Jonny Bell says he has worked all the hours available over the last year to put him in position to continue being part of the Green Machine’s World Cup challenge.
It’s the nature of an Irish hockey player’s lot that many straddle the professional-amateur divide, attempting to be as professional as possible in their training to compete while, for the most part, receiving scant financial reward.
It was something that added significantly to the narrative of the Green Army during the summer World Cup odyssey, finding innovative workarounds to compete at an elite level.Bell, 31, calls it “a lifestyle choice” as he endeavours to make time for hockey and his job in environmental planning.
For the recent six weeks of training camps on Mondays and Tuesdays, he went back to work for the remainder of the week.
For the World Cup in India – which starts for Ireland on November 30 – he will have to cope with a couple of unpaid weeks having taken “significant leave” over the summer which he has “sort of got used to” over the last few years.
“It’s a privilege to be involved in an international team because you can only do this sort of thing once,” he told The Hook.
One arrangement he has with his workplace is a flexi-time arrangement, regularly coming in early and staying late to bank precious hours.
“Any additional hours I work, I can take it in lieu at other times of the year. There is a special leave entitlement of five days so that culminates in about 40 days a year.
“That probably leaves me 15 or 20 days short of what I need. Sometimes there is a bit of good will and, for India, there will be some unpaid leave.”
It does put a major strain on personal lives with weddings missed and events left unattended.
“It is a balancing act and sometimes you don’t get it right – too much hockey, too much work, and your social side suffers. It is very easy for the public to see the high moments, participating in an international tournament.
“They don’t see those 100s or 1,000s of training hours and the sacrifices along the way. Maybe I don’t see them as sacrifices because it is now a lifestyle choice.
“We don’t have to do this and I have made the conscious decision to be the best athlete I can for as long as I can. For now, I am really enjoying it.”
Indeed, describing the moment he found out about his selection, he said he “over the moon”.
“For any hockey player to see their name on the list to represent their country in a World Cup is a very special feeling. These tournaments don’t come around that often, especially for an Irish team. To be part of it is an incredible feeling. There is still a lot of preparation to be done.”
He was not involved the last time Ireland played in India at the 2013 World League Round Two. As such, he cannot wait to experience the passion for hockey in the sub-continent, something fellow Garvey legends like Jimmy Kirkwood and Ivan Morris have told him about from the 1990 World Cup in Pakistan.
“India is another hockey-mad nation and I am sure there will be the same buzz and energy, similar to what they were involved in.
“It has been a lifetime goal to play there. I have been a couple of times in Malaysia and the conditions could be similar, maybe a little more humid than India. There are the same issues around hygiene we need to be on top of to have a fit, strong squad.
“I have no doubt we will go to India and show the qualities we have in the squad.”
And he says the women’s performances in London mean they do not have to look too far for inspiration.
“What they achieved in the summer was incredible and has just added to this really special phase in the history of Irish hockey.
“Both the men and women are now competing in the top ten; we have defied the odds, beating teams higher ranked than us in the past and we will have to do that again if we want to emulate what the women did. We can take inspiration from that.”
The men’s World Cup gets underway for Ireland on November 30 in Bhubaneswar.