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Ireland have backs to the wall


Bring it on:  Ireland captain John Jackson is confident his side can get good results against the top nations

Bring it on: Ireland captain John Jackson is confident his side can get good results against the top nations

©INPHO/James Crombie

Bring it on: Ireland captain John Jackson is confident his side can get good results against the top nations

IF Ireland men are to achieve their ambition of taking part in a major world finals, then they're going to have to get used to the idea of playing on the faraway shores of India.

The International Hockey Federation has named the venues that will host the global tournaments up until 2018 – and, despite their claims of wanting to expand the sport worldwide, the decision-makers have found it hard to find their way past New Delhi.

It was already well known that the inaugural men's World Hockey League finals were earmarked for the Indian city in January 2014 but now they have been granted permission to stage the second edition in December 2015 ... and the third edition in 2017.

Although India unquestionably has the credentials to host a successful tournament, no other sport would stage such a prestigious tournament in the same country three times on the trot.

And as if to rub salt in the wounds of those nations like Ireland who have part-time players and can barely afford to send their squad on such costly trips, the FIH has also chosen New Delhi for the 2018 World Cup finals. That makes it two out of the last three times – they staged it in 2010 while Holland is earmarked for 2014.

And just in case you didn't know how much the FIH rate India as hosts of a major tournament, they've also chosen New Delhi to stage the men's Junior World Cup finals in 2016!

From Ireland's point of view, the men are unlikely to reach any of the World Hockey League finals anyway – unless they can improve their world ranking from 15 to become a top eight nation, which under the current financial restrictions will be virtually impossible.

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But the 2018 World Cup finals is a real possibility, especially as this tournament will see 16 nations competing instead of the usual 12.

"It's something we'll have to get used to if we're going to progress," admits Ireland captain John Jackson, the Ulster defender currently playing with Reading in England.

"We have the ability to qualify for the 2018 finals, and more so with four additional teams that year.

"Would I fear playing in New Delhi? Absolutely not. We have had positive results against the leading Asian nations like Korea, Pakistan, India and Malaysia, who are all ranked above us, and there is no reason why that shouldn't continue.

"But what would worry me a little is the preparation beforehand – can we afford trips out there as part of the build-up?

"We played the World Hockey League round two in New Delhi in February and it was an interesting experience. We were in a nice hotel but it remains a challenge playing out there.

"We would have to pay particular attention to managing the conditions, and putting plans in place to combat hydration and nutrition issues."

If the Irish men have drawn the short straw regarding tournament venues, the women's Green Machine didn't fare so badly.

Already Darren Smith (pictured) and his girls know their Champions Challenge tournament in April will be in Glasgow and now it has been confirmed that their 2018 World Cup finals will be in London.

That means considerably less expensive trips and no worries about Delhi-belly.

"The strength of women's hockey is in Europe, apart from Argentina," reasons Jackson. "This might have helped influence venue choice.

"But from the men's point of view, India has the money and organisation to put in successful bids to stage tournaments. We'll just have to get used to that."

Argentina was the other nation that scooped plenty of tournaments. They will host one of the 2015 men's World League semi-finals, the 2015 women's World Hockey League finals, the 2016 men's Champions Trophy, the 2017 men's and women's World Hockey League semi-finals, the 2018 women's Champions Trophy and the 2018 men's and women's Indoor World Cup finals.

Australia, Germany and the Netherlands – arguably the three top hockey nations – didn't manage to get even one tournament!

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