On the eve of Ireland’s first Olympic Games since 1908, Craig Fulton says final preparations have put the green machine in a good place for the challenge of India on Saturday morning.
They have had a good week in Rio de Janeiro to date, playing two good warm-up ties against New Zealand and Australia and Fulton says he is more than happy with the facilities at Deodoro.
“The Olympic hockey centre is looking awesome and the pitches are really good we could not be happier with them they are both nice and flat and play relatively fast which suits us.
“We had a week in Argentina where we played two matches and a few training sessions. The main objective there was learn more about Argentina as we play them in game five and it also gives us an idea where we currently are as a team coming into Rio.
“Since being in Rio we have trained five days out of seven and played two warm-up matches against NZ and Australia in we drew 1-1 and lost 1-0 respectively. We have been focusing time on our tactics, set pieces and internal small sided games to stay sharp.”
Comparing his initial impressions of the Rio Games to his two previous outings at the Olympics, Fulton added that he is occupying a different space this time around.
“Firstly, from a playing perspective, I was 21 in Atlanta and 29 in Athens so two different experiences as a younger and senior player in the Olympics. Now, being my first Olympics as head coach, it’s very exciting but at the same time my role is the same as it has been in WL3 and the Euros to help the team reach its potential in every game in Rio.”
They meet an Indian side who are on the way up in the world, reaching fifth in the rankings thanks to their run to the Champions Trophy final earlier this summer.
As is the Indian way, it has not been especially smooth sailing in the lead-up to the games with plenty of media stories of unrest. Hockey India president Narinder Batra and coach Roelant Oltmans taking to social media to complain about the lack of chairs in the Olympic village.
Sardar Singh, meanwhile, has been subject to accusations of rape and criminal intimidation from his former fiancee in June; he denies all charges. He is no longer the captain of the side with PR Sreejesh handed the captaincy in recent times.
The eight-time champions are searching for a first medal since 1980 but their confidence is high they can make a big impact in Rio.
**RTE will broadcast the match live from 3pm
Head to heads (time in Irish)
Vs India (world ranked 5); Saturday, August 6, 3pm (11am in Rio)
Record – 1 win, 1 draw, 4 losses (Goals for 12; goals against 19), last win 3-2 in Leverkusen in 2004
Most recent meeting – June 2016, Ireland 1 (K Good) India 2
In world ranking events, Ireland have played India twice, both in 2013 in the World Cup qualifying process. The results include a 3-2 loss in Delhi before drawing 4-4 in the World League semi-finals in Rotterdam.