IRISH HOCKEY FANS will be keeping a close eye on the Oceania Cup in New Zealand on Sunday.
The tournament, which takes place between 21 and 25 October, reaches its conclusion this weekend, and should Australia triumph, it will guarantee Ireland a spot at the 2016 Rio Olympics.
Australia already guaranteed their spot in Rio when they won the World League in Antwerp, and so will not have to use the upcoming competition to gain entry to next summer’s Olympics.
Consequently, as the next team in line for a place in Rio, Ireland would benefit hugely from an Australia win on Sunday.
Victory is anything but assured, however, as the Australians will need to succeed in a competition that includes New Zealand, Fiji and Samoa in order to prevail.
Should Ireland realise their dream this weekend, it would be the first time an Irish hockey team has qualified for the Olympic Games in over 100 years and the first Irish team from any sport to qualify for the competition since 1948.
Speaking ahead of the games, Irish coach Craig Fulton said: “There is nothing more we can do to qualify for Rio 2016. As Australia has already qualified, we’re relying on them to beat New Zealand (or one of the other sides) in the Oceania Cup final. If they can’t beat them then all credit to New Zealand on the day for their victory. We will be watching in the early hours of Sunday morning hoping the result goes our way.”
Live streams for the upcoming games can be found here.