In a shock departure – and a big blow for Irish sport after its summer of hockey last year – Graham Shaw quit as coach of World Cup silver medal winners Ireland women on Tuesday to take charge of New Zealand’s Black Sticks.
New Zealand have been left without a coach since Mark Hager left for the Great Britain role in January and Shaw will be tasked with re-motivating a women’s side reeling from the aftermath of the recent independent review over a negative team environment.
Shaw has been part of the Hockey Ireland set up since 2010, becoming Irish head coach in 2015 and taking the Green Army to the unprecedented heights of a World Cup final berth last summer.
But with the prospect of taking Ireland further with Olympic qualification in the offing, the lure of taking over the New Zealand side, the Commonwealth champions and world No.6 outfit, has clearly proved too much for Shaw, who is now FIH Pro League bound.
Shaw said of his time at the helm: “It was an honour to coach my country and I am very grateful for the opportunity. We have had some incredible times together that I will never forget. I have worked with an outstanding staff over many years; your professionalism, honesty and friendship will stay with me forever.”
“To the players I would like to say a massive thank you. Your drive, dedication and loyalty has been relentless and it has been an absolute pleasure to lead the programme over the past four years.
“I would like to wish the squad all the best for the future. I hope you continue on this journey, inspiring the next generation of hockey players in Ireland and I hope to see you in Tokyo”.
The Green Army had gone from 16th to eight in the world rankings during Shaw’s tenure and qualified for their first World Cup since 2002.
Green Army captain, Katie Mullan, said: “On behalf of the Green Army I would like to thank Graham for all that he has given to our team. He led us to a moment none of us will ever forget at the World Cup and the Black Sticks are very lucky to have him, we wish him all the best with this new adventure”.
Shaw’s first competitive match in charge of the Kiwis is expected to be their away clash against the USA on June 1.