Following the shock departure of former coach Graham Shaw, after he guided the team to the World Cup final in London last summer, the Irish Senior Women’s Hockey team have announced their new head coach.
Former Australian Under 21 International Sean Dancer is the man tasked with guiding the Green Army to the Tokyo Olympics in 2020.
He brings with him a wealth of experience to the role. Dancer began his coaching career while playing for the Heracles club in Antwerp, Belgium. He became National Junior Head Coach for the Belgian U16 women’s squad in 2007 before moving to New Zealand in 2009 to be High Performance Manager for the Wellington Hockey Association. Following this, he held several pivotal roles within Hockey New Zealand, including National Assistant Coach to the ‘Black Sticks’ men’s squad, National Junior Head Coach for the U21 NZ women, and National Assistant Coach to the ‘Black Sticks’ women’s squad – where he has been positioned since 2014.
Highlights of his tenure as assistant coach to the New Zealand women’s team include a 4th place finish in Rio in 2016, along with securing Common Wealth Gold in 2018. During this period the team has also enjoyed unprecedented success with the side maintaining their world ranking and never dropping outside 6th in the world.
After the euphoria of last summer’s performance in London, the Green Army were left devastated by Shaw’s departure. The opportunity to take charge of the New Zealand Women’s Hockey team, ranked number 4 in the world, was just too good to turn down.
Hockey Ireland CEO, Jerome Pels was pleased to sign up the hugely talented coach, “We are delighted with the appointment of Sean, who emerged as the top candidate in a thorough and competitive recruitment process. His experience and skill set will be a great asset to Hockey Ireland and we look forward to him getting involved with our ambitious high-performance plans.”
Hockey Ireland will host the FIH Series Finals for Women between June 8th and 16th 2019 in Banbridge Hockey Club. This tournament is the first step to Olympic qualification for the senior women’s team and will also be the first opportunity for the Irish public to watch the Green Army play since winning a silver medal at the World Cup in 2018. Both the Senior Women’s and Men’s teams have been working tirelessly with the support of Sport Ireland, Sport Ireland Institute, and Sport Northern Ireland staff, building and preparing for the upcoming FIH Series Finals.
While home-hosted FIH Series Finals in June and Olympic Qualification are the pinnacle of a busy year, there is also the EuroHockey Championships to look forward to in Belgium this August. The Irish Senior Men’s team will also compete in the FIH Series Final in Le Touquet (France) 15-23 June 2019.
Dancer, while delighted to be appointed by Ireland, said he had thoroughly enjoyed his time with Hockey New Zealand over the last 10 years. “Apart from developing some great NZ friendships, I have also had the opportunity to coach with, and learn from, some of the world’s best coaches Mark Hager and Shane McLeod. I am grateful and proud of the team’s progress and their achievements to date.”
“To be provided with the chance to lead a quality programme and team on the World stage, is something that I have personally aspired to for a long period of time. I am grateful to Hockey Ireland for this opportunity and I’m excited to continue, and add to, the team’s world-class performances over the last 12 months.”
Hockey Ireland High Performance Director Adam Grainger knows that Ireland have got a coach of real quality with this new appointment saying, “Hockey Ireland, and the Senior Women’s Team specifically, are very fortunate to secure the appointment of Sean Dancer as Head Coach. With it being mid-Olympic cycle, internationally recognised coaches like Sean with both Head Coach and Olympic experience are not easily found. Sean comes into a well-established and strong management team and will no doubt have a significant positive impact as we build towards Olympic qualification.”
Following the FIH Series Finals in Banbridge, Dancer and his squad will get set for the challenge of trying to qualify for the Olympic Games in Tokyo.
Photo Credit: Hockey Ireland