Bray-born Fergus Kavanagh (pictured, left, tackling Alex Fabregas) could be among Ireland’s unofficial Olympic gold medalists next week as Australia continue to set the pace in the men’s competition at the Riverbank Arena.
Following up the 6-0 defeat of South Africa, Kavanagh was again central to a clean sheet in this morning’s 5-0 victory over Spain – the world number fives – adding yet another reason to why the kookaburras are odds-on favourites.
Speaking to the Hook, Kavanagh describes Ireland as his “traditional home” while 15 members of his family will make the short hop across the Irish Sea to support him next week in London.
Indeed, his brother, Tom, still harbours hopes of a potential call-up to the Irish panel since moving to Europe to live in the past couple of years.
“He’s quite a good player and when Ireland were trying to qualify for the Olympics [in March],” Kavanagh said. “He tried out for the national team about six months ago. It didn’t work out this time and Ireland were bloody close to qualifying for this tournament.
“It would have been great to have one Kavanagh playing for Australia and one for Ireland. That’s my parent’s dream.”
The family moved to Perth in the 1980s initially with Fergus’ father initially on a six-month contract. But this quickly became three years and permanent residency followed.
Back in Bray, his mother – along with a number of cousins – had played in the Loreto school while his grandmother represented Leinster, creating a direct affinity that sticks with him
“I still consider Ireland my traditional home but we’ve moved over to Australia and I have great lifestyle over here. We follow every sport Ireland play so I’m keeping a keen eye on how they do at the Olympics.
As for his adopted nation’s hopes of gold, he is not counting any chickens just yet despite two resounding wins – hammering South Africa 6-0 on day one – in a competition which has seen most rivals stutter in the early phases.
“We’ve had two good results. Sometimes the score line can be a bit flattering. Spain had a few chances early on which would have changed the game but we played really well.
“Because I play defence, it was great to keep a clean sheet. They had a couple of short corners which we shut down. But it’s good to have a couple of our younger guys playing well at a debut Olympics.
“The experienced guys know how to handle it but it’s always interesting to see how the younger guys handle it – a couple scored goals today which is good for the confidence.
“We’ve got Argentina next who we played at the start of the year and were only getting 2-1 or 3-1 wins over so, again, we have to be right on her game and if we’re off our game one day, even five or ten percent, we could be in trouble.
“You can’t count Argentina or Pakistan but Britain, with the home crowd and the atmosphere. We hope to get through the Argentina and then focus on GB which will be the premier game and should be great to play in.”
** Photo courtesy of Frank Uijlenbroek/FIH