Tuesday 22 October 2019

Canada the likely obstacle to Irish Olympic spot


Alexander Cox. Photo: INPHO/Morgan Treacy
Alexander Cox. Photo: INPHO/Morgan Treacy

Graham Hamilton

Ireland's men are almost certainly going to have to travel to a team ranked higher on the world ladder for the two-legged eliminator which will decide whether they reach the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

Alexander Cox's team booked their place in the autumn showdown by finishing runners-up in the FIH Series finals in France last weekend, but face a tricky task if they are make it to a second successive Olympics.

Their opposition won't be known until early September by which time the five continental championships are completed. But if you are a betting person, then put your money on the Irish having to go to Canada - currently ranked one place above them.

First things first, though, and Cox is giving the players a two-week break before beginning training camps again followed by a tournament in Spain ahead of August's European Championships in Antwerp.

As for the Olympic eliminator, it's very much a convoluted format now used by the world's governing body.

Those eligible for the seven autumn eliminators are the top four teams in the new but much criticised ProLeague, and the top two teams from each of the three FIH Series finals. The remaining positions will be filled by those highest ranked who haven't already qualified.

Break that down, and this is what you find. The top four finishers in the ProLeague are Australia, Belgium, Netherlands and Great Britain and the six to qualify from the FIH Series finals are Ireland, France, Canada, Malaysia, India and South Africa.

Japan are already the Asian champions but had already qualified for the Olympics as hosts, and it's almost a foregone conclusion that World No 2 Australia will be crowned Oceania champions; Argentina will be Pan-American champions; and South Africa will be African champions. That only leaves the European Championships, which could go to any one of Belgium, Netherlands, Germany, and England, or maybe even Spain.

The eliminators will see the top-ranked team take on the bottom-ranked, second highest against second bottom etc, with the highest-ranked team hosting the two-legged affairs.

Ireland's current position would see them being the eighth highest ranked team of those 14 ... meaning they would travel to the seventh highest which is Canada.

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