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Dublin: 12 °C Sunday 15 September, 2019
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Donnybrook rugby stadium an option to host Ireland's Olympic qualifier

Hockey Ireland have been in talks with Leinster Rugby over the use of the venue in November.

Donnybrook has a capacity of 6,000.
Donnybrook has a capacity of 6,000.
Image: Oisin Keniry/INPHO

DONNYBROOK RUGBY STADIUM could be in line to host Ireland’s two-legged Olympic qualifying tie against Canada in November, with Hockey Ireland set to make a final decision on the venue in the coming days.

Sean Dancer’s World Cup silver medallists were yesterday drawn to face Canada for a place at Tokyo 2020, with the back-to-back games scheduled to be played in Dublin on Saturday 2 and Sunday 3 November.

Hockey Ireland have explored the possibility of using a drop-in pitch at Donnybrook, the original home of Leinster Rugby, and The42 understands the governing body has received the green light to use the 6,000-capacity venue in November.

To stage the tie at Donnybrook, Hockey Ireland would need to roll out a Polytan Carpet pitch similar to what was done at the Twickenham Stoop recently for Great Britain’s FIH Pro League women’s and men’s matches against New Zealand in June.

Although it would be a considerable logistical challenge to install a hockey pitch on top of Donnybrook’s 3G playing surface, The42 understands Leinster Rugby are happy for the project to go ahead as it will not affect the province’s training or ‘A’ team schedule.

Donnybrook is one of three options available to Hockey Ireland for the Olympic qualifier, with the National Hockey Stadium at UCD and the new pitch at the National Sports Campus in Abbotstown also possibilities.

gettyimages-1157818464-594x594 The drop-in pitch at London's Twickenham Stoop. Source: Alex Davidson

The recently-upgraded pitch at UCD will officially be opened by the college on Wednesday evening and has traditionally hosted Ireland’s home internationals, but had fallen below FIH standards in recent years. 

Belfield’s 1,500 capacity is, however, significantly smaller than that of Donnybrook, while the new surface at Abbotstown has yet to be laid, meaning it would be a race against time to have it ready for the first weekend in November. 

Speaking yesterday, head coach Dancer said he would welcome a decision sooner rather than later as the team bid to qualify for their first Games.

“From a planning point of view, I like to know well in advance rather than later so I hope it will be finalised soon so I can finalise our plans,” Dancer explained

“It’s out of my hands. It’s one of the three locations in the mix at the moment and Hockey Ireland and the organising committee will make their decision on that in the near future.”

Hockey Ireland are due to make an announcement on the venue at the end of this week or early next week, and the governing body must be lauded for its ambition in trying to adapt Donnybrook and continue to build on the swell of support for the team since London 2018.

Additionally, RTÉ has declared its intention to acquire the live broadcast rights for Ireland’s home qualifier.

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Ryan Bailey

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