O’Donoghue says Irish men in good place for Olympic qualifiers

Shane O’Donoghue says Ireland are in a good place ahead of their huge men’s Olympic qualifiers next weekend at Rutledge Field in Vancouver.

They face a double-header against Canada with the best aggregate score from the games on Saturday and Sunday deciding the ticket to Tokyo.

Speaking to the FIH this week, he said: “Preparation is going well. We have been together for the past six or seven weeks at camps here in Ireland, so things are going quite well.

“We we played two games against France, two competitive games and we came away with two wins. That was good for our morale after a disappointing summer.

“The spirit has lifted on and off the pitch so we are in a good place. We have been working on a few different things, especially with a new coaching staff coming in. We have gone right back to basics and what was serving us well a few years ago and try to replicate it again.”

Asked what he expects from the games with Canada, he added: This group has always been, and will continue to be, very ambitious. There is a lot of belief in the group and a nice dynamic.

“People will expect, particularly between ourselves and Canada, two evenly-matched teams, it is going to be a battle, there is no question about it. We are ready for it but no doubt Canada are as well.

“You will see a lot of belief in our game. It is a winner-take-all couple of games so we will go in all guns blazing, full of energy, full of belief and full of Irish fighting spirit, as we always have.”

O’Donoghue is bidding to be part of his second Olympic Games, something he regards as “the pinnacle of hockey for every international player”.

I’ve experienced it once already as have a number of guys in the team. To experience it again would be extra special. With this current group there is a nice dynamic. It is a good blend of youth and experience and it is a very tight group. It would be very, very special for this group to go to the Olympics.

“And, for a small sport like us in Ireland, it would certainly keep us in the limelight. For the sport as a whole, if both the men and women were to qualify, it would be fantastic. It’s a dream on the line, two games to achieve that dream again and experience what a fantastic journey it is to go the Olympic Games.”

** The matches will take place at Rutledge Field, Vancouver, Canada on October 26 and 27, with the matches taking place at 10pm (Irish time) and 9pm (Irish time) respectively. 

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