EXCLUSIVE: Local hockey in crisis as astro pitch closes

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THE Coleraine Borough Council area will have no facilities for hockey by the end of the month.

The University of Ulster’s Coleraine campus has invested in a third generation (3G) pitch, which will replace the astro turf surface at their Cromore Road sports centre.

With no other astro turf pitches in the Coleraine Borough Council area, Coleraine Ladies Hockey Club have been left with no facilities. The 3G surface is not suitable for hockey due to the length of the artificial grass.

With over 100 junior members and three senior teams, Coleraine Hockey Club has the highest membership in its forty year history.

Players, coaches and parents of players are anxious about the future of hockey in Coleraine, however we understand that negotiations are taking place between Council and the Rugby Club with the aspiration to develop a ‘hockey facility’ at Rugby Avenue, but this could be years down the line.

In a statement Coleraine Borough Council said: “Council recognise that without a facility in the borough, the future of competitive hockey is in doubt.

“The ideal location for hockey in the borough is in the area of Rugby Avenue based upon the aspiration to develop the Rugby Avenue site as a future regional leisure complex and the fortunate co-location of Coleraine Rugby, Cricket and Hockey Club.”

Coleraine Ladies coach, Ivan Jordan, described the situation as ‘disappointing’ and said that teams may have to travel to Ballymoney or Ballycastle if slots become available on astro turf pitches there.

“Come the end of March we are nomads - we have nowhere to go.

“We had an inkling that something was going to happen at the university last year, but now we are left with no where to go.

“Our season will start again in September, so between now and then we will have to try and get something sorted out.

“Portrush Hockey Club relocated to Ballycastle, we just feel a bit let down by Coleraine Borough Council. There has been investment in every other sport except hockey, we just feel neglected.

“The grass on the 3G surface is too long for hockey, there is a shorter surface being trialled at the minute, but it is only a trial.

“Other towns have great facilities, and here we are left with nothing.”

Ivan explained that the second and third teams may be able to play on gravel surfaces, but added that development of youth hockey required an astro turf surface.

The youth set up at Coleraine Ladies is one of the best in north west, with a thriving mini section and successful teams at under 13 and under 15 levels.

The absence of an astro turf pitch will also have an impact on local schools who also relied on the university’s pitch for school games.

The introduction of a 3G pitch is however a welcome boost to the Coleraine area.

Limavady, Derry City and Moyle Council areas all have 3G provision, Coleraine is one of the very few areas in Northern Ireland without the state of the art surface.