The Irish Hockey Association confirmed in a short statement last night that the “relationship between (Meredith) and the IHA will be discontinued at the end of December 2013”.
“The decision was by mutual consent after discussions were held between Irish Hockey and Andrew. Irish Hockey would like to thank Andrew for his contribution over the last 14 months and we wish him all the best for his future endeavours.”
Assistant coach Mick McKinnon and Irish U21 men’s coach Jonny Caren will take over the side on an interim basis, until a new appointment is made. No timescale has been given for that process, but it is possible the duo will be tasked with leading the side to April’s Champions Challenge I in Malaysia.
Meredith tweeted last night: "Would also like to thank the extremely dedicated team of staff members at the IHA for all their assistance and support of the Mens program. Sad to close one chapter of life, but enthusiastic about the new one which will mean the important people in my life come first. #family"
Meredith came with a big reputation upon his appointment in October 2012, having spent six years as assistant coach to the Germany side which claimed two Olympic golds, succeeding Paul Revington whose successful tenure ultimately ended in disappointment as Ireland narrowly missed out on Olympic qualification.
Last December, IHA chief executive Mike Heskin lauded Meredith’s appointment as a “statement to the Irish Sports Council and Sport Northern Ireland that this sport is serious (about) where it is going”.
His reign will likely be best remembered for Ireland’s excellent bronze medal at the Champions Challenge I in Argentina just a month into his new role, coming on the back of a massive public fundraising drive which yielded €60,000 in four days to get the side to South America after the IHA had initially withdrawn from the tournament. He also steered the side to second place at the World League 2 in New Delhi in February, although a seventh-place finish at the third round of that competition in Rotterdam — quashing hopes of World Cup qualification — was something of a disappointment.
Ireland subsequently performed well in the pool stages of August’s European championships, running the Netherlands close and drawing with England. However, they were then drawn into a relegation battle in the classification matches, holding onto their “A” status only by virtue of a late rally to draw 3-3 with a Czech Republic side they had scored 16 goals against in their previous two meetings. Meredith’s tenure was not without difficulties, with players privately unhappy at a number of issues, including the coach’s public criticism of senior players and an implied slight against his predecessor Revington.
He also stated a preference for his squad to base themselves in Ireland despite commuting to his job from his home in Hamburg, Germany. While many of Ireland’s top stars have returned to play domestically in recent years, a number still play semi-professionally in Europe.
Meredith also had to deal with the repeated unavailability of key players for major tournaments and a vastly reduced budget, and he was repeatedly outspoken about the lack of funding at Irish hockey’s disposal, expressing concern that a talented side would not reach their potential due to a financial shortfall in comparison to their competitors.