Conor Harte says the Olympic village is “quickly becoming our home” following the Irish team’s arrival in Rio this week off the back of a ten-day training camp in Argentina.
At this stage, the side are “gunning for game one” against India on Saturday as the long wait to finally become Olympic athletes finally nears its conclusion.Speaking to the Hook about the last steps of preparation, he said: “Argentina was a good week spent training and playing two highly competitive matches.
“If I’m honest, there has been a change in the atmosphere since flying out and, in my opinion, a change for the best. Each player’s focus is narrowed now and we are all pushing in the same direction to perform to our best ability in Rio.
“Of course in pre-selection, it is easy to only focus on your game and your performance but now that’s well and truly gone. One team one dream’.”
The selection process has been ongoing since Ireland’s place was formally confirmed last October in the middle of the night as Australia beat New Zealand to the Oceania Cup title.
Harte, like a couple of others, said it has been “surreal” at times but “the minute the squad was selected that was that.
“Those of us fortunate enough to be selected now take on the mantle of representing Ireland in the Olympic Games, knowing we have faced every single team in this tournament in the past two years.
“In the Olympic village here, the first 24 hours was very surreal also but now it’s quickly becoming our home for two weeks and we are gunning it for game one and two next weekend.”
Looking specifically at the challenge India pose on Saturday (3pm, Irish time), Harte is aware that they have been on the rise in the last few years, moving into the world’s top five at the last count.
“We played India in Valencia last month and learned a lot about them but more importantly we learned a lot about ourselves. India will always have speedy attackers and a team in place that know each other very well.
“They have become more structured in recent years with a number of new coaches and will always hold their ability to counter at speed and direct as their trump card.”
** In the lead-up to Ireland’s first Olympic debut, The Hook will have, in addition to our regular coverage, feature interviews with Paul Gleghorne, Ronan Gormley and John Jermyn as well as biographies of each player. In addition, we will be the only hockey-specific Irish journalist in Rio so stay tuned for the best coverage of the Irish men’s Olympic journey here!