Ireland hosts its fair share of top-class sporting events throughout the year, but this November brings something different to the calendar. The only Olympic qualifier to take place in Ireland, in any sport, this year, will take place on November 2nd and 3rd in Energia Park, Donnybrook.
The Irish Women’s Hockey team, widely revered for their World Cup silver medal last summer in London, will take to the pitch in Dublin to seal their Olympic fate. The squad will play Canada in a double header, with the winner on goal aggregate earning their ticket to the biggest sporting event in the world, the Olympic Games. What happens if the score is even on aggregate at the end of the second match? Penalty shoot-out!
Adding to the excitement, the matches will take place in the home of Leinster Rugby, Energia Park in Donnybrook. This is a unique opportunity for the sport to really showcase its international talent to a home audience allowing Hockey Ireland to open up the matches to over 6,000 attendees per day. The following of the Irish Women’s team has grown massively in the past year. These matches represent a chance for the wider public to attend such a significant event in the history of Irish Hockey.
Energia Park will see a hockey pitch essentially rolled out on top of it’s existing rugby pitch. This will be carried out by Big Stadium Hockey, similar to how this was carried out earlier this year in The Stoop. The system used at The Stoop received fantastic feedback from all athletes who participated in the matches there. After carrying out system testing to confirm that similar performance will be capable on the 3G artificial turf pitch at Energia Park, Big Stadium Hockey have opted to install the same system for the Donnybrook venue.
Speaking on the upcoming games, Captain Katie Mullan said,“We know Canada are a good team, we have a huge amount of respect for them. They are fighting for their first Olympics (since 1992), like us and we will be prepared to match them. They’ll face a tenacious, hard-working group of girls that are close-knit and will fight for every ball together.
We’ve had numerous training camps since the European championships to prepare and, more /recently, we have had some great test games against teams from Europe and Asia. It would mean absolutely everything to us to qualify for the Olympics. That ticket for Tokyo has been our dream since day one and it is all we have ever wanted. It would mean the world to us to get that.”
The Olympic Qualifiers at Energia Park are a milestone event where the Irish Women’s team could potentially qualify for their first ever Olympic Games. Enabling fans to attend such an important event and support their team is important. Taking these matches to a larger, fan-friendly stadium not only enables more fans to be there to witness history, it also provides the team with the match day atmosphere that they deserve for what will be the biggest home matches of their careers to date.
The importance of that match day atmosphere was highlighted by Roisin Upton recently at the team’s Saba lunch event, “Just before every game [at the World Cup] they would do a countdown. They would ask the crowd to cheer for the teams, and when they asked them to cheer for the Irish there would be this booming sound taking over the stadium, and that was from our first game… It always makes a difference. We can hear it and we can feel it on the warm- up. We can sense that atmosphere.”
There are still tickets available for both days. Hockey Ireland wants to create a Sea of Green to give the squad the best home crowd advantage it possibly can. Tickets can be purchased at https://www.hockeyqualifierticketsdublin.com/