A new state of the art hockey pitch will be laid at the Sport Ireland National Sports Campus, providing a welcome boost to Ireland’s national hockey teams as they go in search of Tokyo 2020 qualification.

Today’s announcement comes on the back of recent strong performances by the Irish national senior hockey teams which are both ranked among the top ten nations in the International Hockey Federation (FIH) rankings.

The Irish women’s team claimed an historic silver medal at the 2018 World Cup in London in August, while the men’s side recently competed in the World Cup in India following qualification for the 2016 Rio Olympics – the first time Irish hockey was represented at the Olympics in over a century.

To build on this success, Sport Ireland has commenced the replacement of the current sand-based hockey pitch on the Sport Ireland National Sports Campus with a new Polytan Polygras Toyko GT surface. This is the same surface that will be used at the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games and the 2022 World Cup.

Speaking at the announcement today which was attended by members of the Irish Men’s and Women’s teams, Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Shane Ross TD, said:

“This is a very welcome and timely development for the sport of hockey. I was lucky to witness Ireland’s achievement at the Women’s World Cup in London earlier this year and to see the desire and determination the team played with while representing their country. This new world-class facility at the Sport Ireland National Sports Campus will be of massive benefit to the preparation of not just our senior national teams, but also our up and coming players who will no doubt have been inspired by the recent performances of our women’s and men’s teams. This new hockey pitch is another welcome step in the development of the Sport Ireland National Sports Campus as the home of Irish sport and together with the excellent facilities already in place and those planned for the next few years, will support more and more Irish sportspersons in their training and preparation for international competition.”       

Chairman of Sport Ireland, Kieran Mulvey, commented: “The Irish hockey teams have had a remarkable period of success in recent years. The women’s team captured the imagination of the country with their exploits in the World Cup in August; while the men’s team have gone on to represent Ireland with pride in the World Cup this year following their qualification for the Olympic Games in 2016. The Board of Sport Ireland is keen to see the sport of hockey continue to rise in Ireland which is why we have approved the replacement of the hockey pitch. This development makes a clear statement that the Sport Ireland National Sports Campus is the home of high performance hockey in Ireland.”

The new pitch will be constructed by Sport Ireland with day-to-day management of the facility becoming the responsibility of the Sport Ireland National Sports Campus operations company.

Chief Executive of Sport Ireland, John Treacy, added: “The sport of hockey has gone through a very successful period and Sport Ireland is keen to build on its support for the game here at all levels. The new pitch at the Sport Ireland National Sports Campus will allow Ireland’s elite hockey players to practise on the same playing surface that will be used in the next Olympic Games, which will be a huge benefit to their qualification prospects and preparation for international competition. Locating the pitch here at the Sport Ireland National Sports Campus will also allow players to avail of existing science, medicine and lifestyle support services through the Sport Ireland Institute.”

Chairman of Sport Ireland’s National Sports Campus Committee, Patrick O’Connor, said: “This development of this new pitch alleviates the need for Irish teams to travel abroad to train, giving them access to the latest in pitch technology here in Ireland. This will further reduce hockey’s reliance on club-based facilities for training, which are not always readily available, and will make the Sport Ireland National Sports Campus an attractive proposition to travelling teams ahead of the Tokyo Games.”

The next major event on the agenda for the Irish women’s team is the Hockey Series Final, which takes place in Ireland in June 2019, with the men’s equivalent taking place in France in the same month. Both the men and women will compete at the Euro Hockey Championships next August 16-25 2019 in Antwerp, Belgium.

Chief Executive of Hockey Ireland, Jerome Pels, said: “Hockey Ireland would like to thank the Minister, the Government and Sport Ireland for their support.  As we build on the success of the women’s silver World Cup medal this summer, this is a crucial development in our ability to support the high-performance teams.  The Tokyo specification hockey pitch at the Sport Ireland National Sports Campus is an important part of our high-performance plan. We believe there are great benefits of being within the performance environment at the Sport Ireland National Sports Campus and having a direct connection with the other facilities such as the Sport Ireland Institute.”

It is expected that the new facility will be complete and ready for use in April 2019 at a cost of €600,000.