Ireland road to Tokyo benefits from eight place rise

The Irish women’s hockey team have soared to eighth place in the world rankings, moving up eight places following their run to the World Cup final.

It is the highest they have ever been and means both the men’s and women’s sides are both in the top ten.

Such a ranking comes with a potentially big benefit down the line in their Olympic qualification process. They will be the highest ranked side going into the Hockey Series events taking place next spring. Two out of eight sides in each of the three Series tournaments will advance to the next round which is a direct qualifier for Tokyo.

Those ties will take place on a two-legged basis with both games being played in the one country. Ireland’s current ranking would almost certainly see them play at home should they get to this stage, avoiding a costly trip to somewhere like Chile, Japan or South Africa for just two games.

Where they will play that possible match-up, though, remains a mystery. Hockey Ireland is no longer an anchor tenant at the National Hockey Stadium in Belfield as they did not contribute to the funding of its redevelopment this summer.

As a result, they have been renting various different venues around the island with no fixed base, something which Graham Shaw says is crucial to resolve.

He put this ahead of a straight-forward funding for his side’s programme as the key concern, putting pressure on the powers that be to help in this regard.

The Department of Tourism, Transport and Sport, meanwhile, have said the additional €1.5 million funding for world and Olympic championship programmes that minister Shane Ross announced on Monday comes from a “windfall” for the department.

The reasons for this windfall will be explained some time next week but the monies will have to be spent in the 2018 calendar year.

It does not form part of the new 10-year National Sports Policy announced in late July. Some of the grant will go to “back-fund” the World Cup campaign due to additional expenses from the side’s extended run in the competition.

Sport Ireland will confirm the breakdown of funding allocation in the coming weeks and which sports will benefit from this surprise bonus money.

Minister Ross made the announcement at the homecoming for the Irish women’s side in Dublin airport, his opening gambit drawing some of the players to tears. However, once the caveats were finished, it was clear the finances could be spread more thinly than they might have hoped.

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