Hockey Ireland have confirmed ambitious plans to install a drop-in pitch at Donnybrook’s Energia Park for the women’s side’s Olympic qualifiers which take place on November 2nd and 3rd against Canada.
The move significantly increases capacity for the double-header where the Green Army will hope to qualify for Tokyo and earn a first appearance for the women’s team on the highest stage.
The exact cost of the project will be fleshed out early next week but it looks set to follow the same model that has seen Polytan lay down temporary surfaces at ADO Den Haag for the 2014 World Cup and earlier this year at the Twickenham Stoop for English FIH Pro League games.
Confirmation of the move is a product of a collaboration between Hockey Ireland and stadium owners Leinster Rugby with hockey’s CEO Jerome Pels describing it as “a huge step” for the sport.
“We’re excited to announce Energia Park in Donnybrook as the venue for the Women’s Olympic Qualifier matches against Canada this November,” Pels added. “This is a huge step for the sport in Ireland to play hockey in a venue of this size.
“A lot of time and research has been dedicated to establishing whether the event could take place here. Similar to England Hockey’s successful use of an overlay carpet for their FIH Pro League matches at The Stoop in London earlier this year, we’re excited to bring this unique experience to Ireland.
“We’d like to thank Leinster Rugby for accommodating us in Energia Park and look forward to bringing this event to fruition.”
The respective clubhouses in Bective and Old Wesley RFC are also anticipated to benefit with potential corporate events planned.
For Leinster, having previously adapted the venue for softball, it adds another string to the bow of the venue to host a range of sport.
Leinster Rugby’s head of commercial, Kevin Quinn said: “This is another hugely positive step for us in Leinster Rugby to showcase our ability to offer a facility like Energia Park to other governing bodies and organisations.
“To be able to host international sporting occasions in any code, and at any level, is something we take huge pride in and I know our two partners in Energia Park, Old Wesley and Bective Rangers, feel the same way.
“Hockey Ireland and ourselves share offices on the same campus up in UCD and it is brilliant that we can now share a home stadium together for these two games and we can’t wait to host them, and to fill out Energia Park, in November.”
Hockey’s search for a new home venue has been an ongoing issue for the last few years since UCD’s turf lost its international status.
The venue has been significantly refurbished this summer – and was formally opened on Wednesday evening – but a number of infrastructure elements do still need to be upgraded to reach top grade levels.
Abbotstown’s National Sports Campus was touted as a new training home for the sport in the wake of last summer’s World Cup silver medal. As of Monday, the turf is waiting to be laid and so the plans are on the long finger for the time-being.
The lack of completed venue meant the FIH Series Finals earlier this year had to relocated from Dublin to Banbridge Hockey Club who stepped in admirably at short notice to host a strong event.
But hosting top-level events in the hockey heartland of south Dublin has always been the long-term goal and, if successful, this Donnybrook move could lay a template for future hosting applications.