Ireland’s fifth place finish at World League Round 3 in Antwerp has put them in great shape to qualify for the 2016 Olympic Games but there are still plenty of variables that have to play out over the next four months.
At this stage, India, Germany, Argentina, Netherlands, Australia, Belgium and Great Britain have earned places at Rio next year.
This leaves five places still available. Beyond the World League, the other route to the Olympics is as champions of one of the five continental competitions of which Asia is already complete.
Should the side who win the continental championship also have a ticket to Rio from the World League, the place will go to the next best placed finisher from the two World League Round 3 tournaments.
To this end, Ireland are third behind Canada and Spain and so require any three of the following outcomes from the four remaining competitions:
1. Pan-American Games (July 10-26) – if either Argentina or Canada win, then another team from the World League earns a ticket. Those two sides are the only entrants in the world’s top 15. Chile are next best placed at 25th.
2. Brazil – should Olympic hosts Brazil finish outside the top six at the Pan Am Games, then they will not meet FIH criteria for the event. Should this happen, another berth goes to WL3 places.
3. European Championships (August 21-30) – if Ireland win, they qualify for the Games. If one of Germany, Netherlands, Belgium, England (GB) or Spain, this would move Ireland another place up the list
4. Oceania Cup (October 21-25) – if Australia win, another place goes to WL3. Their main competition is New Zealand for whom this is potentially a last chance saloon for Olympic qualification.
5. Africa Cup for Nations (October 17-25) – the winner of this competition will be offered an Olympic place. The one addendum is that South Africa’s Olympic council, SASCOC has stated they will not send a team on the basis of victory of a continental championship. Should they win the tournament – they are the highest ranked nation, seven above Egypt – this could open up another WL3 place.
Mightily complicated but should three of those five issues work out in Ireland’s favour, the Olympic ticket will be theirs.