Schmidt is helping out his hockey counterpart Craig Fulton as the latter prepares his team for Olympics. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho.

Ireland rugby coach Joe Schmidt is helping out his hockey counterpart Craig Fulton as the latter prepares his team for Olympics. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho.

 

Craig Fulton, coach of the men’s Irish hockey team, has had discussions with Ireland rugby coach Joe Schmidt about how he can use rugby techniques and approaches to coaching that will help the men’s team be at their best for the Rio Olympic Games in August.

Fulton will also take his squad to Carton House for a week later this month to perform training and testing of players as well as discussing where the group need to be and how they can achieve that over the next three months. Carton House, where the Irish Hockey Golf Day will take place later this month, is also the base of the Irish rugby team.

Schmidt will also speak at Irish Hockey’s corporate dinner later this month in Dublin as part of his personal decision to help another Irish sport. Fulton first met the New Zealander after last year’s successful Six Nations campaign.

“I just asked Joe please could I have just 10 minutes of your time and it was not a problem,” said Fulton at this week’s launch of the team’s “Obsessed” fund-raising campaign.

“Joe said sure. He has been immensely helpful and generous with his time. That’s where the dinner comes in. He just wants to help us be the best we can.

“What I wanted to do is draw a parallel with the two sports and try to see how we could improve. It was definitely very helpful to me to hear a respected coach talk about a player led environment not just from the top down but from inside and out, which is what we would like to do.”

The South African-born and raised Fulton, who was voted the best hockey coach in the world last year by the International Hockey Federation, has played twice for South Africa in previous Olympic Games and was also an assistant coach with the South African national team for a few years.

‘Leadership style’

It is not the first time different sports have used each other for exchanges of ideas. In the last Fifa World Cup held in Brazil, the Dutch football team manager Louis van Gaal had former hockey players on his staff. Team manager Hans Jorritsma was a member of the Dutch hockey team at the 1976 Olympics, while Max Reckers was a professional hockey player before he was hired by Van Gaal as a performance analyst. He joined Van Gaal’s staff at Manchester United after the tournament.

There has been a long standing tie between Dutch football and hockey with the late Johan Cruyff occasionally attending matches involving the Netherlands. One of the high-end technical sides of hockey is the press, which forces errors from defenders by squeezing space, forcing turnovers and interceptions.

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