Ireland men’s Olympic hopes received a huge boost yesterday afternoon as the International Hockey Federation confirmed Dublin as the host city for one of the three qualifying tournaments for London 2012.
Paul Revington’s side were initially anticipated to be heading to Japan by the IHA but when Belgium stunned Spain in the August’s European championships, it had a knock-on effect of requiring a new qualifier host.
And Ireland – off the back of last summer’s successful women’s Champion’s Challenge I hosting – were approached to fill the void. They face a tough but manageable six-team pool though they will have to oust world number six side Korea for the one available place at the Olympics.
Ireland do have a psychological boost having beaten the Asian side 5-1 last summer in Paris and have a decent recent record against world number 14 side Malaysia – the home nation of Irish assistant coach Arul Anthoni.
Russia, Chile and Ukraine look to be rank outsiders for the tournament which runs from March 11 to 18, 2011.
On the women’s side, Ireland were spared an expensive trip to Asia as they were drawn to play in Beerschot in Belgium. They are the second ranked side in the group and have a score to settle with the hosts who beat Ireland comfortably in the Europeans. Spain are the top rank with Russia, Mexico and France filling out the six places in a tournament which begins on St Patrick’s Day.
South Africa’s bizarre decision to turn down an automatic qualifying berth as African champions and go through the qualifiers saw Argentina – the current World Cup holders – take an unexpected berth in London without recourse to the qualifiers having lost out in the Pan-American championships.
With both tournaments being played in March, this will have the knock-on effect of pushing the fourth and fifth rounds of the Irish Hockey League onto the weekends of April 14 and 21 while the quarter-finals of the Irish Senior Cup are pencilled in for May 12 with the semi-finals and finals taking place a week later.
Men’s Olympic Qualifying Tournaments
New Delhi, India (February 15-26 TBC): India, Canada, France, Poland, Egypt, United States
Dublin (March 11-18): Korea, Malaysia, Ireland, Russia, Chile, Ukraine
Kakamigahara, Japan (April 25-May 6, TBC): Spain, Japan, China, Austria, Czech Republic, Cuba
Women’s Olympic Qualifying Tournaments:
New Delhi, India (February 15-26): South Africa, India, Italy, Canada, Ukraine, Poland
Beerschot, Belgium (March 17-25): Spain, Ireland, Belgium, Russia, France, Mexico
Kakamigahara, Japan (April 25-May 6): Japan, Azerbaijan, Chile, Belarus, Malaysia, Trinidad and Tobago