IRISH HOCKEY WAS dealt a significant blow on Tuesday with the news that the senior men’s team has been withdrawn from a prestigious international tournament.
The board of the Irish Hockey Association (IHA) said that it was pulling out of next month’s Champions Challenge in Argentina after “a great deal of soul-searching” as the squad would not be properly prepared to compete.
Currently ranked sixth in Europe and 15th in the world, Ireland was one of eight countries due to take part in the tournament in Quilmes from 24 November – 2 December.
The decision comes as a setback to a senior squad which has gone from strength to strength in recent years. Under head coach Paul Revington, Ireland finished fifth at the 2011 European Championships and narrowly missed out on Olympic qualification in heartbreaking circumstances against Korea.
The 2011 FIH world coach of the year, Revington stepped down from the Irish post earlier this summer and moved to the Malaysian national team. Last week, team manager Peter Jackson announced his decision to call it a day after overseeing more than 200 internationals at various levels.
In a short statement released on Tuesday, IHA chairman Dennis Millar said that the board is filling the two vacancies as quickly as possible but cannot do so within the timescale required for Argentina.
“This was a very difficult decision to make and was not reached without a great deal of soul-searching,” Millar said.
The Board appreciates that the squad, who have been magnificent over the past few years, will be disappointed. However, the Board could not see how the squad could be properly prepared for this prestigious tournament in the absence of a coach and manager.
Obviously we are moving towards filling the vacancies as quickly as possible, but we cannot do this within the timescale required for Argentina. The Board believes the time and resources involved would be better aimed at preparation for World Series 2, in February.
The women’s Champions Challenge is currently taking place in Dublin. Ireland can qualify for the knockout round as winners of Pool B if they beat the USA in their final game on Tuesday evening at 6pm.