Ton-up O’Donoghue says Green Machine back sucking on diesel after Egypt derailing

“It’s very humbling and very honoured to knock in 100 goals for my country,” Shane O’Donoghue said as he became the first Irish hockey player to hit the huge milestone.

Shane O’Donoghue celebrates his 100th Irish goal. Pic: Federation France de Hockey

His second effort out of three against Singapore on Tuesday got him to triple figures, making extra sure just seven minutes of game time after Ben Walker had “poached” what would have been number 100.

“The ball squirmed through the keeper’s legs and Ben had a cheeky grin on his face. He is a poacher so I have to give him the benefit of the doubt on that one!”

It came in his 174th cap, making for a remarkable strike rate for the Glenanne-raised Dragon and has included a series of big ones. For many big moments, O’Donoghue has been on the score sheet, notably netting in the European Championships bronze medal win in 2015 and the first win in Olympic competition for over a century versus Canada in 2016.

Any favourites? “The goal against Australia in the World Cup does stand out; instinct took over or maybe the body went into a bit of shock! That’s definitely up there. Also my first Olympic goal against Canada was a dream come true and a very proud moment. Those were two of the biggest in my mind.

“I definitely have to give credit to the squad I have played with for the last seven or eight years. I need the whole corner team to function to get to the milestone so a big shout-out to all those lads – there is a long list of them.

“It’s a very proud moment for me, my family and my girlfriend, Glenanne and Dragons. A big milestone.”

And he is hoping for a few more over the weekend as Ireland meet Korea on Saturday (2.30pm, Irish time) for a guaranteed Olympic qualifier place in October.

It means a chance for a modicum of revenge against the Asian side who so cruelly denied Ireland a ticket to London 2012 with Nam Yong Lee’s tip nine second from the end bursting the hockey-mania bubble in Belfield.

Lee will captain Korea on Saturday and is among a very experienced side with nine players capped over 100 times with several in their 30s. For Ireland, David Harte, Paul Gleghorne, John Jackson and Eugene Magee were both on field that day while Conor Harte missed out through injury for that devastating day.

A lot of water has gone under the bridge since then with Ireland (11th) moving up and Korea dropping down the rankings (now 17th).

This week, neither sides have been in full flow with Ireland undergoing a rollercoaster of emotions after a good start against Scotland was followed by a 2-1 loss to Egypt.

“As most people know, the Irish men’s team don’t do things by the book,” O’Donoghue continued. “We tend to make things a little bit difficult for ourselves at any tournament. You look back to the last qualifiers in 2015 in Belgium, losing heavily to Malaysia in the group and then beating them in the all-important playoff game.

“Sunday was so disappointing because we were purely beaten by a team with more hunger than us and played with a lot more passion. That hurts to say.

“These are traits that are our strength. To see an opposition team who aren’t anywhere near as good as us performing in those areas, close to 10 out of 10, was dissatisfying.

“We were in a very low place on Sunday, very down. It was clear the coaching staff and everyone around was pissed off and rightly so.”

Tuesday, though, saw the mood lift massively. As they arrived in the Le Touquet stadium, Scotland were earning a last minute corner which they went on to convert for a 3-2 win over Egypt.

It offered Ireland a reprieve with four-goals the target against Singapore to reach the semi-final, skipping the quarters in the process.

With much more on the line, now, it sharpened the focus.

“It was always about going in with a much more fine-tuned focus with that level of passion and attitude. That was going to be the main goal regardless of the Scotland game.

O’Donoghue shoots against Singapore. Pic: Federation France de Hockey

“It was clear to see we were out to make a statement. We were aggressive from the off and got that first goal inside 40 seconds. In these games, the big thing is normally remaining patient.

“You can sometimes be pestering the goal, might have to wait for the first goal [and get frustrated]. But it went extremely well, knocking three in early put us into a nice relaxed headspace, not having to chase the game.”

Eleven goals and a record-breaking hat trick later and O’Donoghue says there is a big sense of optimism around the camp.

“Having the extra day will help in these conditions. It’s quite humid and warm and there were some tired bodies even when we were winning the game quite convincingly. It allowed guys to recover and recharge the batteries.

“The semi-final will be a dog-fight and a very tough game but it’s all eyes on the prize. Everyone in the team is now in a much happier, peaceful kind of mindset compared to earlier in the week. To have that positivity going into a do-or-die game for us is going to be massive in terms of Olympic qualification.”

Men’s FIH Series Finals (all at Le Touquet, France) – all streamed on FIH.Live
Saturday, June 22
Semi-finals: Ireland v Korea, 2.30pm; France v Scotland, 5pm (both Irish time)

Sunday, June 23
Bronze medal match: 2.30pm
Final: 5pm

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