Hockey Ireland has announced that the prestigious FIH Series Finals, a key step towards Olympic qualification will now be held at Banbridge Hockey Club in County Down, and not as originally scheduled in Dublin.
Sport for Business raised the question over whether the new pitch being built at the Sport Ireland National Sports Campus and refurbished at Belfield, paid for by UCD as opposed to jointly, would be ready in time and that question has now been answered in the negative.
The move North of the border, while wholly understandable from a sporting perspective for an island of Ireland body, puts the sport fully in the crosshairs of the continuing confusion over Brexit and the potential of a ‘no deal’ exit of Britain from the EU.
We are assured that the common travel area will remain meaning relative ease of movement between North and South but do we know yet for certain that this will apply to visitors from outside the EU who were planning on a trip to Ireland but will now be rerouted to a part of the country that could be outside of Europe in ways that will only become fully apparent if and when the exit happens in just over two weeks.
It is a material difference for Malaysia, Singapore, Korea and Ukraine and will add to the logistics challenges that inevitably come with staging a tournament of such international importance.
The Ireland team have not played in Dublin since last Summer’s heroics at the World Cup where they captured the hearts of the nation in getting to the Final.
Hosting the Qualifiers was a big win for Ireland and it is still likely to provide an edge for the players, with a home crowd and a pitch they will have a better chance than others to acclimatise to.
The pitch at Banbridge was relaid at the end of 2018 though additional infrastructure will need to be constructed on a temporary basis to accomodate media and spectators.
No tickets had been sold for UCD and the details of how fans will be able to follow the outrnament between June 8th and 16th have not yet been revealed.
Contending with this switch at the same time as looking to deal with the aftermath of Graham Shaw’s unexpected departure as manager of the team to head to a similar role in New Zealand is hardly ideal preparation but it has to be hoped that the team will be able to put themselves first and focus as a group for the job at hand.
Related: Shaw Steps Away for NZ Challenge
“While our preference was to hold the tournament in Dublin, it was not possible for the pitches to be completed within our time frame,” said Hockey Ireland Performance Director Adam Grainger.
“We are confident that both pitches will be worth the wait and will only add to the sport of hockey in the future.”
“It is important we get the pitch correct at the National Sports Campus as it will be our base going forward.”
“Banbridge Hockey Club and the surrounding community have proven themselves to be highly enthusiastic when holding tournaments before and we are looking forward to working with them once again.”
News of the switch has yet to be carried on the International Hockey Federation website which as of this morning is still listing Dublin as the host venue.