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'We are gutted, but what matters most is health and wellbeing. We’ll use this as an opportunity'
Katie Mullan, Sean Dancer and the Irish hockey team have had their Olympic dream put on hold.

IRELAND HOCKEY CAPTAIN Katie Mullan says her side are “gutted” after the postponement of the 2020 Olympic Games, though they understand the decision and will “do our best to use this as an opportunity.”

the-ireland-team-celebrate Morgan Treacy / INPHO Katie Mullan celebrates after her side won their all-important November qualifier. Morgan Treacy / INPHO / INPHO

The Green Army made history last year as they qualified for the Olympics for the first time and booked their ticket to Tokyo. This came after their unprecedented World Cup silver in London in 2018.

Though today, it was announced that the 2020 Olympics and Paralympics would be postponed until 2021 due to the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic.

“As players, we are gutted with the announcement to postpone the games as our excitement has been building, however we totally understand why this decision has been made,” Coleraine native Mullen said this afternoon.

“What matters most is players health and wellbeing, as well as our families and friends, and we hope everyone is staying safe and healthy at this difficult time.

“As a team it has been strange doing so much individual training, but everyone has been pushing on with home-gym programmes and trying to increase their fitness with running and cycling. This is a big change for so many people, but everyone is the same situation.

“We’ll be doing our best to use this as an opportunity.”

Head coach Sean Dancer added: We really appreciate the tough decisions all parties involved have had to make in recent weeks.

“The decision to postpone the Games not only puts athlete’s welfare first, but also the welfare of much wider communities and countries. These are unprecedented times, and while incredibly stressful for so many, the decision to postpone the Games is one we support.

“Our athletes are continuing to train as much as possible given the current circumstances, and we really look forward to being able to train together as a group again when it is appropriate to do so.”

It’s unclear yet, however, whether those who have already qualified will definitely retain their spots.

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sean-dancer-celebrates Morgan Treacy / INPHO Ireland head coach Sean Dancer. Morgan Treacy / INPHO / INPHO

 The International Olympic Committee [IOC] said last week that that anyone who has qualified has their qualification guaranteed amid these uncertain times — though that may now change.

“Our focus is to continue to engage with and support our sports as we gather as much information to determine how this will impact on both athletes who have already qualified and those who are on the path to qualification,” Tricia Heberle, Ireland’s Olympic chef de mission, said today.

Both the Olympic Federation of Ireland [OFI] and Paralympics Ireland have welcomed the postponement call, while acknowledging the complexities involved.

The OFI’s focus remains on “protecting and safeguarding the Irish athletes over the coming months and ensuring that they can bounce back to full training and be in peak condition for a successful Games in 2021.”

Hockey Ireland also supports the decision.

High Performance Director, Adam Grainger noted: “Hockey Ireland also understands how difficult this postponement must have been for the Japanese people, with our local hosts Iwate town for example having already invested so much time and effort into successfully hosting Hockey Ireland.

“Our Senior Women’s team are committed to travelling to Iwate town in 2021 and working with the OFI, Sport Ireland, Sport NI and our sponsors to ensure the best preparation possible for our players and staff.”

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