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Hockey could star in Northern Ireland 2021 Commonwealth Youth Games

By John Flack

Hockey could feature in the Commonwealth Youth Games here in 2021 if, as expected, a bid for Northern Ireland to stage the showpiece is successful.

The NI Assembly last week voted unanimously in favour of a motion to develop a bid to host the Under-18 event in the province in seven years' time.

It is the host country's prerogative to decide on which sports to include although swimming and athletics are compulsory.

Normally just one team sport is included and Ulster Hockey has already had a briefing on the matter.

The notion of a hockey team competing in the adult version of the Commonwealth Games is much more complicated as Northern Ireland does not have a world ranking nor a team per se.

However, the key to participation in the U18 event lies in the fact that Northern Ireland would be the host country in 2021 and the entry criteria are much more flexible as long as Ulster Hockey becomes an affiliate of the Commonwealth Games governing body here.

Indeed, Northern Ireland already competes in the UK School Games which is an U18 multi-sport event on a smaller scale than the Commonwealth Youth Games.

"Regarding hockey as a potential sport at the CWYG, host countries are usually exempt from world rankings and, for example, the Isle of Man fielded a Rugby 7s team at the event in 2011," explains NI Commonwealth Games executive officer Conal Heatley.

"However, at the moment the NICGC has no affiliation from hockey. Affiliations will be open from January 2015, covering the next four-year period.

"Any affiliated sport would be eligible to participate in the Youth Games."

Although hockey is governed nationally by the Irish Hockey Association, there would be no conflict if Ulster, as Northern Ireland, decided to affiliate to the NI Commonwealth Games Council.

"There are no issues with affiliation to the NICGC. Many sports have a similar, dual status. Cycling Ulster represents nine counties, affiliates to the NICGC yet remains a provincial branch of Cycling Ireland," Heatley confirmed.

Ulster Hockey has yet to discuss the possibility of bidding to compete in 2021 but hasn't ruled out the option.

"I attended an information session with the NICGC last Monday regarding the debate in Stormont on a proposed bid to host the Commonwealth Youth Games in 2021," confirmed Ulster Hockey chief executive Angela Platt.

"The information gathered from that meeting has not been reported back to the UHU Management Board yet for discussion.

"There may be an interest by Ulster Hockey to be involved in the bid but we understand that determination of the sports to be included in the bid is the decision of the NICGC and the bid team.

"I understand there will be an information gathering exercise by NICGC as they progress the bid further.

"Ulster Hockey will participate in the information gathering process, if required."

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