Option to embrace indoor game a big decision for Hockey Ireland

Entering teams in the European Championships has funding implications

Hockey Ireland has been unable to provide any more information other than the welcome news that they are pleased to announce that for the next Indoor European Championships in 2020 Ireland will be entering a senior men’s and women’s team. That leaves room for some talking points, things they should or will be thinking.

Funding is always an issue and as the game is to some degree self funded, especially at lower levels. Another layer of self funding at international level would put hockey more out of reach for young people who know that if they succeed in the game they cannot afford to thrive at international level because of the cost. This drum needs to be consistently banged.

The game must also decide if there should be two teams operating at the highest level, or, if the international players from the outdoor team will funnel into the indoor game and effectively play in two strands of international hockey.

That is the way it was for the last national team in the 1980s, when everyone on the indoor team also played on the outdoor team.

Hockey must decide if the 1980s model should apply or if specialist players will be developed in the same way as Rugby Sevens pick from different groups of athletes and use them accordingly in Olympic Games and Rugby World Cups.

The Czech Republic and Iran are among the top four-ranked world sides indoors, but are no great power houses outdoors.

The most important decision to be made is whether senior hockey should close down for eight weeks in the winter to give the indoor game its rightful prominence and a season of its own.

For too long it has scrambled along with no real focus or association support. To do well at international level and to climb back up towards the top of the ladder, the indoor game also needs a closed season and a dedicated venue.

Three Rock Rovers have flown the flag for the indoor game in recent years. Their coach Liam Canning was a prominent international player from the 1980s and a player with Avoca, who had success in Europe. In all of this Canning is a natural place to start.

Johnny Watterson

Johnny Watterson

Johnny Watterson is a sports writer with The Irish Times