Player fury as Ireland pulled from Argentina tournament

Ireland’s men’s hockey team were left seething yesterday after the board of the Irish Hockey Association withdrew them from next month’s Champions Challenge I in Argentina.

IHA board chairman Dennis Millar yesterday said the board had reluctantly taken the decision as they “could not see how the squad could be properly prepared for this prestigious world tournament” due to the absence of a coach and manager for the team.

Paul Revington resigned as coach in May, after helping Ireland improve from 18th to 15th in the world rankings, while beating top 10 teams regularly, winning unprecedented silverware and coming within a whisker of Olympic qualification.

Manager Peter Jackson then stepped down last week after more than 200 games.

The board have yet to find replacements but say they are “moving towards filling the vacancies as quickly as possible, but we cannot do this within the timescale required for Argentina”.

The consequences of this decision are far-reaching. The loss of at least 80 potential world ranking points and the deduction of an equivalent number could see them down almost 20% of their current total, potentially pushing them outside the world’s top 16.

That would necessitate their participation at an extra tournament in the Olympic cycle 2014, should they drop back into the first tier of the World League. Furthermore, the IHA can expect a fine of up to 15,000 Swiss francs (€12,400) and maybe further implications if hosts Argentina need to be compensated for financial losses.

Players contacted by the Irish Examiner yesterday were unwilling to speak about the decision, but confirmed they had not been consulted prior to the decision. Many took to Twitter to express their devastation.

Midfielder Geoff McCabe, tongue in cheek, tweeted: “Clearly seems that the aim of winning the euromillions as budget plan has not worked out. hopefully the board win before our next tournament.”

The Spain-based Banbridge native also hit out at the time taken to appoint a new coach: ” ’dont have a reasonable timescale to appoint a coach!’ — is this a joke? the board has had 5 months #reactivedecisionsyetagain.”

At least 12 other squad members tweeted their frustrations, while ex-Irish star Iain Lewers, now with Great Britain, also weighed in. But it was goalkeeper Iain Walker who put it in the strongest terms:

“5 years work down the drain for Irish men’s hockey. After years of bullshit, this takes the biscuit. Absolutely gutted. #wherefromhere?’

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