Irish men’s senior coach Craig Fulton has laid out an extensive day-by-day plan up to the end of August 2015 that he is keen that all stakeholders, including club coaches get on board with, as they pursue the Olympic dream.
It is an intense programme involving national training sessions most Sundays with a number of fixtures already factored in, adding to regular strength and conditioning and running sessions.
Already on the agenda is an October set of games against Rotterdam and Amsterdam hockey clubs, two games against France in November before the big business begins in January 2015.
Toward the end of the month, Ireland will play the Netherlands and Belgium twice each before travelling out to Lancaster, USA on February 20 for an eight-day lead-in to the World League round two – the first phase in the Olympic qualification process.
Succeed there and the next step is to prepare for World League round three – from which as many as six teams could potentially qualify for the Olympics – in June 2015. The European championships follow a month later in August in London.
Explaining the programme, Fulton said: “The bigger the dream the bigger the team and this is obviously a huge undertaking as we all know how hard it is to qualify for either a World Cup or an Olympics and rightfully so.
“Coaches and branches, I ask you for your support on every level concerning your national and development club players. We will be putting in as much confidence and hockey knowledge and sport science into them as we can and I obviously want to make it a win-win situation for club and country.
“There is an obvious reason January and February 2015 are one of our busy periods in the programme. This is the period the WL2 squad will be away preparing and the time between returning from South Africa and heading off to WL2 is not long and this is a key phase in the active recovery of the players.”
The effect it is likely to have on the Leinster league is that international players involved in the programme will likely be limited to just playing club games until the middle of January but will be unavailable for the last six games of the campaign.
They will, however, be available for all rounds of the Irish Hockey League and the Irish Senior Cup.
With Sundays being national training days, any refix or postponed fixtures set for Sundays will not see national athletes not eligible to play.
“We will be monitoring the playing load and the S&C program on all levels. I hope we don’t have to pull any national athlete back as has happened before but, in this regard, the players well-being must come first so it is a fine line to do all of the program and club commitments.”