The Irish women’s team’s Olympic Games hopes received a huge boost as they were confirmed as one of the host nations for the next phase of qualifiers for Tokyo.
They will host the eight-team FIH Series Finals event from which two sides are assured of going on to the final playoffs for the Games in 2020.
Where exactly it will be remains to be seen with no venue currently confirmed. Hockey Ireland and UCD are currently in a stand-off over the redevelopment of the most obvious venue in Belfield with the pitch now three years past its sell-by date.
Should that impasse remain, the potential venues could include Stormont – host of the 2017 World League Round 2 – the Mardyke or the recently refurbished Lisnagarvey pitch at Comber Road or Havelock Park in Banbridge.
All would require temporary infrastructure like stands and television towers to be installed but they all have the standard of turf and space to work with.
In the competition itself, the Green Army will be the top seeds – at eighth in the world – following their World Cup exploits. Next best on the current entry list is Korea in 10th with Scotland (18th) also a dangerous opponent.
Czech Republic (19th), Malaysia (22nd), France (32nd) and Ukraine (27th) will be joined by one more side following completion of FIH Series Open events in Africa and Asia.
The Irish men, meanwhile, will travel to Le Touquet on France’s west coast for their Series Final. Again, they will be the highest ranked side, coming up against the hosts (20th) and Korea (14th), two sides with whom they have plenty of history.
Chile, Scotland and Singapore are outsiders while another two countries will complete the line-up.
Match schedules for the FIH Series Finals will be confirmed at a later stage this year. The top two teams from each FIH Series Final will secure a place in the Qualification Events for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games which will be held in November 2019.
On the men’s side, the other events take place in India and Malaysia. The women’s events are in Japan and Spain.
FIH Series Finals line-up
Le Touquet (France) 15-23 June 2019: Chile, France, Ireland, Korea, Scotland, Singapore
+ 2 teams to be confirmed
Ireland (venue to be confirmed) 8-16 June 2019: Czech Republic, France, Ireland, Korea, Malaysia, Scotland, Ukraine, + 1 team to be confirmed