Mark Tumilty his Ireland team are primed and fully motivated for this weekend’s Olympic qualification showdown with Canada in Vancouver.
Speaking after yesterday’s captain’s run to Eoin Luc O’Ceallaigh, the Ireland boss said that his team were ‘buzzing’ to put the disappointing European campaign behind them.
“We’ve come off the back of a disappointment. We’ve moved on from that. That could work out as a positive in our favour. I feel at the minute that there’s just that desire to get back out there.
“There’s a desire to prove that we’re better than we were. And they are better than they were.”
He added that the squad of players, which he took over just over six weeks ago, are ready to step up to the challenge of facing Canada on their turf.
“We’ve got energy. We’ve got experience. We’ve got talent. And I think as a nation we do undersell ourselves in that department. This group is capable of playing against the very best if they just believed in themselves.”
Ireland will face Canada in the first leg of their two-leg qualifier today in West Vancouver, with the second game coming tomorrow in the same place.
Captain Jonathan Bell is confident that the team won’t need much in the way of a team-talk before today’s game gets going.
One game at a time. One ball at a time.
The first of our games against Canada starts at 2pm Vancouver time today.
— Ireland Men's Hockey (@IreMenHockey) October 26, 2019
“I won’t have to say too much tomorrow. The guys have all got that motivation. They all know what the big prize is. For us, it’s just concentrating on two games against Canada.
“Everybody’s familiar with the gameplan. It’s about going out there and backing ourselves. Sometimes Irish teams don’t back themselves. They don’t go out there believing that they can win. But there’s absolutely no doubt we can. We have all the weapons to do it.”
This weekend is the culmination of years of hard work for this squad, but the players will try to keep the lucrative prize on offer out of mind until after the final whistle on Sunday.
“Going to the Olympics is any athlete’s dream but, for me, I’m not even thinking that far ahead”, says Bell.
“I’m just thinking about two games. 120 minutes with your mates, to win a game a hockey. To do what we love. And that’s play hockey. And obviously there’s a big reward at the end and, hopefully, that’s the case come Sunday.
“We’ve had bumps along the road this year. It hasn’t been plain sailing. And that’s what makes you stronger. There’s been some set-backs. We haven’t always got the results we wanted this year, but you rebound from that. You learn from that. That’s why I feel we’re so well placed having come through those challenges.“
— The Hook (@hookhockey) October 26, 2019
BBC Northern Ireland will carry live streams of both of the Irish men’s Olympic qualifier games this weekend on the BBC NI website with commentary from Nigel Ringland and Stephen Martin.
RTE will have the games live on RTÉ Player and RTÉ News Now with Darragh Maloney joined on commentary by Sarah Scott. Coverage will begin at 10pm tonight while on Sunday coverage starts at 9pm.