Alexander Cox has resigned as Irish senior men’s head coach nine weeks out from the Olympic qualifiers following the side’s relegation from the top tier of the European Championships for the first time since 2009.
It concludes a tough spell for the side with the Dutchman taking on the role just over a year ago, taking over the reins from Craig Fulton who left the job for a role with Belgium who have subsequently gone on to win World Cup and European titles.
Cox took on the role on an interim basis with a glittering CV featuring Euro Hockey League and Hoofdklasse titles with SV Kampong while he was also assistant coach with the Netherlands.
He had little time to get his side ready for December’s World Cup where they surprisingly bowed out in the group stages behind China.
But he received less of a pass for this summer’s outings with Ireland falling to their first defeat to a lower ranked side in a ranking match when they succumbed to Egypt in the FIH Series.
They did ultimately achieve their minimum target at that event by reaching the final but a chastening final loss to France saw the June tournament end on a low note.
And things hit their lowest point at the Euros in Antwerp last week, losing to Germany, the Netherlands and Scotland and just about salvaging a draw with Scotland.
It ended in a disastrous 4-0 defeat to Wales, a first against them in 13 years and 16 meetings, and an ignominious relegation.
In the wake of that tie, Cox took the brunt of the blame, saying: “In the end, I am the responsible one as head coach. I should have made sure the team played better and got better results in this tournament. That’s not a nice feeling to take with you but it is the situation.”
He said the manner of the performances made him consider his position. With his club role co-commitments with Kampong – with whom he signed a two-year contract extension earlier this year – he felt he was no longer the man for the job.
“After taking some time to reflect on the past year, and the goals we have both achieved and failed to achieve, I have come to the decision that it is best for me to step back from this role with the Irish men’s squad.
“I have proudly sung the Irish hockey anthem before every game we played. It has been a tough few weeks, but credit to the players and staff as they have given it their all at every stage.
We just didn’t manage to pull together the result we felt we are capable of. At this time, I feel it is best for me to step back as coach so the team can have a fresh start towards the important Olympic qualifier
With a tight timeframe to the Olympic qualifiers, Hockey Ireland performance director Adam Grainger are exploring “a number of options” for his replacement.