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'We have broken the ceiling' - Irish hockey history-makers disappointed but proud after Olympic exit

The Tokyo 2020 dream ended at the hands of Great Britain this afternoon.

Ireland players and staff dejected afterwards.
Ireland players and staff dejected afterwards.
Image: Bryan Keane/INPHO

AN EMOTIONAL EXIT after a maiden Olympic voyage.

The Irish women’s hockey team’s Tokyo 2020 journey came to an end today after a 2-0 defeat to Great Britain.

It was win or bust at the Oi Hockey Stadium, but goals either side of half time from Susannah Townsend and Hannah Martin ultimately ended the Green Army’s hopes.

Sean Dancer’s side finished fifth in Pool A, outside the top four required to advance, after their opening victory over South Africa, and successive defeats to the Netherlands, Germany and India.

Today’s disappointment brought the curtain down on what was a ground-breaking tournament for the side, though; a first for Irish women’s hockey and, indeed, for women’s team sports at the Games.

“It is raw emotion,” Hannah McLoughlin said after the 2018 World Cup silver medallists bowed out.

“Firstly, not getting to the quarter-finals which I think we were more than capable of. Secondly, knowing this is probably a few of our players’ last games. It is not the send-off any of us wanted to give them.

“But we have broken the ceiling, coming to the Olympics and for those of us fortunate enough to keep going, we want to push on for Paris and then go for quarters and semis.

“Even before coming out here, getting on any plane, regardless of any result, we were bursting with pride for my friends, family and all the people I represent, the other 18 players here with me. The few words we did have after the match, although disappointment was quite a big thing, pride came up an awful lot.

“Although the result was not what we wanted, no one has any regrets about today – we gave it our all, it just wasn’t to be.”

Head coach Sean Dancer agreed:

“We are here on the field, trying to hold our head up high with what we have achieved and where we have got to. We will take a lot of lessons from the journey and experience. We are competing against the best in the world in the pinnacle of our event.

For women’s sport and Irish hockey, it’s certainly something to be very proud to be part of. The girls have done all the hard work over the last four years, getting that silver medal and in a good position for this tournament. Very proud of all their performances.

“Those girls should be very proud of the performances they put in and what they have achieved. There will be a few tears and some celebrations over the next few weeks when they get a chance.”

While a number of stalwarts are likely to formally hang up their international sticks in the aftermath, McLoughlin is optimistic for the future given the platform they have built.

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“The lucky ones of us who get to carry on are just going to use this as motivation to push on, train harder. We have proven we can compete with the best countries in the world. This is my first taste of that and I am going to take that forward, not play with any fear.

The thing I took from the Olympic Village was how other people are so intrigued by us. We are out on the grass, not caring what we look like, having fun and others start to join in, saying ‘God, we just love the Irish’.

“It’s only this tournament I really notice there is no other team in this tournament or the world who I would want to be part of; one that’s as open, as fun, as accepting as this 19 individuals. The whole experience has been unbelievable.”

Nicci Daly, who earned her 200th cap today, added afterwards: “We were confident going out against GB because we played them a good bit this year.

“We have played them a lot over the past few years – we know them quite well. We knew we could beat them, so we felt really good going out. We thought maybe it would happen for us.

“We just didn’t really perform consistently, it’s a bit disappointing, but it is what it is. It’s been a fantastic experience. It’s the Olympics, and at times we definitely matched the best in the world and we can be proud of that. And we can be proud of the team today. I think there’ll be a lot of positives to take forward for the team going into the next cycle.”

About the author:

Emma Duffy

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