Gene Muller stepped away from the Irish women’s head coach position yesterday after a five and a half year tenure as the first full-time coach to charge of the senior team.
His contract expired at the end of the Olympic cycle which came to a conclusion following last Sunday’s 4-1 defeat to Belgium ended hopes of a ticket to London 2012.
Muller initially batted away questions about his future from The Hook on Sunday in the wake of that result but yesterday’s announcement came as little surprise, and Muller admitted it was a decision he had reached a number of months ago.
“I have known for some time that this Olympic cycle would be my last for Ireland,” he said. “I have thoroughly enjoyed coaching the women’s national team. It has been a positive and rewarding experience.”
He took over from Riet Kuper in 2006 having previously worked with the Canadian national team.
In his tenure, Ireland missed out on a final place at the Olympic qualifiers in Victoria in 2008 at the hands of Italy but bounced back to record a fifth placed finish at the 2009 Europeans in Amsterdam – equaling Ireland’s best finish in this competition.
World Cup qualification was missed in 2010 in Chile amid a campaign blighted by the Icelandic ash cloud, giving Muller just a day’s acclimitisation at altitude. The side played four times in five days, garnering a single win to finish third.
In between, a Champion’s Challenge II entry also yielded third in Kazan in 2009 while they moved up to Challenge I level in 2011 and finished sixth, taking victories over higher ranked Azerbaijan and India in the process while drawing with Spain.
But last summer’s sixth place finish in the Europeans in Monchengladbach was a low point with Ireland finishing sixth, comfortably outdone by lower ranked Belgium 3-0 in the group phases, before rallying with wins over Azerbaijan and Italy to maintain A-division status.
Reaching last weekend’s final was the first time Ireland reached the final – a direct play-off – to one of the world’s major events, adding the notable Spanish scalp, before Belgium jumped the queue with a comprehensive 4-1 victory.
The closing two tournaments of Muller’s reign will be set against the backdrop of what may be his most lasting legacy, the introduction and implementation of the centralised preparation programme (CPP).
This move sparked much debate within Irish hockey, as the country’s best players moved to Dublin in 2010 to spend in excess of 20 hours a week training together.
Irish Hockey Association chief executive Angus Kirkland said the national body was “sad” to accept the resignation of Muller, who has made no decision about his future and will continue working with the IHA until the end of May.
“Gene has been totally committed to both the Irish women’s squad and the IHA for the past six years,” said Kirkland. “In reaching the final of the Olympic qualifier, he has taken this team further than any coach before him.”
Irish skipper Alex Speers added: “Gene’s vision, drive and belief in this group of players brought about the CPP, and his hard work, commitment and dedication brought us to the final last Sunday.”
The kind words were reciprocated as Muller praised his squad’s “commitment, passion and effort”. “You always treated me graciously and respectfully,” he said. “I wish you only the best in the future.”
6 Responses to “Muller steps away from Irish women’s job”
March 28, 2012 11:43 am Pea.Oh. Kneel says
Muller shouldn’t walk away. Switching coach isn’t the answear.
March 28, 2012 1:14 pm john stanford says
I Propose Graham Shaw Assisted beautifully Joe Brennan
March 28, 2012 8:14 pm John says
The man deserves credits for what he has achieved. Bringing Ireland from almost nothing to a serious opponent. Through ‘out-of-the-conservative Irish-box’ thinking, he managed to get the squad in Dublin and significantly improved the level of performance.
He is done now, thank you Gene.
Let’s hope the budget will allow the IHA to find a suitable successor.
March 29, 2012 1:38 am Hockey Fan says
Sorry to see him go.He brought a high level of professionalism to the team, and their training, and gave them belief in themselves.Unfortunately they fell just short in their quest for Olympic glory.They also managed to beat teams ranked higher (India and Spain) and in the past year or so have managed comfortable wins against teams ranked below, except for Belgium, who have made exceptional progress.I think the Irish Ladies Team have improved greatly during his tenure.I hope his successor will be as professional and as committed, to keep the Team moving forward.Well done and thanks from an avid supporter.
March 29, 2012 8:58 am hockey player says
Fantastic man and a fantastic coach who was let down in the end by a team that didn’t perform well on the day. It was a very harsh learning experience for the girls but I’m sure they’ll bounce back. Here is to Rio 2016.
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