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Ireland's shock as coach Fulton joins Belgium

 

By John Flack

The Ireland men's hockey team were rocked by a bombshell last night with the shock news that national coach Craig Fulton is to quit the post just five months before the World Cup to take over as Belgium assistant coach.

Confirmation of the South African's impending departure, announced by Hockey Ireland last night, came as a bolt from the blue.

Fulton's record speaks for itself, and his historic tenure has seen Ireland win a European bronze medal, qualify for the Olympics Games in Rio and most recently for the World Cup, scheduled for India in November.

Fulton said: "It has been an absolute honour and a pleasure to have been head coach of the Irish men's team since 2014."

"Great teams are made up of great individuals and I am very proud to say that this has been the case with the players that I have been fortunate enough to coach.

"I am proud that the Irish men's team, together with the support of the Irish hockey community made history."

Fulton's final match series in charge will come later this month, when Ireland face France in three matches in Cork.

Following that series the current team's assistant coaches, Ulster's Jonny Caren, Kai de Jager and John Bessell, will lead the side as Hockey Ireland begin the search to find Fulton's successor.

Meanwhile, Ireland's women continued their World Cup preparations with a 1-0 win over Scotland in the first game of the three-match series in Glasgow last night.

But it took a last gasp goal to secure the victory against a side, at 18th, ranked two places lower on the world list.

Ireland, with five Ulster players in the squad, edged the first half with Naomi Carroll and Nicci Daly both firing narrowly wide and Gill Pinder striking the post.

They were again marginally the better side after the restart and, after several more chances had been missed, Carroll grabbed the late winner with a deflection at a penalty corner.

The teams meet again tomorrow (3pm) before the series concludes on Sunday (11am).

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