Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Meet the new guy

For such a marquee appointment, Paul Revington’s first meeting with the Irish press proved quite a low key affair as the South African comes across as the poster boy for understated confidence.

During a half hour media briefing before Ireland’s first of three wins over Scotland last weekend, the new boss showed little fear of what lies ahead for him while side-stepping the gentle grilling provided by the assembled hacks.

What struck most was his age. At 35, he is just a few years older than the players he deals with and yet he gives off a more mature vibe, something he admits himself, “I probably feel over 40 by now having coached from such a young age. Generally, I’ve dealt with players in my development as a coach with players older than me and so have been forced to grow quite quickly.

“I’ve dealt with far trickier circumstances years ago. I’m confident in myself as a person and as a coach, from a knowledge and experience point of view. I know what I want to do and I will set about and do it.”

His coaching began early. Injury curtailed a promising playing career when he was 22 but he soon made his way through the coaching ranks, taking South Africa to their first Junior World Cup in 2001 before being elevated to the senior squad.

Revington subsequently took the Springboks to third place in the Champions Challenge in 2003 before successfully negotiating the qualifier for the Athens Olympics, beating Belgium on strokes to reach the elite competition.

With Ireland attempting to qualify for the 2010 World Cup late in the New Year, it is obvious how such a note on a resume stood out during the IHA’s interview process.

Decent results in Athens, including wins over Argentina and India and 3-2 losses at the hands of Australia and Holland represented an impressive campaign before eventually bowing out on strokes.

A Commonwealth Games appearance in Melbourne preceded his final act as South African coach in 2006. Once again, Revington led his side through the qualifiers to a showpiece event – this time through the African qualifying zone – to take part in the World Cup in Germany. Scarcely will a side have a worse build-up to a major event.

No international side would tour South Africa in the six months building up to the World Cup and the national hockey association had no money to fund touring. As a result, the side went into the competition with no competitive fixtures under their belt for six months but pushed Holland all the way once more before drawing with bronze medalists Korea.

As yet, his record appears unblemished and while it has been documented he parted ways not quite in the way he would have liked, Revington feels his departure from the South African job is water under the bridge.

“I don’t think there is a need to elaborate on it. I think as a coach, you are either coming in or you’re going out. I’ve had lots of super memories and great moments within SA over a long period and, for me, that is what I’ll hold with me, not the other issues.”

He met the Irish players in a formal setting for the first time last Saturday night in Havelock Park after the second Scottish game – the 5-1 win the on-pitch highlight of the weekend.

During that time, he attempted to convey to his new charges his short and long-term plans, something he touched on the night previously with the press: “Having gone through years of international coaching, one can sometimes get caught up in long-term processes and think four years down the line.

"Outside of building the team quickly, it’s crucial for us to build a continued winning environment within the group. As you do that, the milestones of World Cups and Olympics potentially take care of themselves.”

Getting into the European A division is described as an “obvious tournament priority” and responding to whether 2012 Olympics is a possible target, “Yes, absolutely”.

He adds, though, that the players need to heed Dave Passmore’s lament that they need to believe to achieve: “The Irish group, having watched them over the last few years, they’re a good group. Sometimes South Africa has had a similar environment where the actual belief in the quality of what they’ve got is not always there. A process is required to get the team to a certain level and you’ve got to have someone who believes in the process and the group of players and I certainly believe in them.”

The vibe around the country, backed by recent results, suggests we are on the cusp of something good. Revington has the knowhow to qualify for major events and has been entrusted with a four year contract – with a two-year review – to get Ireland to the next level. An understated show of belief and intent, the hockey fraternity waits with baited breath.

* Revington picture courtesy of Rowland White; action pictures courtesy of Adrian Boehm.


Anonymous said...

Glad he thinking about holding onto senior players to build. The team would be lost without the likes of Shaw and Butler.

Anonymous said...

Shaw or Butler wont be around come the Olympics in London but saying that most probably the team wont be either.