Ice hockey in Ireland.. The first match ever recorded in Ireland took place in the Dolphins Barn ice rink between the Dublin Stags and the Liverpool Leopards in 1983.Dublin won 3 v 2.
Since then the sport has progressed to all levels. Following Irelands inauguration to the IIHF in 1997 the IIHA decided to take part at junior level in the IIHF World Championship Games. Ireland travelled to Bulgaria, Luxembourg and Iceland to take part in IIHF Division III International competitions. Under -18 and U-20 Teams represented Ireland for the first time.
Domestic competition flourished and cross border leagues between, Dublin, Belfast, and Coleraine provided a platform to compete at a high level. However in 1999 and early 2000 the two ice rinks in Dublin closed down. The junior programme was in jeopardy. Players drove once a week to Belfast to train and others resorted to in-line.
In 2001 the Dublin City Council recruited the IIHA to help out in running an outdoor rink in the centre of Dublin over the festive season. Once again the players both junior and senior had home ice. The rink continues every year and provides a training ground for all the IIHA members and up and coming stars.
The IIHA submitted its first Senior Men’s National Squad to IIHF Competition in Reykjavik, Iceland March 2004. Ireland was back on the map. The seniors are off again this season to Luxembourg, France, and Great Britain and will round off the season in Mexico City at the IIHF Div III World Games in March 2005.
Although Ice Hockey is not a mainstream sport here in Ireland, you can see that it has survived and defied the odds over the past 20 years. This is not down to luck or circumstance; it’s down to the commitment, dedication, passion, and hard work from players, officials and parents.
The IIHA will continue to survive, to foster, develop and grow. Dublin is the only major city in Europe without a multi purpose arena. The day is not far off for professional ice hockey competition in Dublin. The Belfast Giants are enjoying their success in Belfast and are working very closely with Team Ireland.
Plans are in the later stages of completion on Dublin’s first sizes ice rink. Don’t worry you will be the first to know. Watch this space.