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Hockey's new international tournament will prepare Ireland for Olympic bid

 

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Shirley McCay

Shirley McCay

Shirley McCay

Ireland's men and women will have a new competition to look forward to next year with the introduction of the Continental Cup.

It will be an eight-team tournament held at a single venue for each gender and, after the inaugural event, promotion and relegation to and from the elite Pro League will take place.

From 2022, the Intercontinental Cup champions will be promoted to the top-flight to replace the bottom PRO League team, who will be relegated.

It's a timely addition to the calendar for the Ireland women's team in particular as the event will provide extra high-level international competition ahead of the Olympics following their rescheduling.

The tournament will be staged annually for the highest-ranked teams who don't compete in the Pro League.

Ireland's most-capped player, Shirley McCay, has given her endorsement to the new tournament although she remains undecided about her international future following the postponement of the Olympics.

The Pegasus defender said: "I am glad Hockey Ireland have decided to enter us into the competition as it will provide the team with a good standard of opposition, especially with the carrot of promotion to the Pro League for the winners."

It will be a particularly busy year for the national women's team, who will also take part in the European Championships in Amsterdam which are due to start just 12 days after the conclusion of the Olympics.

However, the European governing body, EHF, have stated that there remains a possibility of switching the dates of the bi-annual event - perhaps to act as a warm-up for the Olympics, with five of the eight teams who will travel to the Netherlands also qualified for Tokyo.

Belfast Telegraph