Olympic hockey boost as Ireland confirmed as qualifying host

Venue still be decided for eight-team FIH Series Finals; men’s World Cup squad named

The Irish women’s team’s Olympic Games hopes received a huge boost as they were confirmed as one of the host nations for the next phase of qualifiers for Tokyo.

They will host the eight-team FIH Series Finals event from which two sides are assured of going on to the final playoffs for the Games in 2020.

Where exactly it will be held remains to be seen with no venue currently confirmed. Hockey Ireland and UCD are currently in a stand-off over the redevelopment of the most obvious venue in Belfield, with the pitch now three years past its sell-by date.

Should that impasse remain, the potential venues could include Stormont – host of the 2017 World League Round 2 – the Mardyke in Cork or the recently refurbished Havelock Park in Banbridge. All would require temporary infrastructure like stands and video towers to be installed but they all have the standard of turf and space to work with.


Meanwhile, Luke Madeley is the bolter in the Irish men's squad named for World Cup which gets under way in late November in India after his confirmation in the 20-player panel named by new coach Alexander Cox.

It will be the Three Rock Rovers man’s first world ranking tournament and follows a memorable month in which he fired home a crucial late goal for his club to advance in the Euro Hockey League ahead of Spain’s Junior FC.

Cox said he “would be lying” if he said that moment did not impact on his decision but said it was part of an overall improvement in his game.

The previous management had felt Madeley needed to work on his fitness for extended tournaments but Cox said he was pleased with his development in the last six months.

He comes into an experienced back line with Olympians Jonathan Bell, Conor Harte and Paul Gleghorne in front of David Harte as well as Matthew Bell and Stu Loughrey.

The other big call sees Jonny McKee miss out with Jeremy Duncan taking one of the forward slots alongside the returning Mitch Darling and established faces Eugene Magee, Alan Sothern and Matthew Nelson.

On the goalkeeping front, David Fitzgerald edges out Jamie Carr as number two to Harte – the two-time world goalkeeper of the year.

All 20 will travel to the event with the 18 front-line players and two reserves to be confirmed following an intensive preparation tournament in Valencia which starts on Monday.

There, Ireland will play five games in seven days, ramping up their preparations with ties against England, Spain and the Netherlands.

They will be the first official ties with Cox on the sidelines in his role but they have played a series of training games with the Netherlands in recent times. He took over the job in August following Craig Fulton’s shock decision to leave the coach’s role in favour of being the Belgian assistant coach.

Irish men's squad for Hockey World Cup (November 28th – December 16th, 2018; Bhubaneswar, India): David Harte (SV Kampong), David Fitzgerald (Monkstown), Jonathan Bell (Lisnagarvey), Paul Gleghorne (HTC Crefeld), Luke Madeley (Three Rock Rovers), Conor Harte (Racing Club de Bruxelles), Stuart Loughrey (Reading), Matthew Bell (HTC Crefeld), Lee Cole (Oree), Shane O'Donoghue (KHC Dragons), Michael Robson (HTC Crefeld), Kirk Shimmins (KHC Dragons), Sean Murray (HC Rotterdam), Chris Cargo (Hampstead & Westminster), Daragh Walsh (Three Rock Rovers), Matthew Nelson (Lisnagarvey), Mitch Darling (Three Rock Rovers), Eugene Magee (Banbridge), Alan Sothern (La Gantoise), Jeremy Duncan (Herakles).

Stephen Findlater

Stephen Findlater

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