Funding key if Irish men to push for world’s top ten

In Andrew Meredith’s post-European championships assessment, he stressed the importance of getting the Irish men’s team funded to a level from which the side can properly push for a place in the world’s top ten.

It came following an eventful week in which the Irish men came within a goal of progressing to the semi-finals of the competition for the first time but also within nine minutes of relegation to the B division.

He is concerned that while there is plenty of ability in his side, the financial shortfall in comparison to their competitors means that Ireland will not always be able to field their best line-ups.

EuroHockey 2013This has been witnessed this summer with a large tranche of players unavailable during the summer for work and personal reasons. It made for a World League 3 and European championships marked by “inconsistent” performances, something which Meredith says needs to be ironed out if the side is to progress.

Looking to the future, Meredith said: “We’re competing against teams that train full-time. The Spanish complain about cuts but its only in comparison to the million euro budget they had before.

“We’re not close to that nor the English or the Dutch or even the Germans. That’s why it is important, with such a good bunch of athletes who are role models, if corporate Ireland supported them in combination with developing team. We’ve had a team here missing hundreds of caps here in the World League and here and retained our ranking.

“We need to get more support for these guys so a few more come back from Europe. There’s also a larger group in London who can have a weekly framework to be in an environment to work on technical and tactical development.

“Support from SINI and the Sports Institute in Ireland, if you don’t have the money, they have the know-how. We hope to come to an agreement to tap into their resources.”

It is unclear yet how expensive 2014 will be. Currently, there are potentially two major tournaments on the cards, namely the Champions Challenge I at the end of April while the second round of the World League – part of the Olympic qualifying process – is penciled in for the back end of the year.

The FIH is hoping to announce the venues for the former this week while the other location is up in the air but Meredith is wary of the potential cost.

“If they are both in Asia for instance, where there seem to be a lot of tournaments at the moment, I’m scared to think what we would have to do in terms of budget to run the programme.”

Reflecting on the draw with the Czech Republic, he said “the result is the most important thing”.

EuroHockey 2013“It is vital for this squad, retaining our status in the “A” group. looking at 2014 and the qualification for Rio. We got caught out by two simple errors.

“Credit to the Czechs, it was their best performance without question. I don’t know what it is but we were inconsistent with our performance, whether it was defences lapses or senior guys getting caught on the wrong side making basic skill errors.

“I’m not having a go at the senior guys but they lead the defence and if they continue to make those mistakes, we will lose the progress going forward.”

He was, however, delighted with how the younger members of the panel had progressed when asked about the positives he could take from the week in Boom.

“The good thing is we have a lot of positives from this tournament: Peter Brown, Kirk Shimmins, Stephen Cole and Shane O’Donoghue (pictured) and one of the tournament’s best forwards in Peter Caruth. In the end, we were short by one goal [from reaching the semi-finals]. It’s difficult for the group to come close and I think that’s a new experience for this group to work through that.

“The spirit is one thing but what we have improved on is the processes we have put in place, ones that we try and continue on regardless of what the score is. We do the same things and we have a plan and stick to it.

“That’s what makes us competitive against the top nations. It’s great character and heart. You see the guys come in at 18-years-old who show the same character and fire, making interceptions and running things down as the guys who had the guys with the most caps. That’s a really great platform to work from.”

For captain John Jackson, meanwhile, he says that the heart monitors Ireland use to measure their in-game physical well-being may have made for interesting reading during the final game against the Czechs.

“You need to ask our strength and conditioning guy [Stephen Barry] about how our heart rates were going during the game. It was a difficult game. I’ll pay tribute to the Czech Republic. They defended well and capitalised on the gifts we presented them. At this level, irrespective of playing the Dutch or the Czechs, that will hurt you.

“I’m pleased with the resolve we showed. It’s not a perfect situation, far from it. Maybe the experience we had from World League when we were 4-0 down against France, we know there is that character in the group.

“We kept going which he expect of ourselves and our nation expects of us. A rollercoaster but one that we thankfully finished in the end.”

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