independent

Friday 18 April 2014

'Five years down drain' for Irish game as board pulls plug on Argentina trip

Irish hockey has been thrown into turmoil with the announcement that the men's team will not contest the world-ranking Champions Challenge tournament in Argentina next month.

With no coach in place, the Irish Hockey Association (IHA) board took the decision to withdraw from the eight-nation event. The line-up will include Malaysia, coached by Paul Revington (right), who took Ireland to within one match of qualification for the Olympics.

Efforts to find a replacement for Revington have not been concluded some five months after the South African served notice of his intention to quit the €60,000-plus-a-year job.

Among those believed to be interested are his compatriot and former assistant Brendon Carolan (now at Corinthians), Ulsterman Stephen Watt and Monkstown's Graham Shaw, as well candidates from the Continent and beyond.

However, with the new coach unlikely to be in place for another month at best, the sport's authorities have decided to withdraw from the Argentinian expedition.

A hefty fine for failure to fulfil the fixture is inevitable, as is a drop down the world rankings, where Ireland lie 15th.

The no-show has triggered speculation that financial rather than personnel consid-erations are behind the move.

"We are always under financial pressure," conceded IHA chief executive Angus Kirkland. "It is a sad day and very frustrating for the players."

Those players have responded on social media with a mixture of anger and bewilderment: 'five years down the drain for Irish hockey,' tweeted goalie Iain Walker.

With Argentina off the agenda, it is feared that young Ulster talent such as David Ames and Ian Sloan may be tempted to follow Iain Lewers and Mark Gleghorne by jumping ship to Britain.

IHA chairman Dennis Millar said: "The board appreciates that the squad, who have been magnificent over the past few years, will be disappointed.

"However, we could not see how the squad could be properly prepared for this prestigious tournament in the absence of a coach and manager.

"We are moving towards filling the vacancies as quickly as possible.

"The board believes the time and resources involved would be better aimed at preparation for World Series Two in February."

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