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Hockey chiefs consider winter break


By John Flack

Hockey Ireland are to consider the possibility of introducing a winter break from outdoor hockey in response to the growing demand for a more serious approach to the indoor version.

Although this has been the worst winter for several years, causing havoc with the fixture list at both national and local level across the country, it's coincidental with calls for indoor hockey to be given a more prominent role in the calendar.

In Ulster, two hugely successful U15 and U18 tournaments were staged at Antrim Forum in recent months and there have been other signs that the six-a-side code is enjoying a revival with under-age tournaments also being staged in Leinster.

There is also a new nationwide initiative - the Pro Series Indoor - which is aimed at children of a variety of ages.

Ards were unable to stay in the second tier of the European Championship after falling to five defeats in Prague last week.

Coach Gareth Grundie, while not making excuses for his side's relegation, did however point to a lack of proper preparation ahead of the trip.

Of the top 12 teams on the European stage, only Ards did not have an extended league to play in and Ireland is out on a limb as far as the rest of the continent is concerned.

However, with a busy international programme for men's and women's teams year on year as well as the Irish Hockey League and domestic programme, introducing indoor on a grander scale is not straightforward.

"Maybe we are reacting to a particular winter where other years December and January are very playable while we are now in March and the most severe weather," said Hockey Ireland CEO Jerome Pels.

"How long do you stop for? If you base it on this year, you would not be able to play from December to mid-March. I don't know exactly what the answer is but we have to look at it.

"Indoor has been very successful for other countries and might be something that could be a very good thing for us to make more space for."

Meanwhile, Ireland's two outdoor internationals against Scotland, scheduled for this week, have been put back to late May.

The weather conditions in Glasgow and travelling difficulties meant there was little option but to call the trip off.

All games, north and south of the border, were called off at the weekend due to the weather.

Belfast Telegraph

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