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Inline hockey on the rise in Ireland as World Championships loom

By Adam McKendry

Field hockey and ice hockey are the two most prevalent forms of the sport, but now a new form of hockey is on the rise.

Inline hockey is somewhere in between, and right now it is one of the fastest growing sports in Ireland.

Played on roller skates, inline hockey is more like ice hockey than field hockey as it is played in a rink with a flat puck and players use ice hockey-style sticks.

However, it is different from ice hockey in that only five players (including the goalie) are on the rink at a time and there are no offsides or 'icing' laws.

And the sport is only going from strength to strength, both at a domestic and a national level.

There are now 23 clubs across Ireland competing in eight different divisions for men, women and juniors, with teams available for players of all abilities and ages.

There are three senior leagues for men, as well as a league for women, and junior leagues at Under-18, Under-16, Under-14 and Under-10 level.

Six of the clubs reside in Ulster, with rinks in Ballymena, Belfast and Portadown accommodating all of the teams, meaning all of them are accessible for anyone looking to get involved.

The Ireland Under-18s recently competed in a major junior club competition called the Sparta Cup in Barcelona, while the Men's Senior team will be heading to Asiago in Italy for the World Championships next month.

"The future of the sport is looking really good, we have two full time venues now which has brought our sport to the next level," said Steven Mallon, head of junior operations for Inline Hockey Ireland.

"We have a lot going on in terms of the high level performance of the sport, but our participation numbers are growing as well.

"Our numbers are as high as they've ever been, we have as many clubs as we've ever had and hopefully we're going to keep on growing."

Irish men's head coach James Glover added: "It's the first time we've entered a team in the World Championships and we're coming up against some of the best teams in the world.

"To go and compete at that level is going to be a great challenge for us and hopefully we can compete."

If you would like to get involved, check out inlinehockeyireland.org for more information and to find the club nearest you.

In the meantime, check out some of the highlights from the recent junior playoff finals that show just how talented some of these young stars are!

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