Muller confirms plan to centralise

IRELAND senior women’s coach Gene Muller has finally confirmed plans to centralise the team to Dublin from this October will go ahead.

News of the plans were revealed in this newspaper in February, and have drawn criticism from high-profile figures within the game.

However, Muller last night publicly revealed for the first time that he will press ahead with the plan. An elite group of players will be based full-time in Dublin for 10 months, in a bid to secure qualification for the 2012 Olympics in London.

“We’re making some drastic changes, and looking at a central programme as of October, to increase our chances and make it a level playing field,” he told RTÉ Radio One last night.

“We’ll be getting all of the players who live outside Dublin – or as many of them as possible – to relocate.

We are expecting players to make fairly radical life changes with very little financial compensation. When you suggest something like this, there has to be buy-in from the team. The players realise there is an opportunity that might not present itself again in terms of having an Olympics so close to Ireland.”

Meanwhile, former Irish international star Graham Shaw will bid to make history on Sunday, as he guides Loreto into the women’s ESB Irish Senior Cup decider, before togging out to play for Glenanne in the men’s showpiece.

Shaw has a chance to write himself into the record books as the first person to coach and play in the ISC-winning sides on the same day.

Step one of that assignment requires the re-assimilation of Loreto’s international contingent – Louisa Healy, Lizzie Colvin, Nikki Symmons and Niamh Small – back into the side following their return from Ireland’s failed World Cup qualification campaign in Chile.

He will be hoping they have shaken off the jet lag as they bid to turn the tables on a Railway Union outfit who have annexed their first two Leinster titles on the bounce this season and last, and are competing at this juncture for the first time.

Shaw then turns his attention to Glenanne’s men’s final assignment against Monkstown. Glens have been most people’s favourites for the trophy since deposing holders Pembroke Wanderers in round two.

But will not be taking their unpredictable Dublin rivals – who are gunning for a double having already claimed the Irish Junior Cup – for granted.

Meanwhile, the wildcard play-offs for the men’s IHL get underway this weekend, with three sides bidding for the final two qualification berths.

Bandon head to Grange Road for their third consecutive wildcard appearance under some duress. According to the club, their pleas to the Irish Hockey Association to have the competition rotated around the provinces have fallen on deaf ears.

Having competed in Belfast and Dublin in the past two seasons, the club believes Munster was due to host the tournament this year.

But instead, Bandon find themselves on the road again, with many of their players mired in exams, as they once more take on their opponents – Lisnagarvey and YMCA – on consecutive days.

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