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Hockey Ireland forced to move Olympic qualifying tournament out of Dublin

A lack of a suitable venue in the capital means the FIH tournament will be played in Banbridge this summer.

HOCKEY IRELAND HAS been forced to change the venue for this summer’s Olympic qualifying tournament to Banbridge, despite the International Hockey Federation [FIH] originally awarding the hosting rights to Dublin.

The tournament, which takes place in June, was due to be staged in UCD after plans for the redevelopment of the National Stadium were given the green light last December, but work on the Belfield venue has been delayed again. 

RB1_9927 The UCD pitch was due to be ready for June. Source: UCD

Hockey Ireland also explored the option of using the new state-of-the-art pitch on the National Sports Campus in Abbotstown, but with that project also yet to start, there were no guarantees it would be ready for use in time.

It left the governing body with no suitable venue to stage an international tournament in the capital, with other club pitches such as Monkstown at Rathdown School and Three Rock Rovers failing to meet the criteria for infrastructure set out by the FIH. 

In a statement this afternoon, Hockey Ireland say the tournament — which marks the beginning of the women’s national team’s bid to qualify for Tokyo 2020 — will be played in Banbridge Hockey Club from 8-16 June.

Ireland, who are currently without a head coach following the shock departure of Graham Shaw, are hoping to build on last year’s World Cup silver medal and qualify for the Olympics for the first time.

“While work has commenced on two new top-class hockey pitches in Dublin, UCD and the National Sports Campus, neither will be completed in time to accommodate the required pre-tournament training on the match surface by the Green Army,” the statement read.

“Banbridge Hockey Club have laid a new pitch in recent months and the club grounds offer Hockey Ireland the appropriate amount of space to accommodate all that is required with an international tournament of this calibre.”

Ireland, who are in Bisham Abbey presently playing Great Britain in an uncapped series, will open their FIH Series Finals campaign against Malaysia on 8 June before facing Czech Republic and Singapore in further Group A games on 9 and 11 June.

Roisin Upton, Ayeisha McFerran, Gillian Pinder, Anna O'Flanagan and Katie Mullan Ireland will begin their Olympic qualifying campaign in Banbridge. Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

The uncertainty surrounding the tournament venue, coupled with Shaw’s resignation to take over as the New Zealand women’s head coach, has hardly been ideal preparation.

While the eight-team tournament will be shown live on BT Sport, the move north of the border is likely to see a reduction in crowd sizes, while the team have yet to play in Dublin since last summer’s magical run to the World Cup final.

“While our preference was to hold the tournament in Dublin, it was not possible for the pitches to be completed within our time frame,” Hockey Ireland performance director, Adam Grainger, added.

“We are confident that both pitches will be worth the wait and will only add to the sport of hockey in the future. It is important we get the pitch correct at the National Sports Campus as it will be our base going forward.

“Banbridge Hockey Club and the surrounding community have proven themselves to be highly enthusiastic when holding tournaments before and we are looking forward to working with them once again.”

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Ryan Bailey

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