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Ireland chief insist Olympics is the aim


Andrew Meredith

Andrew Meredith

©INPHO/Ryan Byrne

Andrew Meredith

Irish hockey's chief executive Mike Heskin has promised that the parting of company with the men's national coach Andrew Meredith won't seriously disrupt plans to qualify for the Brazil Olympics in 2016.

Meredith's tenure officially ended yesterday, although the governing body announced just after Christmas that they and the Australian had 'mutually agreed to end their relationship', and already the wheels are in motion to find a suitable replacement capable of achieving the objective of reaching Rio.

Heskin admits that Meredith's departure after just 14 months in charge is disappointing but felt there was little option but to go their separate ways as the team were performing quite well and holding their world ranking but were not moving on to the next level.

Summer reviews on progress prompted a request that the Germany-based Meredith spend more time in Ireland viewing players in club and inter-provincial action and while he fulfilled this brief by attending a number of league games in Leinster and Ulster as well as taking in the boys' inter-provincials, spending time away from his young family in Germany was proving a strain.

But Heskin feels the timing of his departure means there is sufficient time to find his successor who can build and implement a plan ahead of the World Hockey League series which begins in 2015 and from which Olympic qualification can be achieved.

"Andrew had a baptism of fire when he joined us, going straight into the Champions Challenge in Argentina and then the World Hockey League 3 and Europeans, and I can say there is no fall-out between us," explains Heskin.

"But after recent reviews we felt the programme wasn't gelling with the players and the time was right to make a change. It will give his successor the chance of a smoother takeover, and sufficient time to plan ahead rather than have his back up against a wall from the start.

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"There is just one world ranking tournament in 2014 instead of the three we had last year, which gives ample time for the new coach to sort things out before we begin the Olympic qualification process in 2015.

"Current assistant coach Mick McKinnon and Irish under-21 coach Jonny Caren will look after things in the meantime, including the training camp to Spain in mid-January.

"On the whole, things are more positive at the moment. Yes, resources are limited but we have 12 new partners on board who each bring something to the table, and we are also talking to three potential sponsors."

Meredith's reign proved quite short at 14 months, but during his time in charge the Green Machine improved their world ranking by one place to 15th and won bronze in the Champions Challenge series in Argentina.

But the team flirted with relegation in the EuroHockey Nations Cup before finishing a safe sixth and faded badly in the World Hockey League 3 series to finish a disappointing seventh which meant missing out on reaching the 2014 World Cup finals.

The termination of his contract leaves the men's team without a coach ahead of the Champions Challenge series in Malaysia in late April but it's hoped something will be in place before then.

In the meantime, interim coach McKinnon intends taking a young squad to the training camp in Spain from January 10-16 during which they will face the hosts three times.

Just five recognised senior players have been included, as quite a few others are unavailable due to work commitments, exams and injuries, but it gives the young fringe players an opportunity to stake a claim in the overall training squad.

There are five Ulstermen in the squad – captain John Jackson is joined by Banbridge's Drew Carlisle, Annadale's Michael Robson, UCD's Peter Brown and Instonians' James Corry.

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