Head Coach Dancer steps away from Ireland Senior Women’s Hockey Team

Tuesday March 5, Dublin: Ireland Head Coach Sean Dancer has decided to step-away from the Senior Women’s Hockey programme. It comes just over a month after the team narrowly failed to qualify for Paris 2024, losing to GB in Valencia at the Olympic Qualifiers in January.

Dancer joined as Head Coach in May 2019 having moved from his role as Assistant Coach in New Zealand, and his tenure saw the Ireland team reach their first ever Olympic games, one World Cup and most recently finishing 5th in Europe, equalling the team’s best ever result.


Commenting on the announcement, Sean Dancer said:

“I would like to thank Hockey Ireland, Sport Ireland, Sport Northern Ireland, and all the sponsors for providing me the support and opportunity to lead and drive the Women’s programme over the last 6 years. As a team there have certainly been some ups and downs, but I am extremely proud of the team’s consistency competing and performing at three Europeans, a World Cup and an Olympic Games. 

“It has been an amazing experience for me and my family getting to understand the unique Irish sporting culture and skills. But more importantly it was an honour getting to know each individual of our special group. I wish the players and staff all the best for the future, and look forward to the opportunity of cheering from the stands with the great Green Army Family”.

Hockey Ireland High Performance Director Lisa Jacob, also commented:

“We wish Sean the very best as he steps away from the programme and seeks new opportunities. He has made a huge and positive contribution to the development of the team, and the results and successes bear testament to that. On a personal note, Sean has been a true professional and a pleasure to work with and on behalf of all the players and the staff, I want to recognise that and thank him for his contribution.”

On the occasion of his stepping away from the Senior Women’s team, we had the chance to speak with Sean and ask some questions.


Regarding the reasons for joining as Head Coach initially:

“In 2019 I was working for the Black Sticks and watched Ireland at the World Cup, so I had awareness of the group and potential.

But the two factors for me coming to Ireland where:

Firstly the opportunity to create a semi-pro program – 3 days a week in a new country. The team had earnt the right from their 2018 WC and deserved a more complete program.

It took me three years to get the program to a position that I felt had a good balance for everyone. Athletes now have key training days Mon & Tues, with regional work end of the week. Club is supported Thurs & Sat. And players can work and/or study part-time Wed / Thurs / Fri. With everyone being free for family on Sunday’s. There is a healthy balance for athletes, that also allows for their high achievements in other areas of their lives.

Secondly it was the personal challenge to qualify a team for the Olympics. 2018 put the team in a good position, but there was certainly no guarantee of Olympic qualification. And when arriving in Ireland it was immediately clear how much mental pressure there was around qualification, and how my role had to move the group passed that stress point.”


Regarding the biggest achievement while in charge:


“The biggest achievement was qualifying and leading the team to the Tokyo Olympics. To be part of not only the first every Ireland’s Women’s Hockey team, but also the first ever Ireland Women’s Sporting teams to compete at the Olympics was something special and made me extremely proud.

Also part of that was the back-up post-Olympic. Within 8 weeks the team had to compete in a cut throat, winner takes all WC qualifier. To be able to regather + prepare + produce a winning performance I think was one of the toughest challenges the group had to get through in my time here.”


Regarding the January Olympic Qualification Tournament:


“We didn’t get the end result and fell short. But the performance was easily the best showing of the group over the last two years. Not only did our key focus areas reviewed from the Europeans dramatically improve. We drew against Belgium, who I feel will be certainly competing for a medal at Paris. We comfortably beat Korea, who are ranked above us and we dominated Spain in the semi, with our goal keeper not touching the ball in 60 minutes of hockey. Unfortunately, as a team we didn’t make the most of our opportunities including goal shots, PC’s and a shootout. Our final game v GB was the best performance against them at a major in my time with the team. I am extremely proud of our January performance, and I do hope that at some stage people can look back and see the quality of it”.


The Head Coach role will be filled on an interim basis from within the current coaching set up, until a successor for Dancer is found.