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'Everyone recognises what Ireland have done but 2017 is going to be even bigger'

At the end of a historic year for Irish hockey, David Harte joined us to look back on 2016 and discuss what’s next for the team.

HEARTWARMING, BUT HEARTBREAKING. Memorable, but agonising. A wave of conflicting emotions, but it was pride — the raw, undiluted, sort — that ultimately shone through.

The Ireland team salute the fans Source: James Crombie/INPHO

When the curtain came down on Ireland’s Olympic journey, the immediate aftermath was a bittersweet experience for those flying the flag in Rio and the hockey community living every moment from afar.

“Those moments afterwards, with our travelling supporters, inside the stadium will always stay with me,” David Harte says.

Those moments were, of course, the indelible scenes as Craig Fulton and his team — physically and mentally drained, crushed and inconsolable after the result — acknowledged the support of the Irish in Rio; family, friends and fans who had backed them every step of the way.

Hand-in-hand, shoulder-to-shoulder, the players, management and staff — collectively known as ‘The Green Machine’ — bid farewell to the Olympics and the stage they had dreamed of for so long.

“It was the highlight of the year,” Harte adds.

And what a year it was.

Where do you even start? Historic, groundbreaking and unforgettable.

David Harte and head coach Craig Fulton dejected after the game Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Now that the dust has firmly settled on the whole Olympic adventure for this cycle, the disappointment of failing to progress to the knock-out stages has eased and the focus has sharpened on what’s ahead.

New heights were reached, dreams achieved and invaluable experience gained but the challenge now for Hockey Ireland and Fulton is to build on that and ensure it wasn’t just a once-off.

The men’s senior team finish the year in 10th place in the FIH World rankings, which is their highest-ever position since the introduction of the ranking system back in 2003. At that point, Ireland were ranked 23rd in the world.

13 years later and Irish hockey is riding the crest of a wave after the team demonstrated its credentials on the world stage and positioned themselves in the sporting mainstream.

Now to maintain that position. It’s already an ongoing battle to stay relevant and falling back into obscurity for the next few years is something everyone in the organisation knows all too much about.

A view of the Ireland team after the game Source: James Crombie/INPHO

But if anyone is to fly the flag and lead the way, it’s Harte. He has led from the front for the last few years, putting the side on the map and playing a central role in the success. He is a trailblazer for Irish hockey.

In January, the 27-year-old Cork native will fly to India for a third successive year to play in the Indian Premier League with Mumbai, at which point he’ll have found out if he was named as World Goalkeeper of the Year for the second time in as many years.

Before heading home to Cork for Christmas, Harte joined us in our Dublin office to look back on the year and look forward to what’s next in 2017.

Source: The42.ie/YouTube

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About the author:

Ryan Bailey

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