By Stephen Findlater
The Irish women’s team’s Olympic Games hopes received a huge boost as they were confirmed as one of the host nations for the next phase of qualifiers for Tokyo.
They will host the eight-team FIH Series Finals event from which two sides are assured of going on to the final playoffs for the Games in 2020.
Where exactly it will be remains to be seen with no venue currently confirmed. Hockey Ireland and UCD are currently in a stand-off over the redevelopment of the most obvious venue in Belfield with the pitch now three years past its sell-by date.
Should that impasse remain, the potential venues could include Stormont – host of the 2017 World League Round 2 – the Mardyke or the recently refurbished Havelock Park in Banbridge. All would require temporary infrastructure like stands and video towers to be installed but they all have the standard of turf and space to work with.
In the competition itself, the Green Army will be the top seeds – at eighth in the world – following their World Cup exploits. Next best on the current entry list is Korea in 10th with Scotland (18th) also a dangerous opponent.
Czech Republic (19th), Malaysia (22nd), France (32nd) and Ukraine (27th) will be joined by one more side following completion of FIH Series Open events in Africa and Asia.
The Irish men, meanwhile, will travel to Le Touquet in France for their Series Final. Again, they will be the highest ranked side, coming up against the hosts (20th) and Korea (14th), two sides with whom they have plenty of history.
Chile, Scotland and Singapore are outsiders while another two countries will complete the line-up.
Alexander Cox, meanwhile, named his squad for November’s World Cup this morning with Luke Madeley’s inclusion the most eye-catching.
The Three Rock Rovers defender has been in powerful form this season at club level and Cox admitted Madeley’s last minute goal in the Euro Hockey League against Junior FC made an impact, showing his strength of character.
It will be the former Irish Under-21 skipper’s first ranking tournament of any description. He takes up the spot made available by John Jackson who could not commit to the preparation programme due to work commitments.
Otherwise, the panel was reasonably as anticipated with Kilkenny man Jeremy Duncan shading John McKee for one of the forward spots. Kinsale twins Conor and David Harte are among 10 of the Rio Olympians included.
They ramp up their preparations with five games in seven days in Valencia, starting next Monday.
Irish men’s squad for Hockey World Cup (November 28 – December 16, 2018; Bhubaneswar, India): David Harte (SV Kampong), David Fitzgerald (Monkstown), Jonathan Bell (Lisnagarvey), Paul Gleghorne (HTC Crefeld), Luke Madeley (Three Rock Rovers), Conor Harte (Racing Club de Bruxelles), Stuart Loughrey (Reading), Matthew Bell (HTC Crefeld), Lee Cole (Oree), Shane O’Donoghue (KHC Dragons), Michael Robson (HTC Crefeld), Kirk Shimmins (KHC Dragons), Sean Murray (HC Rotterdam), Chris Cargo (Hampstead & Westminster), Daragh Walsh (Three Rock Rovers), Matthew Nelson (Lisnagarvey), Mitch Darling (Three Rock Rovers), Eugene Magee (Banbridge), Alan Sothern (La Gantoise), Jeremy Duncan (Herakles)