Craig Fulton says that Ireland’s senior men will have tunnel-vision on what they can do rather than worrying too much about the opposition at next week’s European championships.
The head coach said he has laid down “markers for the tournament that we want to achieve” to give his side the best chance of success.
Key among the ties is an opening tie against France at 8.30am on Saturday morning before meeting Germany on Sunday evening at 8.30pm. They complete the pool stages against Belgium, hoping to grab a top two place that would bring with it a semi-final berth – something Ireland have not achieved before.
If Ireland upset the odds and win the tournament outright, they will earn an Olympic spot while, if anyone other than Russia or France win the title, there is a big chance that they will move to within a place in the pecking order for Rio 2016.
Speaking to Dublin City FM’s Declan Hughes over the weekend, Fulton said that his panel has had “a nice and tough build-up” for the past three weeks after some downtime since the fifth place finish at World League Round 3 in Antwerp.
The side will play Spain on Tuesday in London on the day they arrive in London before playing another warm-up game on Thursday before the competitive opener against France.
“It’s all about us; we have a lot of things we have to focus on and get ourselves in good shape mentally and we will be hard to beat,” he said.
“The big one is really game one for us against France. It’s important to start well and have a good performance. They are no easy team and, in any sport they play, they can be unbelievable and then also be their own worst enemy. But we have to achieve what we want to achieve, hit some markers that we have put down for this tournament.
“Germany, we are not really worried about them. They are always one of the top teams; this is one of the hardest tournaments with four of the world’s top five playing.”
In the wake of the World League, where Ireland beat higher ranked Malaysia and Pakistan and drew with top five side Great Britain, Fulton added that confidence is high in the camp.
“It’s been a progression over a good few years. We all stand on each other’s shoulders and we are now in a healthy situation with a lot more belief, confidence. The guys are fitter and that has played a big part in this progression.”
Reflecting on the Olympic situation, meanwhile, this was his assessment of the current situation: “Spain will likely qualify from this tournament. If we win the tournament, we qualify. It’s a long shot but never say never.
“The big thing in Olympic terms is probably Australia playing New Zealand [in October] – world number one vs seven. We can only worry about what we can achieve, doing something special in this tournament.”