While the road to Rio is long, and many of us are left to our television screens for our fill of the boxing, golf and cycling, UCC has brought the action closer this summer. On the 4th & 6th of July, UCC hosted two international hockey matches between Ireland and the Netherlands in the build up to Rio 2016.
While, “Make History” is a phrase synonymous with the Boys in Green’s Euro 2016 escapades, the appearance of the Irish Hockey team this summer is filled with its own tales for the history books. 2016 will be the first time the Irish Men’s Hockey team has qualified for the Olympics since 1908, and the first Irish team overall to qualify since 1948.
However, the rush of excitement to Rio was weltered with the dominance of the Dutch in the two games, who are ranked second place in the world and were Silver medallists in the 2012 London Olympics. Ireland fought hard over the two games and bravely lost 7-2 in the opening game, while the Dutch cruised to a 5-0 victory in the second leg.
However there are a number of positives to take from the series, with Mikie Watt putting on an impressive display, making a break into the Dutch circle but the move was broken down by an alert Dutch defence. 5 minutes later and Matthew Bell was creating a chance of his own with a bullet of a shot across the D but there was nobody on the end of it to hammer home. It’s these little glimmers of promise that give the Irish camp hope.
Speaking about the recent Dutch Series, Irish head coach Craig Fulton said, “It was so important for us to play Rio-bound teams, both from our own pool and the other pool. Playing the Dutch was always going to be tough but you couldn’t ask for a better opposition to play.”
The decision for the games to take place in Cork City, and UCC specifically, was to broaden the appeal of the Irish Hockey team and to spread their support through the counties, especially following the success of the Celtic Cup in 2008. While the score line was heavy at the Mardyke, optimism remains high amongst the Irish camp. While the gloss from Euro 2016 has faded, a nation’s focus turns now to a different Boys in Green as the summer of sport rolls on.