Andrew Meredith’s tenure as Irish senior men’s coach ended this evening by “mutual consent” following discussions with the Irish Hockey Association.
It ends his a 14-month spell as coach having taken over from the highly successful Paul Revington. He was signed with a hugely impressive CV, including two Olympic gold medals as Germany’s assistant coach and, during his rein, Ireland moved up a place in the world rankings to 15th by virtue of the side’s run to the third phase of the World League.
But he had a restricted brief with a much reduced budget at his disposal and limited access to full training panels with much of the Irish senior panel now spread across Europe.
He frequently expressed his hope that more players would return to Irish shores following their dispersion to leagues in Germany, Spain, Belgium and the Netherlands, something that has occurred to an extent with Conor Harte, Mitch Darling and Eugene Magee among key players back in the local leagues.
Under Meredith, Ireland started with a superb third place at the Champions Challenge I in Buenos Aires in October 2012 – a tournament the IHA had initially withdrawn from before a public fundraising drive made up a €60,000 shortfall – but the side missed out on World Cup qualification last summer with a seventh place finish in World League round three.
During key tournaments in 2013, though, he was regularly left without some key players, either through injury or unavailability due to work and other availability issues. In August, Ireland just about survived relegation to the second tier of European hockey with a last-gasp 3-3 draw against the Czech Republic.
Speaking in the wake of that competition, Meredith was clearly hopeful the side could secure more financial support to help achieve the stated aim of reaching the world’s top 12, competing more regularly at an elevated level.
“We’re competing against teams that train full-time,” he said. “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, we need to get more support for these guys.
Following the decision to part ways with the IHA, Meredith said on Twitter: “[I would] like to thank the fantastic people from the Irish Hockey community for their kindness, assistance, and magnificent support. Thank you.
“I would also like to thank the extremely dedicated team of staff members at the IHA for all their assistance and support of the men’s programme.”
“I’m sad to close one chapter of life, but enthusiastic about the new one which will mean the important people in my life come first. I’m looking forward to many big challenges and opportunities in 2014 while working in a very exciting new environment with FC St Pauli.”
Mick McKinnon and Jonny Caren take over the panel on an interim basis. McKinnon steps up from the assistant coach’s position that he occupied for last August’s European championships while Caren is the current Irish U-21 coach.