While it was one of the shorter international careers, Alan Giles’ two and a half tenure with the national side was one of the more interesting stories with the announcement of his retirement yesterday depriving Paul Revington of a “rabbit’s foot”.
In between, the Pembroke man became one of the most decorated in the modern game, winning the first two IHL titles, the Irish Senior and Junior Cups, numerous Leinster league crowns as well as raising the EuroHockey Club Champions Trophy in 2009.
In the wake of a famous club quadruple, in which Giles was the captain, Revington – early into his tenure – bucked what seemed a regular trend in Irish hockey and selected a seasoned club player with a full-time job to attend to.
And the attacking midfielder’s drive for winning carried through into the Irish side, helping the side to a string of titles, a fact that Revington saluted when asked about the impact Giles had made.
“Alan has made a significant impact on our Ireland Squad in the two and ¾ years I have been coaching in Ireland – on and off the playing field. He contributed significantly to Ireland wins at the Celtic Cup in 2009 and 2010; Euro Nations Trophy in 2009 and then at the Champions Challenge II in 2011.
“He sets a great example to the squad in regard to the value of perseverance and ability to evolve with the game.”
Speaking to the Hook about his career, Giles added that it was something which might have slipped him by but he is indebted to the punt that Revington took on him:
Having been part of the 2001 U-21 World Cup panel that travelled to Tasmania, a senior call-up was a long time coming for Giles. But, since then, he believes the pathway between emerging talent and their transition into the international arena has been narrowed, allowing players to make that step up more seamlessly.
“I definitely think it could have worked out differently after the U-21s. In hindsight, if the same setup was there that they have now, I reckon I would have had a better chance.
“But Revs saw some potential and invited me along to the regional sessions and I got my chance to breakthrough. I had just become Pembroke captain, won in Europe and, because the club was doing well, we were in the limelight quite a lot. Selectors were at the big games, watching people and I presume that was where I got the chance nearly two or three years ago which I was really happy about.”
One of the spurs to his club career was the arrival of Craig Fulton who he credits with some of the best training sessions he has taken part in, bringing an international standard of training to Pembroke, allowing a platform to push on to the next level.
Giles admits that stepping away from the game was a tough choice, especially with potential Olympic qualification on the horizon. He initially stepped away from the panel after the Champions Challenge II in Lille and, in the interim, has got married and started his own business before confirming his retirement this week.
While he does not cite these as direct reasons for his retirement, he says that juggling the latter with training requirements would be a huge ask. Speaking about potentially missing an historic moment in the sport’s history in this country, Giles says watching the Europeans almost twisted his arm to stay involved.
“I still have that feeling when I see them play now, that I’d love to be there. I have enjoyed every minute over the past few years and it is not something I found very easy to let go of.
“The experiences and memories I have playing at this elite level has engraved something very special deep inside of me that will stay with me forever.”
He cited the tournament atmospheres as his abiding memories, his first Celtic Cup in Edinburgh – a tournament where he made his debut with seven other players – as a stand-out highlight.
A further Celtic Cup title as well as that Champions Challenge II title, earning him a reputation as a lucky charm of sorts. He reckons, though, that the current crop is not currently overly in need of such icons with the level of performance on the rise.
“Maybe I’m like the rabbits’ foot or whatever. Who knows? But we have a great squad with Ireland; a huge squad now driven by great coaches. I do believe the team will do well going forward and make the Olympics but it was a decision which was right for me now.”
As for the future, he enjoyed his time off and is now looking to add to his trophy haul with Pembroke.
“I’m easing back into it, juggling my new job, playing the games and trying to get down to training. I’m enjoying it after my break, being back playing and winning!”