New surface puts UCD in pole position to host Tokyo qualifier for Irish women
UCD has emerged as the front-runner to host the Irish women's first Olympic hockey qualifier for Tokyo 2020 after the university confirmed yesterday that its new state-of-the-art pitch will be ready by next June.
The Dublin university said its new astroturf pitch "will be installed over an 8-10 week window this coming April (2019), with the aspiration of facilitating club and international fixtures from June onwards."
Ireland's unexpected run to the World Cup final in London last summer not only improved their world ranking from 16th to eighth but also earned them home advantage for their first qualifying tournament in June.
The location of that eight-team tournament has still to be established, but UCD's news makes it ideally placed to host it.
Water-based astroturfs are mandatory for international hockey and UCD's current hockey stadium, which was cutting-edge when first installed, is more than 20 years old and was last repaired 10 years ago.
UCD was the venue for the 1994 women's Hockey World Cup and since then has been a hub for Irish hockey at every level.
Its new hockey stadium was in the pipeline before Ireland's success last summer and the college is self-funding it, primarily for its own thriving hockey population, with the pitch reportedly costing €350,000.
UCD currently fields 10 hockey teams - eight female, two male - and their top women's team are defending two-in-a-row national league (EYL) champions.
"We are delighted to announce the resurfacing of the main pitch at our Hockey Stadium which has reached the end of its lifespan after providing our students with fantastic sporting moments and memories over the past 20 years," said Dominic O'Keeffe, UCD's director of student services and facilities.
"We are surrounded by passionate young people who opt to break boundaries by succeeding on the field and in the classroom, and we hope our investment mirrors their level of ambition."
Ireland captain Katie Mullan has just moved from UCD after completing her post-graduate studies.
Elena Tice, one of Ireland's defensive stars last summer, is currently studying in UCD and Ireland's heroic squad last summer included seven more Belfield graduates, most of whom benefited from the college's Ad Astra scholarship system, which supports students who excel in academics and sport.
Asked if the college is currently in talks with Irish Hockey about hosting next summer's tournament, slated for June 8-16, O'Keeffe said: "We are long established supporters of our friends in Irish hockey and would be thrilled if considered as a host venue for any future games or tournaments, should the opportunity arise."
Ireland will be playing Czech Republic, France, Korea, Malaysia, Scotland, Ukraine and one other team next June which is only the first step in Olympic qualification.
Meanwhile, a new state-of-the-art hockey pitch will be laid at the Sport Ireland National Sports Campus, providing a further boost to Irish hockey.
It is expected that the new facility will be complete and ready for use in April 2019 at a cost of €600,000.
- BBC 2 Northern Ireland is broadcasting a documentary on the Irish women's 2018 Hockey World Cup experience on December 27 at 7pm.