The Road To Rio: how Ireland stand right now

Ireland’s defeat to China has denied them one of three direct tickets to the Olympic Games. There is still an outside chance of Darren Smith’s side qualifying but it requires a series of permutations to work in their favour, allied to a couple of wins over the weekend.

Two main routes exist to get to the Rio Olympics. The top three teams from each World League Round 3 tournament – this week’s event in Valencia and one next week in Antwerp – secure an automatic qualification place.

There are also places for each of the winners of the five continental championships. Korea has already won in Asia; the Pan-Am, European, African and Oceania tournaments will take place between July and October.

On both counts, Ireland have missed the cut, finishing outside the top three in Valencia while they have not qualified for the top tier of European competition.

Ireland in action against USA last Tuesday. Picture: Stanislas Brochier/FIH

Ireland in action against USA last Tuesday. Picture: Stanislas Brochier/FIH

If a team qualifies through both the Continental championships and the World League Round 3, then the next qualification place reverts to the highest ranked finisher at either of the Round 3 events.

Ireland play on Saturday and Sunday in classification matches in Valencia. Should they beat USA in the first of those, they will contest a fifth place playoff game in the second game. Then, the waiting game begins to see if Ireland are one of the 12 sides to qualify for the Olympics.

What’s more, potentially two extra spaces could open up. Hosts Brazil, currently ranked 48th in the world, are nowhere close to achieving the qualification criteria laid out. South Africa’s national federation has also said it will not send its side to Rio as African champions and require the side to finish in the top three in Valencia.

Predictions at this stage would suggest a fifth place finish should probably be enough while sixth place is very much borderline if Ireland are to make their first ever Olympics.

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