'It was a dream come true' - Team Ireland rejoice as they prepare for World Cup quarter-final

The Ireland women’s hockey team defeated India to book their spot in the knockout stages of the tournament.

IRELAND’S ANNA O’FLANAGAN says qualifying for the Hockey World Cup quarter-finals is a ‘dream come true’ for her side.

O’Flanagan scored the crucial goal which helped Graham Shaw’s team to a 1-0 win over India on Thursday and ultimately sealed their place in the knockout stages of the tournament in London.

“It was a dream come true for a lot of us,” she told RTÉ Radio 1′s Morning Ireland.

“It wasn’t that we didn’t believe we couldn’t do it, it was just knowing that we had realised our potential and knowing that we’d been banging on the door for so long that we eventually got there.

“[It was] an incredible feeling and incredible emotion.

“It’s incredible, there’s been so many supporters here — people who you played hockey with years ago who’ve turned up to support the team. Honestly, we’ve been blown away by the support, it’s been absolutely incredible.

It’s helped us so much every time we go out there, they cheer so loud. It’s like we’re at a home tournament.”

This is Ireland’s first time to compete at the Women’s Hockey World Cup in 16 years, and they have been in impressive form during this tournament.

They defeated world number seven ranked side USA prior to their clash with India, and are currently leading Pool B ahead of their final group game against England on Sunday.

Ireland’s progression at this World Cup is heightened by the fact that they are an amateur team in the company of many professional outfits, and are the second-lowest ranked side in the competition.

“The sacrifices we make as a team, I don’t know if anyone can ever understand but nearly 90% of the teams here are on full-time programmes, they’re fully paid, professional athletes,” says O’Flanagan.

Every single one of us is an amateur athlete, we don’t get paid for what we do. We work off a shoestring budget, some of us have full-time jobs and some of us have had to give up our jobs because it was too demanding to combine both.

“We wanted to realise our dreams on the pitch, that makes it all the sweeter to be honest. We know we have the ability in this group and we know we have the talent to really push in world hockey.

“But it’s extremely difficult when you’re competing against full-time programmes all the time so to do it here is just incredible.”

The team celebrated the win over India with their families and friends who have travelled over to London to support them, and O’Flanagan paid tribute to them for the support they have given to the Ireland players down through the years.

“Our families are absolutely amazing. When we’re all still living at home and asking for a dig-out every now and then, they’re more than willing to help us out and they’re behind us all the way and they’ve been there through the lows.

“Yesterday was special for them as well because they know exactly what we’ve put into this and they’ve supported us all the way. It’s just an amazing day for everyone involved.”

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