Hockey Venue Switch Seen as Likely

UCD Sport will officially reopen Ireland’s National Hockey Stadium tonight but reports this morning suggest that November’s Olympic Qualification Playoff Matches against Canada will take place elsewhere.

Writing in this morning’s Irish Times, Johnny Watterson reports that an agreement is imminenet between Hockey Ireland and Leinster rugby over the games being staged at Energia Park in Donnybrook.

This would involve shipping in a ‘pop up’ pitch from the UK which will cost in the region of €250,000 to install on top of the All Weather surface where Ireland’s Women’s team and all of the Leinster Senior Cup Schools Rugby matches take place.

The games will take place on Saturday 2nd and Sunday 3rd November with the ultimate prize of a place at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at stake for Ireland’s Women. The Men’s team also face Canada in Vancouver the previous weekend.

If the move is confirmed it will be a roll of the dice to attract a crowd of 6,000 as opposed to the less than 2,000 than could be hosted at UCD or on the new Hockey pitch at the Sport Ireland Campus which is due for completion shortly.

The price of tickets would be unlikely to cover the cost though sponsorship is also expected to be a contributor with both of the games to be broadcast live on RTÉ Television.

Ireland hosted the Olympic Qualification tournament that got us to this stage but with no suitable facility in Dublin at the time, that was held in June in Banbridge.

Bringing the team in a key game into the heartland of Hockey in South County Dublin is a logical next step. There is the complication of it being the same weekend as the Rugby World Cup Final but that is a morning kick off in Tokyo at 9 am on the Saturday and so won’t impact in a negative way, other than that if the entire south Dublin audience has shipped out to Japan in the event of Ireland getting there.

You have to sieze the moment and this will be a key one for Irish Hockey. To secure a first ever appearance at the olympics would cement the appeal of this team folowing on from last Summer’s World cup high. To do so in front of as big a live crowd as possible is something that the players deserve, even if the financial risk is one not to be taken lightly.

The cost is mitigated by the need to build temporary facilities at whichever venue is chosen.

Image Credits: Bryan Keane, Inpho.ie

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