The Irish hockey public will get their first chance to see the men’s national side in action this summer on home turf when they play world number side Korea four times between Tuesday and Sunday in the Ballsbridge énergie Fitness Match Series.
They do so with the important news that over €160,000 to help fund their Olympic cause has already been secured with the gap to the required €225,000 total closing quickly.Friday saw a hugely welcome €50,000 from the Olympic Council of Ireland while Ballsbridge énergie Fitness club were named series sponsor for the Korea games. Over €40,000 has now come in through the Pledge Sports platform which will stay open until the eve of the tournament.
A further estimated €20,000 accrued from the dinner and golf classic organised by Craig Fulton and his crew while there have been a series of whiparounds and fundraisers around the country that will be added to the total
For example, Munster Hockey hosted a mini-Olympics event that yielded around €4,000, Raphoe club members climbed Mount Errigal to bring in €605, Dublin University’s alumni dinner took in €3,500 among many other donations.
As such, the gap between the cost of running the programme and what was available from the Sports Council has been narrowed significantly.
The sponsorship of the series with the Netherlands remains available, meanwhile, and so the hope is that the gap can be closed further.
For Fulton, the level of support will hopefully help his players relax, knowing that their expenses will be covered.
The side has just completed their first month of a full-time programme in order to compete at the Rio Games where each of their opponents are year-round, funded athletes.
While revenge is not foremost on the mind, Ireland’s men will hope to derive some satisfaction from their series with Korea this week in Dublin as part of their Olympic preparations.
The Asian side denied Ireland a place at the 2012 London Games in heart-breaking fashion with a critical goal just seven seconds to go in their final qualifier.
As such, there may be an extra level of intensity to these challenge matches. Korea are not Rio-bound but are in the midst of preparations for the Champions Trophy in London in two weeks time, their key tournament for 2016.
Fulton will have his full panel available for the series and will mix and match for each game with fans encouraged to avail of meet and greet sessions being run in tandem with the matches at the Merrion Fleet Arena in Glenageary.
The first game is on Tuesday at 7pm before meeting at the same time on Thursday. Saturday and Sunday’s games are at 2pm.