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Banbridge may yet be stage for Ireland's Olympic mission

 

In mix: Banbridge club spokesman Neil Madeley
In mix: Banbridge club spokesman Neil Madeley

By John Flack

Banbridge Hockey Club has emerged as a potential host for the women's Olympic qualifiers to be held in Ireland at the end of October or the start of November.

Although Dublin remains the preferred venue for the two-legged series, with the aggregate winner booking their tickets to Tokyo next summer, the Ulster outfit has at least put its hat in the ring should logistical issues force the event away from the capital.

Banbridge earned plaudits from the International Hockey Federation (FIH), world hockey's governing body, after successfully hosting the first stage of the qualification process at Havelock Park in June.

The Co Down club does, however, admit that Dublin remains the favourite to get the nod, although a venue has yet to be confirmed.

However, the pitch at the new national hockey training centre at Abbotstown has yet to be laid, and while UCD has a new surface it still has infrastructural issues to be sorted out if it is to be considered fit for purpose as one of the potential venues.

Should either of those venues be deemed incapable of hosting the double-header, Banbridge would represent a tried and trusted alternative.

Club spokesman Neil Madeley said: "While we expect it to go to Dublin, we have expressed our interest in staging the event with Hockey Ireland following the success of the World Series, our hosting ability, facilities and the quality of the pitch. We believe we are ready made for it.

"But we have heard nothing official so we're just speculating that it's going to be held in Dublin.

"Having got feedback after the World Series, I know the players love our venue and the pitch, so who knows.

"We would obviously be delighted to get it."

The opposition for Ireland's men and women in the qualifiers will be confirmed on Monday when the draws take place at the FIH headquarters in Lausanne.

There is an element of seeding, with the top-ranked nations having home advantage and the lower-rated teams having to travel, with four pots separating the various participants so there are no clashes.

Women's Olympic qualifiers: Pools for draw: (Pot 1 home vs Pot 4; Pot 2 home vs Pot 3):

Pot 1: Germany, England, Spain

Pot 2: New Zealand, Ireland, India, China

Pot 3: Belgium, Korea, USA, Canada Pot 4: Italy, Chile, Russia

Men's Olympic qualifiers: Pools for draw (Pot 1 home vs Pot 4; Pot 2 home vs Pot 3)

Pot 1: Netherlands, India, Germany Pot 2: England, Spain, New Zealand, Canada

Pot 3: Malaysia, France, Ireland, Korea

Pot 4: Pakistan, Austria, Egypt

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