Coronavirus causes change of plans for Irish women’s hockey team

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For hockey, the coronavirus outbreak has seen an abrupt change of plans with a two-week Irish women’s training camp swiftly relocated from Malaysia to Durban in South Africa.

Coach Sean Dancer had hoped to bring a panel of 21 players to the far east as part of his side’s Olympic preparation, hoping to test out how his players reacted in temperatures and humidity akin to what his side will face at the Olympics.

Malaysia has had 23 confirmed positive cases of coronavirus with – as of Thursday – with 22 fully recovered, while a further 23 people are pending lab results.

In addition to warm-weather training camp, the squad were due to play test matches but potential Asian sides have since vacated the continent.

China have set up base in Durban for the guts of a month now with four of their home FIH Pro League games postponed. Japan are also set to be in situ in Durban following a tour taking in Chile, Argentina, and Australia.

As such, the alternative venue for the camp which runs from March 16 to April 5 gives Dancer the chance of facing high-quality opposition with the south-eastern South African city offering average temperatures in the mid-20s.

“We’ve got some good information about the set-up,” Dancer said of the swift change of plans, saying it is a matter of getting on with things.

“Durban does offer some similar conditions and that is the key for that camp, to get that humidity.

“Changes of plan like this are part and parcel of international hockey. There’s no use stressing about it; it is what it is.”

China have also penciled in a trip to Belfast for a four-game series against Ireland in April.

At the time of writing, no other competitive fixtures have been formally cancelled with the International Hockey Federation and European Hockey Federation both “monitoring the evolution of the situation closely and following the recommendations of the World Health Organization”.