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Ireland need quick fix to coaching problem for Olympic play-off, says Bell

 

Walking away: Alexander Cox has left the Ireland job after a dismal European Championship
Walking away: Alexander Cox has left the Ireland job after a dismal European Championship
Jonny Bell

By John Flack

Ireland men's hockey captain Jonny Bell has expressed his regret at head coach Alexander Cox's decision to quit the job after a year in charge and with just eight weeks to go before the crucial Olympic qualifiers.

However, the Lisnagarvey defender also questioned the wisdom of initially appointing a coach who was based abroad and had therefore limited contact time with the players as he combined his role as Ireland head coach with being in charge of Dutch side Kampong.

Cox's departure comes as little surprise after he gave a strong hint that he would step down when he addressed the media after what was a dismal European Championship campaign in Antwerp.

Ireland finished bottom of the eight-team tournament and behind two lower-ranked nations in Scotland and Wales after failing to secure a win.

Bell said: "I'm obviously sorry that it's come to this but I'm thankful for the contribution that Alex made.

"It wasn't easy for him being based abroad. He's a world-class coach but unfortunately we probably didn't get enough contact hours with him to make a real difference.

"We were three months out from a World Cup when (Cox's predecessor) Craig Fulton stepped away so, as an interim option, I think it was a good solution to appoint Alex in the short-term to take us to that World Cup.

"But it remains to be seen whether the decision to continue after the World Cup was the right one.

"I think off the back of Antwerp, it was clear that the role of an Ireland senior men's hockey coach requires a lot of coaching hours in the country and a lot of exposure for the coach developing players.

"Unfortunately with the arrangement that we had, it wasn't Alex's fault he could only give the commitment that he could give, and that was probably deemed by Hockey Ireland to be sufficient but it was just clear that we needed more time with him."

With such a short time before the qualifiers for a place at the Tokyo Olympics, it seems likely that Ireland will make an interim appointment.

Bell added: "There is going to have to be some banging of heads together to identify the options and take us forward to the end of October.

"It's very short notice and there isn't really time for a full-on recruitment process.

"It really needs to be a stop-gap, someone who can come in and motivate and drive the team for a period of eight or nine weeks.

"And then, at that point, try to identify a longer-term option, so there will have to be some quick thinking done and brainstorming potential options, and it's a question of availability as well for training requirements."

Bell says the players must also bear some of the responsibility for the nightmare that was Antwerp.

"Coaching is only one small part of it and ultimately the players are responsible for the performance on the pitch, which wasn't good enough," said the 31-year-old.

"We've got to look at the reasons for that and try to correct it as quickly as possible, and our basics weren't quite up to scratch and that let us down."

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