Softball has been included in the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games and the Irish team are something you need to know about! With a clear view of where they want to be, Softball Ireland are working hard to get there. Climbing the ranks, one step at a time, they are dedicated to improving and giving it the best shot at Olympic qualification.
Softball consists of two teams of nine players, aiming to score the most ‘runs’ by hitting the ball and running around the bases to reach home. Visualise the days of rounders at school, it is isn't far off that! The turn to bat alternates when the fielding side gets three of the batswomen out. There are 9 batting innings. Softball is very similar to baseball except for one or two things. The playing area is smaller, with the pitcher and batter closer together. The ball is also larger and heavier in softball and the pitcher must throw under-arm.
Softball in Ireland
Softball has been played in Ireland for almost 30 years, primarily slow pitch softball. Fast pitch softball is the type that is in the Olympic Games, so four years ago Softball Ireland made the move towards fast pitch, encouraging young people to get involved, with the aim of competing in Tokyo 2020. President Colum Lavery understood the necessity of engaging young athletes to bring forward softball in Ireland and describes their efforts as a "top-down, bottom-up" approach. Thinking of where they want to be, they looked at how they were going to get there.
There are approximately 700 softball players in Ireland playing in 40 teams. With an open door policy, they welcome all those interested in trying softball to join and give it a go. You were a dab hand at camogie, but want to go international? You could have a natural talent for softball - give it a try!
Last year, summer of 2017, were able to further progress their national squad and high performance development, creating an under 19's team which then went to Florida to compete at the World Championships. With onlookers dubious about the Irish team, thinking they wouldn't be competitive, the team proved they had a right to be there, finishing 18th of 26 - a great achievement for a new team.
The National Team competed at the Europeans in 2015, finishing 19th out of 20. Two years later, they moved up again, finishing 15th of 26. Year on year, Softball Ireland, the athletes and coaches, are making big moves to be competitive in the sport on an international level.
The U19 Europeans (16 July - 21 July) and the U22 Europeans (23 July - 28 July) take place in Italy and Slovakia respectively with high hopes for both teams. President Colum Lavery has every confidence the teams will put on a stellar performance and believes they have a good chance at bringing home a medal. The target is a top 8 ranking internationally, at which Ireland are currently 20th in the world. Having played some of the top teams in recent times, including European Champions Great Britain, Team Ireland know what to expect.
The games will be streamed live and we will keep you updated with the Irish results.
Ireland's opportunity to qualify for the Olympics will come down the Africa/Europe qualification event. This will be eight-team tournament, where the winner will earn a place at Tokyo 2020. In order to get this chance of possible qualification, Ireland will have to finish in the top six at the European Softball Championship in July 2019. The last time Softball featured at an Olympic Games was back in Beijing 2008 and it would be brilliant to have an Irish team competing at the Toyko Olympics.