David Harte described Ireland’s exit from the Olympic Games at the hands of Argentina as “gut-wrenching and agonising” as they, once again, pushed a world top seven ranked side close but ultimately came unstuck.
It was the third time Ireland had lost 3-2 this week, previously falling to number two Germany and fifth rated India.
Ireland needed victory to advance to the quarter-finals and were in the mix with ten minutes to go when Shane O’Donoghue added to Cork man John Jermyn’s earlier goal to make it 2-2.
But Gonzalo Peillat dashed hopes just 46 seconds after the leveller with a low corner shot that rattled the backboard to end Ireland’s run in the competition.
Speaking afterwards, Harte said it was the tale of the tournament: “Putting it up to a top seven side in the world and coming up short; it’s perhaps the story of the week.
“But I am so proud of what we have done. It’s a bitter one to swallow here, not getting what we wanted to achieve so it’s very tough to take.
“We know where they are in the world and where we are in the world. We know what sacrifices we have made and don’t make any excuses between the differences in funding. Right now, it was just the 60 minutes on that hockey pitch and we came up short today.”
Despite not making it out of the group, the Kinsale man sees many positives from the competition in which Ireland were the only side not full-time professionals.
Despite this, they pushed each of their higher ranked rivals while also recording a first win for an Irish Olympic hockey side since 1908 when they saw off Canada 4-2.
“Putting Irish hockey on the map, hopefully having thousands of people watching the games, hopefully inspiring the next generation of hockey players; having the incredible voices of support that we had over the last week – there has been plenty of positives to take.”
And he believes they can carry momentum from this experience into the next few years to build on the experience.
“Eyes will be firmly set soon enough on 2017, a busy year with three or potentially four tournaments with a World Cup spot up for grabs. That’s the next goal; it’s been quite a while since we have been at one of those so let’s go and make some more history.
“All things going to plan, there is a good group of 30 players with plenty of talent back in Ireland with the youth coming through so Irish hockey is really in a good place.”