An innovative new partnership between the University of Ulster and Love Hockey Ireland is set to bring the sport of inline hockey to new levels throughout the country.
The Ulster Sports Academy is pairing up with the inline hockey charity to help grow the sport among young people, as well as improve on the national and international scene.
The sport, which is like ice hockey but not as physical and played using inline roller skates on a hard-floored surface, will use Ulster’s Jordanstown campus as a training base and use the expertise in the Academy to further its community sports programmes in primary schools.
Inline hockey has existed in league form in Ireland for the past eight years and Stephen Lynch from Love Hockey Ireland says that participation is on the increase.
He said: “We are delighted to have agreed a partnership with the University of Ulster to develop inline hockey in Ireland. As one of the leaders in sport in the community, the University will help us as our ‘home base’ from which we gain learn from their experts in sport and train using the world-class facilities available at the Jordanstown campus.
“Since 2005, the senior Irish league has increased from six teams to eight, including a team from Scotland who travel here to play, and there are also leagues for under-12, under-14 and under-16 players.”
The aim of the partnership is to roll out a programme of introducing inline hockey to primary schools from September 2011. At the end of the first three-month phase, a one-day ‘Schools Cup’ competition will be held at the University of Ulster.
Dr Nigel Dobson, Co-Director of the Ulster Sports Academy, said: “Inline hockey is a fast growing sport in this country and acts not only as a sport but also as a form of social cohesion, opening doors for cross-community participation and integration, in particular of those people from eastern Europe where the sport is very popular.
“We are delighted to team up with an organisation that has a vision of improving the lives of young people in this country through sport, an ideal that the University of Ulster is striving for also.”
Love Hockey Ireland has already received interest in its expansion plans from the United States. It has been invited to put together a national side to travel to Florida this month for a special inline hockey ‘Irish tour’ organised with the Tampa Bay Lightning of the National Ice Hockey League. As part of the celebrations Love Hockey Ireland are the guests of honour at a ‘green theme’ night when they will be introduced on the ice when Tampa Bay take on the Washington Capitals at the St Pete Times Forum.
“It is a great opportunity to showcase our plans with the University of Ulster to the people of America,” Stephen said.
“We want to promote what is a minority sport as widely as possibly to boost interest in the local community. We have also been doing this with the Belfast Giants ice hockey team and now advancing that with our University partners and the Florida tour is helping us achieve our goals.”
For further information on Love Hockey Ireland please visit www.lovehockeyireland.com
CAPTION: Stephen Lynch and Jordy Williamson from Love Hockey Ireland with Keith Thompson, the University of Ulster's Community Sports Officer