Bateman decides to quit Irish panel

IRISH hockey goalkeeper Wesley Bateman has decided to retire from international competition.

The 30-year-old Cork Harlequins player, who was an integral part of the Irish team which won the recent European Nations Cup in Rome, will not now be part of coach Dave Passmore’s plans as he prepares the team for the World Cup qualifying competition in Beijing next April.

Bateman is the second player from the winning Nations Cup side to call an end to his international career, following a similar announcement last week from Gordon Elliot and he said last night that the decision was one he had made some time ago.

“I made my mind up last May when I was coming back from injury, but I have to say that being able to announce my retirement from international hockey having secured a gold medal in Rome is very special.

“The level of commitment necessary to take part in international hockey these days is really phenomenal and I have found in recent times that it has been harder to get back to full fitness after injury.

“I have always given 110% commitment, but with work and family commitments I’ve decided the time is right to call it a day,” he said.

Bateman, who is married to the recently retired Irish ladies striker Karen O’Brien, made 40 appearances for Ireland since making his debut in 2001.

“The victory for Ireland in Rome was very much ‘objective achieved’ for me and I felt that there are plenty of up-and-coming goalkeepers ready to come into the Irish scene and it is only right that they get their chance,” he commented.

An engineer with RSP Engineering, Bateman will now concentrate on his family and work, as well as continuing to play for Cork Harlequins.

In the meantime, the President of the Munster Branch of the Irish Hockey Association, John Rose, last night expressed dismay that the IHA had deferred a decision on an All-Ireland club league until the end of the 2006/7 season.

IHA Chief Executive, Paul Varian has written to each branch informing them of the decision, saying that the association was reluctant to make “any further proposals regarding competition reform until fundamental questions surrounding the implementation of any given model can be properly answered.”

He added that the IHA was not in a position to issue a specific reform model for 2006/07 right now as it was “anxious to ensure that any major reform is robust in its planning and consideration and implemented over a timeline that allows affiliated Branches and clubs to prepare appropriately.”

However, both the Leinster and Munster branches are up in arms over the decision and intend raising the issue with the IHA as quickly as possible, according to Mr Rose.

“We are very, very disappointed with this news and we want the IHA to bring forward implementation of an All-Ireland league much sooner than 2007.

“Such a league is the way forward for Irish hockey, especially if we are trying to build on the successes of the Irish men’s and women’s international teams in recent times.

“Those teams will only get better with stronger players coming from a strong domestic league,” he said.

Administrators and players in Munster are particularly worried that, given the domination of the two senior teams from Cork Church of Ireland and Cork Harlequins, the Munster Senior League could effectively be over for the season as early as next month.

With international players unavailable to the clubs from January 6 next as Ireland prepare for the World Cup qualifier, Harlequins and C of I have brought forward what will be league deciding games to November and once they have been played, the title will effectively be won.

“It is not a good state of affairs that the club players will have no real competition until the Club Championships are decided in April or May,” Mr Rose added.

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