HOCKEY: ‘If we can’t get people in now, we never will’

Eugene Magee was part of a thrilling summer for Irish hockey. Pic: INPHO/James Crombie
Eugene Magee was part of a thrilling summer for Irish hockey. Pic: INPHO/James Crombie

There’s a pivotal season coming up for Irish Hockey - and even the sport in general.

In a thrilling Olympic Games, Team GB’s women attracted an audience of nine million viewers as they sealed gold with a thrilling penalty shuffle victory over the Netherlands.

Add to that Ireland men’s historic campaign, including, of course, Banbridge captain Eugene Magee, and there is a rarely-enjoyed spotlight currently focusing in on the sport.

“If hockey can’t get people in now and grow the game, it never will,” explained Banbridge Head Coach Mark Tumilty.

The Olympic tournaments brought almost constant excitement, from Ireland’s 3-2 defeat to Argentina in their final group game to Argentina’s 4-2 win in the men’s final and, of course, the Great British women’s win.

“The Irish men’s team got good coverage and then the GB women’s team’s victory was fantastic,” continued Bann boss Tumilty.

“Their final, at 3-3, was brilliant. Other sports don’t have that excitement. I think it’s because the game is so fast.

“I thought the hockey over the whole tournament was excellent. The men’s final was one of the best 60 minutes of sport that I’ve seen for a long time.”

And now, Tumilty says, Irish and Ulster Hockey, along with the clubs, have to make sure they ride the wave. Key to that will be October’s European Hockey League, which Bann will host at Havelock Park.

“The organisations have to do something now to make sure we capitalise on it,” he said.

“A lot of people have told me they will be coming down to the EHL and schools are coming to watch it. It’s an exciting time and as a club, we’re buzzing.

“Back in training with the lads, I can see that they’re excited and that there is more hunger and focus there.”

Round One of the EHL will be played at Havelock from 7-9 October.