Press releases while very welcome though rare in some parts of Ireland can often put a ‘spin’ on events and it was easy to unravel the one that arrived from the Irish Hockey Association recently.
‘Ireland bow out of contention for world cup qualifying after narrow defeat by Italy’ it read or words to that effect in a reference to the so called Green Machine’s failure to progress to the next stage of the process.
Words like ‘bow out’ and ‘narrow defeat’ would suggest that even in defeat the so near yet so far element of the result was something to be proud of.
But the contrary view would suggest that this, in fact, was further evidence that the standard of the national team is lower than it has been for some years.
Remember Italy at 17 are ranked three places lower than Ireland as are Belarus (21) to whom the Green Machine lost to earlier in the World League 2 series in Valencia.
Ireland have consistently been hovering at around 14 or 15 in the global rankings over the past decade or so but all this could change in the next week or two.
The new world rankings which are calculated by reference to results from major tournaments like the one in Spain will be released shortly and they are unlikely to make happy reading.
Ireland have now failed to reach the finals of the two biggest tournaments in hockey namely the Olympic Games and now the World Cup in well under a year.
Nothing unusual about that as it’s the exception rather than the rule that Ireland qualify for such showpieces but it was the manner of their capitulation that was most disappointing.
The Irish players seemed to ‘freeze’ in the final of the Olympic qualifying tournament in Belgium in the summer of 2012 and that was probably their best ever chance of reaching an Olympic Games in the modern era.
That was put into perspective when Ireland managed to beat the Belgians at the Champions Challenge tournament in Dublin only a few weeks afterwards.
Has Centralisation (the idea of having the international players based in Dublin) worked? The answer is patently a resounding ‘no.’
The objective, stated and unstated respectively, was to qualify for London 2012 and at least the next stage of World Cup qualifying but neither goal was achieved.
There was just one Ulster based player in the most recent Irish squads, namely Pegasus midfielder Michelle Harvey as players like Katie Mullan and team captain Alex Speers now play their hockey in Dublin to be close to the geographical ‘hub’ of Centralisation.
So what effect has this had on the state of Ulster women’s hockey? The Premier League title race is now reverting to type as Pegasus are emerging as favourites to lift the title for the 14th time in 15 years.
But it has certainly been the most competitive season for almost 20 years with any one of a number of teams still, in theory, in title contention.
The drain of players to the south has undoubtedly and by definition lowered the standard of the Ulster League with some of the top players now plying their trade in Dublin.
All things considered the future of the Ireland women’s hockey team as far as reaching major tournament finals is concerned looks none too rosy.