The IHA confirmed today that from October 2010, the majority of the Irish senior women’s team will commit to a ‘Central Preparation Programme’ (CPP) located in Dublin, for a period of ten months.
The programme is designed, according to an IHA press release, to “facilitate a core, intensive preparation program targeting those athletes in contention for selection in the build up to the Olympic Qualification Events.
“It will enable the majority of the players to train together on a regular basis in one location with the aim of qualifying the women’s National team for the London Olympic Games.”
It is envisaged that about 20 of the 25 players selected for the Irish panel will be in a position to be located in Dublin for the initial time period, and those that are unable to make the move will continue training at a local level in midweek and join the full squad for Sunday and Monday training sessions.
Players selected to take part in the CPP will continue to compete for their clubs as the weekly schedule makes provisions for weekend club hockey – except for scheduled breaks or international events – while also enabling players to prepare midweek with their clubs for ESB Irish Senior Cup and IHL matches.
Additional athletes maybe invited into the programme by Gene Muller who will monitor both club and interprovincial matches throughout the year.
The potential benefits of moving to centralised training from the current regional setup are outlined by the IHA as follows:
“It will enable the majority of players to train together on a regular basis in one location; it will help address critical technical and tactical weaknesses; it will facilitate more intense, frequent and higher quality training sessions; a programme of this nature makes the periodisation of the Irish training and competition programme feasible. Under the previous system it was difficult to control training variables to develop and peak the team.”
National coach Gene Muller welcomed the announcement: “The move to a central preparation programme is a significant move forward for the Irish women’s hockey team, and puts our training environment in line with many of the top international nations.
Eimear Cregan, the current Irish captain, also believes this is a key step if the side is to have a shot at reaching the Olympics: "I have no doubt that this programme will maximise our potential as a team as well as providing us with a fantastic opportunity to qualify for the Olympics in London 2012.
“The current squad of players is hugely committed and dedicated, and I firmly believe that each player will work extremely hard to make this a success.
“I am also pleased that the Irish Hockey Association has been able to accommodate those players who are unable to centralise due to their work commitments.”
Meanwhile IHA High Performance Director, David Passmore says “'While it will maximise the time the athletes can train together it also gives some flexibility to accommodate for the different athlete needs and circumstances, whilst maintaining their involvement at club level for key competitions.
“In the past we have completely withdrawn players from club hockey in the build up to major competitions this does not need to be the case now.”
Clubs whose players will be affected by the CPP will be contacted by Gene Muller by next Wednesday with the specific details of how this will impact on them in the upcoming ten month period. The core Irish panel likely to be involved in the new setup is likely to be announced in the aftermath of the women's series with Scotland at the end of this month.
The women’s budget that incorporates the Central Preparation Program will be allocated in-line with previous year’s budgets funded through ISC, Sport NI and ESB.
The move has received backing from the Irish Sports Council, Sport Northern Ireland, the Sport’s Institute of Northern Ireland, The Irish Institute of Sport and national sponsors ESB.