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New pathway to Olympics receives lukewarm reaction



Double ton: Paul Gleghorne is set to win his 200th Ireland cap this summer

Double ton: Paul Gleghorne is set to win his 200th Ireland cap this summer

Double ton: Paul Gleghorne is set to win his 200th Ireland cap this summer

The new Olympic qualification route launched by the world governing body hasn't been overwhelmingly welcomed, as many see it as too convoluted and certainly far more complicated than any other major sport.

In recent years qualification came through a series of World Hockey League tournaments but that has been scrapped and in its place are three separate events - all with different names - from which six teams will eventually join hosts Japan and the five continental champions for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

The good news for the Irish men and women's teams are that their current high world ranking means they will avoid the opening event, the Hockey Series Open, which will run between June and September this year.

Instead, they will go into the second event, the Hockey Series finals, which consists of three tournaments to take place around this time next year at venues yet to be announced.

These finals will consist of 15 qualifiers from the Open series plus the nine top world ranked teams that aren't taking part in the new but contentious Hockey Pro League which begins next year.

They will be split into three sets of eight and the winners and runners-up in each series will then go through to stage three, the new Olympic Qualification events.

There they will join the top four teams from the Pro League and the best two ranked teams who haven't qualified through either the Pro League or the Hockey Open finals.

That equates to 12 teams in all who then will be split into six groups of two, depending on world rankings, and they will face each other in winner-takes-all back-to-back games from which they can qualify for Tokyo.

Sadly, once again the romance of one of the lower ranked nations progressing is hampered, as the higher ranked team will host the back-to-back games.

Those six winners will be joined by hosts Japan and the five continental winners for the Olympic finals.

Wow, is that unnecessarily complex or what? No wonder media and press don't always take our sport seriously!

From the men's point of view, they'll not have to worry about Olympic qualification until next year, and so their priority is to prepare for the World Cup finals in India at the end of this year.

Coach Craig Fulton will name his squad soon for two games against World No. 5 Germany in Dublin from May 18-19, and this will be followed quickly by three games against France in Cork and two against the USA in Dublin before they head to Germany for the Hamburg Masters tournament which involves hosts Germany, Argentina and France.

Lisnagarvey's Paul Gleghorne will surely win his 200th cap during that time -he currently sits on 199, so it all boils down to whether he retains his place and which games earn caps.

Meanwhile, the Anderson Cup semi-finals are scheduled for tomorrow evening, with Belfast Harlequins hosting Kilkeel at Deramore and Instonians hosting Mossley at Shaw's Bridge.

Kilkeel are bidding to complete a hat-trick of trophies, having already won the Kirk Cup and Ulster Premier League while Instonians are hoping to shake off the disappointment of failing to qualify for the EY Irish Hockey League's top flight through the Provincial Play-Offs.

The junior inter-provincials are being staged at Cork Harlequins, with holders Ulster facing Leinster and Munster on Saturday and again on Sunday.

Belfast Telegraph