It may have been by default that Banbridge Hockey Club staged last week’s FIH Women’s Series Finals - but the Co Down club proved the perfect hosts.
With venues in Dublin ruled out for a plethora of reasons, Banbridge stepped in to welcome the eight international sides competing for two places in the Olympic Qualifying tournaments later this year.
Staging big events is nothing new for the Havelock Park club.
It hosted the Euro Hockey League ROUND1 in 2016, the first and only time the elite competition came to Ireland, bringing the biggest event to Ireland since 2012’s Olympic qualifiers.
The Co Down club had been due to host the 2018 EY Champions Trophy last May, but it had to be moved due to uncontrolable issues around the laying of their pitch.
The only thing which did not go Banbridge’s way since the tournament started on Saturday, June 8, was the weather - but there was still a good support for the event.
On Sunday’s final day the sellout signs went up - and the sun shone - making it almost the perfect ending.
Ireland, having already qualified for the Olympic qualifiers in November by winning their semi-final 4-0 against the Czech Republic on Saturday, could not complete the full job by beating Korea in Sunday’s final, eventually losing 3-1.
A spokesperson for the FIH complimented Banbridge on the hosting of the competition.
“Banbridge has been a great venue for the FIH Series Finals,” they said.
“Despite the weather not being favorable the fans have come out in numbers to support their favorite teams.
“The Banbridge Club has a great hockey history and their passion for hockey reflects when they host an International tournament like the FIH Series Finals.”
Asked how a venue is selected, they replied: “The number one mission of the International Hockey Federation (FIH) is to grow hockey everywhere in the world.
“And this is what FIH is doing through its global development programme Hockey4Life. When it comes to FIH events, the size of the host city is not what matters most.
“If you look at these FIH Series Finals events, some are staged in large cities (Kuala Lumpur, Hiroshima, Bhubaneswar, Valencia) and others in smaller places (Banbridge, Le Touquet).
“What matters in the first place is that the necessary requirements (stadium, accommodation, transportation, etc) are in place and that the local organising team has knowledge, commitment, passion and heart, as is the case here in Banbridge.
“The teams found the Banbridge Hockey Club to be very hospitable and welcoming. The turf was good to play Hockey on and the teams enjoyed this exposure to play amongst some of the best teams in the world.”