Hockey Ireland plans to field its first indoor international teams in 30 years, announcing they will look to reintroduce the code in time for the European Championships in January 2020.
It would be the first time to enter such an event since the Irish women played in the European Cup in 1990 in Elmshorn, Germany. If their application is duly accepted by the European Hockey Federation. Ireland would return in the lowest tier of competition with the men likely to go into the fourth tier while there are currently three levels of women’s tournaments.
At this stage, the key details about how it will be funded or what sort of programme will be put in place have not been fleshed out with Hockey Ireland’s brief statement saying: “Discussions are ongoing as to where this sits within Hockey Ireland’s high-performance structure”.
With funding tight for the senior squads at the best of times and the Irish Under-21 programmes making noises to put their hands out for support, it will be interesting to see how they overcome this hurdle.
Indoor, though, is widely seen as massively beneficial to the technical side of the game while Hockey Ireland chief executive Jerome Pels has previously told the Examiner the format could be a great entry point for new players in areas without astroturf pitches available.
In the past few years, there have been proposals for a self-funded national team to Hockey Ireland, selected off the back of the National Indoor Trophy, but it was not given the go-ahead.
Hockey Ireland is pleased to announce that for the next Indoor European Championships in January 2020 Ireland will be entering a mens and ladies senior team. More info here: https://t.co/XMjbdaquD5 pic.twitter.com/WbYHwVx8ri
— Irish Hockey (@irishhockey) April 16, 2018
Interest in indoor hockey in Ireland was at its peak in the 80s but dwindled in the 90s, leading to the national outlet being dropped while club performances saw Ireland drop down the divisions. But there has been something of a revival in recent years with Ulster and Leinster both introducing formal youth indoor competitions.
The arrival of the Pro Series Indoor event from South Africa this year is another huge addition to the calendar this summer, running franchise leagues throughout the island in four age groups, leading to an All-Star Showdown in June.