Ireland Hockey’s Olympic hopes explained

The Ireland squad that finished fifth in World League Three. �INPHO/Koen Suyk
The Ireland squad that finished fifth in World League Three. �INPHO/Koen Suyk
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The Irish mens hockey team kept their dreams of qualifying for the Olympics in Rio next year alive with a superb 4-1 win over Malaysia in Antwerp on Sunday.

Two goals in the first ten minutes set Ireland on their way as Kyle Good and Peter Caruth both found the back of the net early on.

Good fired home from close range early on, whilst Caruth added a spectacular second with a shot from the edge of the circle as Ireland took a comfortable 2-0 lead into the end of the first quarter.

Although it was the Boys In Green who were making all the running, Irish keeper Davey Harte was called into action on a couple of occasions and made some fine saves.

In the 40th minute, Mitch Darling teed up Alan Sothern to make it 3-0.

Sothern, the hero against Pakistan, was on target for Ireland’s third when he scored after great play by Mitch Darling and Ireland were in cruise control.

Malaysia narrowed the deficit to two goals in the 55th minute, but Darling then added a fourth for Ireland via a deflected shot from Shane O’Donoghue.

The Irish must now wait on other results to see if they have done enough.

Writing on their Twitter page, Banbridge Hockey Club said: “So incredibly proud of our boys. Well done!”

There are still plenty of variables that have to play out over the next four months.

At this stage, India, Germany, Argentina, Netherlands, Australia, Belgium and Great Britain have earned places at Rio next year.

This leaves five places still available. The other route to the Olympics is as champions of one of the five continental competitions of which Asia is already complete.

At this stage Ireland are third behind Canada and Spain, should places to the Olympics become available.

Ireland require any three of the following outcomes from the four remaining competitions:

1. Pan-American Games (July 10-26) – if either Argentina or Canada win, then another team from the World League earns a ticket. Those two sides are the only entrants in the world’s top 15. Chile are next best placed at 25th.

2. Brazil – should Olympic hosts Brazil finish outside the top six at the Pan Am Games, then they will not meet FIH criteria for the event. Should this happen, another berth goes to WL3 places.

3. European Championships (August 21-30) – if Ireland win, they qualify for the Games. If one of Germany, Netherlands, Belgium, England (GB) or Spain, this would move Ireland another place up the list

4. Oceania Cup (October 21-25) – if Australia win, another place goes to WL3. Their main competition is New Zealand for whom this is potentially a last chance saloon for Olympic qualification.

5. Africa Cup for Nations (October 17-25) – the winner of this competition will be offered an Olympic place. The one addendum is that South Africa’s Olympic council, SASCOC has stated they will not send a team on the basis of victory of a continental championship. Should they win the tournament – they are the highest ranked nation, seven above Egypt – this could open up another WL3 place.