I knew it was time to quit Ireland, says Muller

Gene Muller didn’t stay around long enough to survey the damage after Ireland’s Olympic qualification near miss, after yesterday announcing he has stepped down from the post of senior women’s coach.

The South African had batted away questions about his future following Sunday’s 4-1 defeat to Belgium which dashed hopes of the girls in green making it to London 2012.

But yesterday’s announcement of the end of his six-year tenure came as little surprise, and Muller admitted it wasn’t a snap decision.

“I have known for some time that this Olympic cycle would be my last for Ireland,” he said. “I have thoroughly enjoyed coaching the women’s national team. It has been a positive and rewarding experience.”

Muller became Ireland’s first full-time coach in 2006 when he left a job at the helm of the Canadian national side to succeed Riet Kuper.

He presided over the failed Olympic qualification campaign in Victoria, Canada in 2008 but matched Ireland’s best-ever European championships finish of fifth in 2009.

However, he will be best remembered for the implementation of the centralised preparation programme (CPP). This move sparked much debate within Irish hockey, as the country’s best players moved to Dublin in 2010 to spend in excess of 20 hours a week training together.

While a disappointing sixth-place finish at last summer’s Europeans gave critics further fuel, Ireland have since performed admirably — particularly in ousting world number 11 Spain from the Olympic qualification process — though the sub-par showing in Sunday’s final against Belgium saw Muller bow out on a low note.

Irish Hockey Association chief executive Angus Kirkland said the national body was “sad” to accept the resignation of Muller, who has made no decision about his future and will continue working with the IHA until the end of May.

“Gene has been totally committed to both the Irish women’s squad and the IHA for the past six years,” said Kirkland. “In reaching the final of the Olympic qualifier, he has taken this team further than any coach before him.”

Irish skipper Alex Speers added: “Gene’s vision, drive and belief in this group of players brought about the CPP, and his hard work, commitment and dedication brought us to the final last Sunday.”

The kind words were reciprocated as Muller praised his squad’s “commitment, passion and effort”. “You always treated me graciously and respectfully,” he said. “I wish you only the best in the future.”

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