Cash boost for Irish hockey heroines
Irish ladies hockey enjoyed a double celebration on their return home yesterday after it was announced that their stunning success at the World Cup had secured a substantial funding boost.
Ireland, with six Ulster players in their ranks, defied the odds to finish runners-up in the star-studded tournament following impressive victories over India and Spain.
And now, as the team prepare to try and qualify for the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo, Irish sports minister Shane Ross, at a homecoming event in Dublin, declared that hockey would get a "significant share" of £1.34m made available to Olympic sports.
Emotional Ireland captain Katie Mullan was delighted to hear the news and her team-mates burst into spontaneous applause.
Mullan, from Coleraine, said: "Receiving additional resources is something that is really important if we want to progress Irish hockey.
"I said after the final on Sunday that we couldn't just go to London and do something special, and then in a few months let things drop off, so this is great news.
"On the back of our World Cup adventure, we have made people sit up and take notice and I was in no doubt that we would get the support we deserve, and now it's happened."
National coach Graham Shaw also welcomed the news and gave some indication as to where the cash boost might be best channelled.
He said: "I think the challenge lies in how often we can get the group together. That's the big problem we always face. When they're based all around Ireland, it's very, very difficult to get them together.
"We end up scattered around as a senior squad, Under-21s squad, Under-18s squad. We need to be training together because these girls who have just come back from London are now huge role models for the under-age teams."