Sean Dancer becomes new Ireland head coach

NEW MAN IN: ‘I am grateful to Hockey Ireland for this opportunity and I’m excited to continue, and add to, the team’s world class performances over the last 12 months,’ says Sean Dancer. Picture: Kai Schwoerer/Getty Images

Ireland and New Zealand’s exchange of coaching know-how is set to continue with Sean Dancer swapping hemispheres to take on the role as Green Army head coach.

Up until Wednesday this week, he was keeping the hot seat warm with the Blacksticks for Graham Shaw who left Irish hockey last month for his “dream job” with the world number six side.

Dancer, a former Australian U21 international, was holding the job on an interim basis since January following 10 years in a variety of roles in New Zealand including high performance manager in Wellington, U21 national coach and national assistant coach.

In that latter role, he helped Mark Hager and the team land Commonwealth gold in 2018 and a fourth place at the 2016 Olympic Games.

Since January, he has been the Blacksticks’ interim head coach up until Wednesday’s 5-1 defeat to Australia in the Pro League — where they look set to miss the playoffs.

Speaking on the move, Dancer said he was delighted to learn from some of the world’s best coaches like Mark Hager and Shane McLeod in New Zealand.

And he is looking forward to the transition to the number one gig with the 2018 World Cup silver medalists.

To be provided with the chance to lead a quality programme and team on the world stage, is something that I have personally aspired to for a long period of time.

“I am grateful to Hockey Ireland for this opportunity and I’m excited to continue, and add to, the team’s world class performances over the last 12 months.”

Exactly when he starts remains unclear from the Hockey Ireland press release, an important point with the Hockey Series Finals taking place in June in Banbridge, the next phase of the Olympic qualifying process.

Who is part of his backroom team is also up in the air.

The hugely-popular Colin Stewart stepped away from the assistant coach role last week which he occupied since June 2016 when he was brought in “as a favour” by Shaw for the Hawkes Bay Cup.

Famed for his technical work, Stewart duly left his role in New Zealand hockey at the time to link up with the Green Army.

His tactical intuition is said to have been a key part in Ireland’s run to silver, most notably in the opening goal of the campaign against the USA.

Along with Gareth Grundie, he had been heading up the training sessions since Shaw’s departure with Arlene Boyles continuing in her managerial role.

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