Monday 20 May 2019

Pritchard hoping U-21s can overcome financial hurdles in Euros preparations

Currently, all of Irish hockey’s underage squads exist on a “self-funded” basis, meaning the extent of their programme is restricted by what money they can bring in. (stock photo)
Currently, all of Irish hockey’s underage squads exist on a “self-funded” basis, meaning the extent of their programme is restricted by what money they can bring in. (stock photo)

Stephen Findlater

Irish men's U-21 coach Denis Pritchard is hopeful his side can secure two to three more series of matches ahead of this summer's European Junior Championships in July but is aware of the financial limitations in place.

Currently, all of Irish hockey's underage squads exist on a "self-funded" basis, meaning the extent of their programme is restricted by what money they can bring in.

Pritchard's charges had "a godsend" of three home fixtures this week against France, drawing each of them, but how many more practice games they can get in is up in the air.

"It is difficult and is hard to plan but it is what it is," he said. "We have a 'B' division in the Czech Republic and we need to get enough matches in.

"We have set out a plan for the lads to be the next senior players and that environment is being self-driven with a good attitude and hard work.

"But the guys pay a certain amount each month with no guarantee of selection. It's not ideal but is the only way it is going to work for the moment."

Last week, the Irish U-18 and 16 boys both launched fundraising appeals as the search for sponsors continues. The female teams are better equipped with Eugene F Collins a headline sponsor, while the U-21 side have the backing of a private donor for their efforts.

But it does put an added pressure on the management of each panel who have laid out ideal programmes which look set to be curtailed should finances not be forthcoming.

On the field this weekend, Three Rock Rovers host Cookstown and Banbridge face Pembroke for the second time in a week in key games in the shake-up for the EY Champions Trophy spots.

On the women's side, Muckross moved off the bottom for the very first time on Wednesday night with a shock 2-1 win over UCD.

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