Players in fundraiser to salvage Argentina trip

The focus turned to fundraising yesterday after the Irish Hockey Association’s board made an “unreserved apology” to the national senior men’s team and its supporters over a row that engulfed the sport this week.

The board drew widespread anger on Tuesday when announcing their intention to withdraw the side from the Champions Challenge I in Argentina next month, citing the lack of a coach and manager as their primary reasoning.

With the Irish players venting their frustrations at the decision — about which they weren’t consulted — it soon became clear finance was actually the main concern.

To that end, the IHA and the players are now attempting to rebuild bridges and raise the €45,000 required to send the side to Argentina next month. They are hoping to make enough of a dent in that figure to be able to confirm Ireland’s participation in time for Tuesday’s deadline set by the International Hockey Federation.

Proceeds from the IHA’s mega draw will go towards the venture while a MyCharity.ie page set up by the players amassed more than €6,200 in its first five hours yesterday.

The late bid to salvage Ireland’s place in the tournament is to protect against the loss of valuable world ranking points, which could have seen Ireland slip from 15th in the world to 18th, undoing the progress made in the past three years.

“The board wishes to make an unreserved apology to all fans of Irish hockey and in particular to the senior men’s squad for the upset, disappointment and anger caused by the announcement made last Tuesday,” the board said in a statement yesterday.

They went on to explain the extra financial pressure the national body is under given an extra €108,000 was allocated to the Irish sides to backbone their bids for Olympic qualification; both sides reached the final of their tournaments but fell at the last hurdle.

The advent of the World League, which now qualifies teams for the Olympics and World Cup, creates an extra financial headache with up to three new tournaments for both teams added to the calendar every two years.

“As we plan for the last quarter of the financial year it is evident that the association will finish the year with a significant deficit if the trip to Argentina goes ahead without any additional income being generated,” said the board.

The Irish players also broke their silence on the matter yesterday via a statement issued by captain Ronan Gormley.

“Your [the public’s] reaction to what happened on Tuesday showed that you too have a deep desire for this [continuing on journey to Rio 2016 Olympic] to happen. We as a squad truly value this.

“The board have apologised and have committed to us that they will sit down once we have completed the Champions Challenge phase and address any unanswered questions that remain. In the meantime, we have an opportunity to fund the team to travel and compete in Argentina.

“The Irish men’s team self-fund home training camps, including travel, meals, home-hosting and flights from the continent, at their own cost to ensure we maximise money available for our high performance programme.

“In the same manner, we are also looking at opportunities to drive down costs of the trip to Argentina. Working together, we can achieve the required €45,000 through fundraising and cost maximising.”

* Anyone wishing to donate to the team can do so at www.mycharity.ie/event/getgreenmachinegoing/

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