Hockey Ireland confirmed yesterday afternoon that the Women’s Olympic Qualifier this November will take place on the 2nd and 3rd of November at Energia Park in Donnybrook.
Negotiations over recent weeks have centred on bringing in a pitch which can be laid down on any surface and maintain the right requirements for a tournament and games of this magnitude.
Discussions with England Hockey who used the pitch recently for games at Harlequins Rugby Ground in Twickenham gave rise to the possibility of playing the games in front of the largest ever crowd to gather for a Hockey match in Ireland.
The capacity at Donnybrook, home of Leinster Rugby teams, the Bank of Ireland schools Rugby tournaments and the Ireland International Women’s team is 6,000. Importantly a large number of those can also be accomodated under a covered stand which could be very welcome at that time of year.
There is also the potential at Old Wesley and Bextive Rugby Clubs on the premises to host hospitality for existing and potential sponsors, something which would have proven more difficult at either of the other potential venues at UCD or the Sport Ireland Campus.
Both have laid new pitches to Olympic standard which will be a major positive for the sport in the long term but the challenge of playing to as big a crowd as possible meant that Energia Park is a smart alternative.
The cost and logistics of building temporary seating to anything like the level that can be achieved in Donnybrook would be prohibitive and likely as much if not more than the cost of hiring the ground from Leinster Rugby and installing the temporary surface.
That is likely to cost in the region of €200,000 but Hockey has been in a stronger place since last year’s World Cup odyssey and Sport for Business understands that sponsors Park Developments and Softco are willing to assist in the financing of the exercise.
The games will take place in the evening on the weekend of the Rugby World Cup Final in Japan. That gets underway at 9 AM so even if Ireland are involved there will be plenty of time for fans to gather themselves and celebrate with another Irish team a little closer to home.
Both will be televised live on RTÉ Sport but the hope is that in such a Hockey heartland of South dublin, that enough fans will want to be there live to make the games a massive success.
Hockey ireland has been building out its database of players and registered members and will also likely tie in with leinster rugby for some cross promotion in the run up to the Qualifiers in a little over 50 days.
“A lot of time and research has been dedicated to establishing whether the event could take place at Energia Park,” said Kockey ireland CEO Jerome Pels.
“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.”
“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,” added Leinster Rugby Head of Commercial Kevin Quinn.
“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.”
The move was the talk of the town last night as UCD formally opened the newly relaid pitch at the National Hockey Stadium, pictured above.
Image Credits: UCD Hockey on Twitter