INSTITUTE IHA Welcomes Establishment of Irish Institute of Sport

Irish Sports Institute Major Boost To Ireland’s Junior Stars

Thursday, 20 July 2006

The Irish Hockey Association has welcomed Minister John O’Donoghue’s recent announcement regarding the development of the Irish Institute of Sport and the appointment of former GAA boss Sean Kelly as its initial Executive Chairman.

The Irish Institute of Sport will focus on improving the performances of Irish elite athletes at major international sporting events such as Olympic and Paralympic Games, and European and World Championships. This includes the delivery of optimal support services in areas such as strength & conditioning, psychology, performance analysis, sports science/sports medicine, injury management, and athlete lifestyle support. Ultimately the Institute will be located at the sports campus at Abbotstown, where hockey is one of the initial four sports included in the complex’s phase one development. Until the facilities there come on stream, the Institute will service athletes needs through existing facilities such as exist at third level institutions.

The development is great news for Irish hockey, and another crucial piece in the jigsaw in terms of developing international hockey teams that can compete on the highest world stage.

“We applaud the decision that has been taken by Minister O’Donoghue and his Department,” said IHA Chief Executive Paul Varian today. “Irish hockey has the talent to compete and win medals on the world stage, as was evidenced last weekend when our U16 girls won bronze medal in the Eurohockey Youth Nations Championships. The advent of the Irish Institute of Sport, together with hockey’s inclusion in phase one development of Abbottstown, means that these athletes stand a much better chance of being developed to their full potential than ever before and fulfilling our key goal of competing for medals in the 2012 London Olympic Games.”

The IHA also welcomes the appointment of Sean Kelly as the Institute’s Executive Chairman,” Varian continued. “Sean’s leadership skills and clear for all to see we look forward to helping him wherever we can in establishing this much needed resource for Irish elite sport.”

I would like to convey my warmest congratulations to the U16 girls hockey team, and the team’s coaching and management staff, for their tremendous accomplishments in Valencia last weekend,” said Kelly today. “The goal of the Irish Institute of Sport will be to take emerging talent such as is evidenced here in Irish hockey and develop it to its highest potential, with the 2012 London Olympic Games as one of our clear targets. To see our junior athletes competing and winning medals on the world stage is a hugely encouraging sign for the future.”

The news of the Irish Institute of Sport is timely for the Irish Hockey Association, who have surpassed their performance goals for their junior-age group (JAG) squads in 2005 and 2006. After both U18 boys and girls squads finished in the top four for the first time at the U18 Eurohockey Youth Nations Championships last year in Poland, Ireland’s U16 squads repeated the feat last week in Dublin (boys) and Valencia (girls), with the girls team going one better and bringing home bronze medal.. In both instances, the only other nation to achieve top-four finishes in both boys and girls teams was hockey superpower The Netherlands.

The Irish Sports Council is quite rightly placing a strong emphasis on the development of our junior age group athletes, as they will hopefully provide a significant portion of our senior squads in 2012,” explained IHA High Performance Director Dave Passmore. “To achieve the results we have in 2005 and 2006 is hugely important and indicates that we have the talent to compete at the level we want. The key now is how we develop these players between now and 2012. Abbottstown and the Irish Institute of Sport and hugely important developments in this regard,” he continues. “But we are also aware of the extra steps that we will have to take regarding athlete support and we are working towards sustainable solutions to ensure that athletes can commit to the preparation programmes that we will be setting.”

With clear quality in Irish hockey’s junior age groups and increasing support from both government and sponsors, the future looks bright for Irish hockey’s national teams.

“We’ve made great progress over the last two years,” said Varian. “But there’s still a huge amount of work to be done and much more finance is needed for us to fully unlock the potential that exists in Ireland’s national hockey teams. However, some hugely important steps have been taken in recent months and we are confident that we can continue to work with our supporters – both government and corporate – to help achieve results on the international stage that all of Irish sport can be proud of.”
For More Information, Please Contact:
Paul Varian, Chief Executive, Irish Hockey Association
Tel: 01 260 0028; Email: paul.varian@hockey.ie