THE ENORMITY OF the achievement and the ripple effect it will have on the sport in this country will take a while to fully process, but for now Ireland’s World Cup silver medal-winning squad continue to savour every second of a magical summer.
It’s over a week now since Graham Shaw’s history-makers were welcomed home by thousands of fans on Dublin’s Dame Street, but the excitement surrounding the team’s exploits has showed no sign of subsiding.
From a civic reception to appearances around the country, including a guest appearance at the Dublin Horse Show, the Ireland women’s squad has been in demand over the past seven days, as hockey enjoys unprecedented levels of attention in the wake of their gloriously unexpected World Cup odyssey.
For Chloe Watkins and her team-mates, it has been a whirlwind journey having departed for London harbouring hopes of progression out of their group, only to defy all odds and expectations by stunning higher-ranked USA, India and Spain en route to the final.
The former St Andrew’s College midfielder scored the decisive penalty in the shootout win over India in the quarter-finals, before making her 200th international appearance in the World Cup final against Netherlands.
Speaking to The42 in our Dublin office this afternoon, Watkins said such has been the madness of the last week since they arrived home, the players have yet to fully sit down and reflect on their achievements.
“It has been a crazy week,” she said. “The amount of things we’ve had on has been amazing and the reception we’ve got has been incredible. Each day has brought something new and we’re just trying to take it all in.
“The medal is what everybody wants to see and we don’t want to really take them off either because then you’re back to reality so to speak. It has just been incredible to see the amount of support, the reach that it has had and how many people are recognising what the medal represents.
“It has been incredible and beyond all of our expectations.”
Looking back, Watkins admitted the games from the quarter-final onwards remain ‘a blur’ as they ripped up the rankings, became one of the feel-good stories of the sporting summer and invited the nation to embark on the thrilling ride with them.
Not only was the scale of achievement recognised by the public, but by Minister for Sport Shane Ross and Sport Ireland, who have allocated an additional €500,000 high performance grant to Hockey Ireland on the back of the World Cup.
While it remains to be seen what the governing body will use the funding for, Watkins hopes some of it will be put back into the women’s programme ahead of next year’s Olympic qualifiers.
“To see the immediate reaction from the Government has been great,” she added. “Hopefully we’ll see it benefit our programme and some improvements made.
“Somewhere where we can train together is a huge priority and that’s what we’d all love — just getting increased contact time because we know what we can do when we had limited contact time, so to see a facility where we could really improve that time together would be amazing.
“There’s no saying how far we can go if we get some proper centralised time together, but again we’ll see what happens over the next few weeks. Hopefully there can be some positive impact on our programme from it all.”
You can watch the full interview below:Source: The42.ie/YouTube
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