Hockey Ireland accept invitation to play in the men’s Pro League for the first time

As runners-up in the Nations Cup, Ireland was invited to replace South Africa

Hockey Ireland have accepted an invitation from the International Hockey Federation (FIH) to play in the men’s Pro League for the first time. The national side will take part in next season’s competition, which begins in October 2023.

It will be the first time the national side will have had a chance to play in the event, which is going into its fourth year.

Ireland finished runners-up to South Africa in the inaugural Nations Cup tournament last November, losing in a close 4-3 final. It ensured South Africa gained promotion to the Pro League for 2023-2024 replacing the nation that will finish bottom at the end of the current season.

However, South Africa have decided not to take up their place in the competition, which attracts television coverage. As runners-up in the Nations Cup, Ireland was invited to replace them and have accepted.

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It means regular matches for Ireland against the top teams in the world in a competitive format. Netherlands, Germany, Britain, India, Spain, Australia and Belgium are all competing in this season’s edition of the tournament.

There is also a similar nine-nation women’s Pro League tournament for which Ireland have not qualified.

“It’s a big opportunity for us and for men’s hockey in Ireland,” said Ireland men’s head coach Mark Tumilty. “It’s a massive challenge for us but I’ve said many times before that for Ireland to move forward in world hockey we need to be playing competitive games against the top nations. To have the chance now to play 16 games against the top countries in the world will give our programme added purpose and focus.”

It is also going to be a significant step up in financial commitment and performance level for the Irish team as the Olympic gold medal winners Belgium, World Champions Germany and European champions Netherlands have again confirmed their involvement.

The upcoming Pro League season (2023-24) will also be the first one applying the promotion and relegation principle. It is expected that a new format will drastically reduce the travelling requirements of each team by introducing mini tournaments.

“The fact that our senior men are now competing in World Hockey’s Pro League against eight top hockey teams from around the world is a testament to all the hard work to date, and is aligned with our high-performance strategy and objectives,” said Hockey Ireland chief executive Ronan Murphy. “As we continue our Olympic qualification campaign we have a very busy year ahead with the EuroHockey Championships in Abbotstown in July offering a perfect opportunity for Irish Hockey fans to come along and watch the team in full international action.”

Ireland have also confirmed that it will host Division Two of the European Championships in July at the National Sports Campus in Abbotstown. The goal is to regain a place in the top flight of European hockey and claim a place in the Olympic qualifying tournaments for Paris 2024.

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