A new state of the art hockey pitch will be laid at the Sport Ireland National Sports Campus, providing a welcome boost to Ireland’s national hockey teams as they go in search of Tokyo 2020 qualification.
The announcement comes on the back of recent strong performances by the Irish national senior hockey teams which are both ranked among the top ten nations in the International Hockey Federation (FIH) rankings.
It is causing some unease among other sports though who had expected that the new velodrome and Badminton centre would be next on the construction agenda following the completion of the second phase of the National Indoor Arena.
There has not been any statement to the effect that this would change but similarly no mention of the project in the celebration of the new hockey pitch.
Sport Ireland is to replace the current sand-based hockey pitch on the Sport Ireland National Sports Campus with a new Polytan Polygras Toyko GT surface. This is the same surface that will be used at the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games and the 2022 World Cup.
It is a smart move echoing that of the show jumping arena which used exactly the same sand as was used in the London 2012 arena. Ensuring that conditions are similar to those that competitors will meet on the biggest stages is part of high performance excellence.
“This is a very welcome and timely development for the sport of hockey,” said Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Shane Ross as the new pitch was announced.
“I was lucky to witness Ireland’s achievement at the Women’s World Cup in London earlier this year and to see the desire and determination the team played with while representing their country.”
“This new world-class facility at the Sport Ireland National Sports Campus will be of massive benefit to the preparation of not just our senior national teams, but also our up and coming players who will no doubt have been inspired by the recent performances of our women’s and men’s teams. This new hockey pitch is another welcome step in the development of the Sport Ireland National Sports Campus as the home of Irish sport and together with the excellent facilities already in place and those planned for the next few years, will support more and more Irish sportspersons in their training and preparation for international competition.”
“The Irish hockey teams have had a remarkable period of success in recent years,” said Sport Ireland Chairman Kieran Mulvey.
“The women’s team captured the imagination of the country with their exploits in the World Cup in August; while the men’s team have gone on to represent Ireland with pride in the World Cup this year following their qualification for the Olympic Games in 2016.”
“The Board of Sport Ireland is keen to see the sport of hockey continue to rise in Ireland which is why we have approved the replacement of the hockey pitch. This development makes a clear statement that the Sport Ireland National Sports Campus is the home of high performance hockey in Ireland.”
The project is due for completion in April 2019 but whether that would be in time to host the Olympic Qualification tournament that Ireland will stage between June 8th and 16th is uncertain.
No venue for that tournament, which will feature eight teams, has yet been selected. UCD staged the last Olympic Qualifiers back in 2015 and was a late stand in replacement for matches back in July.
Refurbishment works to restore the surface to its previous standard are being undertaken paid for by UCD as opposed to jointly with Hockey ireland as was previously the case.
“We are delighted to announce the resurfacing of the main pitch at our Hockey Stadium which has reached the end of its lifespan after providing our students with fantastic sporting moments and memories over the past 20 years,” said Dominic O’Keeffe, UCD’s director of student services and facilities, speaking in the Irish Independent.
The expected completion date is also April with June said to be the timeframe for hosting matches. UCD would have better spectator facilities as things stand but there will be costs associated with either building those at the Campus or paying for them at Belfield. It promises to be an interesting negotiation with completion and finishing off running pretty close to the tournament.
The new pitch at the campus will be constructed by Sport Ireland with day-to-day management of the facility becoming the responsibility of the Sport Ireland National Sports Campus operations company. The cost is estimated to be in the region of €600,000.
“The new pitch at the Sport Ireland National Sports Campus will allow Ireland’s elite hockey players to practise on the same playing surface that will be used in the next Olympic Games, which will be a huge benefit to their qualification prospects and preparation for international competition,” said Sport Ireland CEO John Treacy.
“Locating the pitch here at the Sport Ireland National Sports Campus will also allow players to avail of existing science, medicine and lifestyle support services through the Sport Ireland Institute.”
“This development of the new pitch alleviates the need for Irish teams to travel abroad to train, giving them access to the latest in pitch technology here in Ireland,” added the Chairman of Sport Ireland’s National Sports Campus Committee, Patrick O’Connor.
“It will further reduce hockey’s reliance on club-based facilities for training, which are not always readily available, and will make the Sport Ireland National Sports Campus an attractive proposition to travelling teams ahead of the Tokyo Games.”
“Hockey Ireland would like to thank the Minister, the Government and Sport Ireland for their support. As we build on the success of the women’s silver World Cup medal this summer, this is a crucial development in our ability to support the high-performance teams,” added Hockey ireland CEO Jerome Pels.
“The Tokyo specification hockey pitch at the Sport Ireland National Sports Campus is an important part of our high-performance plan. We believe there are great benefits of being within the performance environment at the Sport Ireland National Sports Campus and having a direct connection with the other facilities such as the Sport Ireland Institute.”