Ireland and New Zealand’s exchange of coaching know-how is set to continue with Sean Dancer swapping hemispheres to take on the role as Green Army head coach.
Up until Wednesday this week, he was keeping the hot seat warm with the Blacksticks for Graham Shaw who left Irish hockey last month for his “dream job” with the world number six side.Dancer, a former Australian Under-21 international, was holding the job on an interim basis since January following 10 years in a variety of roles in New Zealand including high performance manager in Wellington, Under-21 national coach and national assistant coach.
In that latter role, he helped Mark Hager and the team land Commonwealth gold in 2018 and a fourth place at the 2016 Olympic Games.
Since January, he has been the Blacksticks’ interim head coach up until Wednesday’s 5-1 defeat to Australia in the Pro League where they look set to miss the playoffs with four wins out of 11.
Speaking on the move, Dancer said he was delighted to learn from some of the world’s best coaches like Hager and Shane McLeod – who led Belgium to the men’s World Cup – in New Zealand.
And he is looking forward to the transition to the number one gig with the 2018 World Cup silver medalists.
“To be provided with the chance to lead a quality programme and team on the world stage, is something that I have personally aspired to for a long period of time.
“I am grateful to Hockey Ireland for this opportunity and I’m excited to continue, and add to, the team’s world class performances over the last 12 months.”
Exactly when he starts remains unclear, an important point with the Hockey Series Finals taking place in 43 days in Banbridge, the next phase of the Olympic qualifying process.
Given the time constraints and the point within the international calendar, Hockey Ireland high performance director Adam Grainger said the side were “fortunate” to get Dancer at this stage.
“With it being mid-Olympic cycle, internationally recognised coaches like Sean with Head Coach and Olympic experience are not easily found,” he said.
“Sean comes into a well-established and strong management team and will no doubt have a significant positive impact as we build towards Olympic qualification.”
Hockey Ireland CEO Jerome Pels added: “We are delighted with the appointment of Sean, who emerged as the top candidate in a thorough and competitive recruitment process. His experience and skill set will be a great asset to Hockey Ireland and we look forward to him getting involved with our ambitious high-performance plans.”
Who is part of his backroom team is also up in the air. The popular Colin Stewart stepped away from the assistant coach role last week which he occupied since June 2016 when he was brought in by Shaw for the Hawkes Bay Cup and became a fixture thereafter
Famed for his technical work, Stewart duly left his role in New Zealand hockey at the time to link up with the Green Army.
Along with Gareth Grundie, he had been heading up the group since Shaw’s departure with Arlene Boyles continuing in her managerial role.