Garvey lads are going for gold in Rio

Lisnagarveys Irish stars are raring to go as they prepare for the Green Machines opening game this weekend.
Lisnagarveys Irish stars are raring to go as they prepare for the Green Machines opening game this weekend.

Lisnagarvey skipper Jonny Bell is a man accustomed to winning - and he doesn’t intend to stop at the Olympics.

He’s part of the 16 man Ireland squad who are currently in Rio for their first Olympic Games since way back in 1908.

Lisnagarveys Mikey Watt (left) and Timmy Cockram (right) celebrate with Chris Cargo and John Jermyn as Ireland prepare for the Olympic Games. Pic: INPHO/James Crombie

Lisnagarveys Mikey Watt (left) and Timmy Cockram (right) celebrate with Chris Cargo and John Jermyn as Ireland prepare for the Olympic Games. Pic: INPHO/James Crombie

The defender is still fresh off the back of an historically successful season at club level. Garvey of course won the first EY Irish Hockey League and added the Champions Trophy at the season’s climax.

Now in the international fold, Bell is in familiar company. Also in the Green Machine’s panel are Garvey team-mates Paul Gleghorne and Mikey Watt while Timmy Cockram was named as one of three travelling reserves.

Just reaching the Games was a long-held ambition for all connected with the Ireland squad. Now that it’s been realised though, Bell intends to make sure Ireland grab a few headlines.

“To go to the Olympics and not aim for a medal would be unwise,” he told BBC Sport NI. “We’ve got to go there and live that dream. If everybody performs to the best of their ability, I have no doubt that this group can get a medal.”

Ireland are far from favourites but Bell’s confidence is rooted deep within last year’s bronze medal at the EuroHockey Championships.

He was part of the side that beat Great Britain 4-2 to claim success. Why not, then, expect something similar this summer?

In order to do that, they’re first of all going to have to fight their way out of Pool B.

That will be no mean feat, considering it contains Netherlands and Germany, ranked second and third in the world respectively.

Also standing in Ireland’s way will be record eight-times Olympic champions India along with Argentina and Canada.

Ireland are ranked above only the Canadians but even a top four finish in the six team pool will be enough to make it to the quarter-finals.

And Garvey’s Mikey Watt says the Green Machine have a well laid out plan on how to do just that.

“I think we’ve got the toughest group but we’re going to really target the India and Argentina games,” he told BBC Sport NI. “We’ll be looking for four to six points out of those. Canada are ranked below us so we’ll be looking to try and get three points in that game.

“We have beaten Germany in recent years. They’re looking sharp at the moment but it’s a one off game and we want to get a point or two against (Germany and Holland).”

The Garvey representatives will be temporarily setting club rivalries aside, as will Banbridge HC captain Eugene Magee. Capped over 200 times for Ireland, he is finally taking in the realisation of a boyhood dream.

“It’s only beginning to sink in, I think,” he said. “It sort of feels similar to playing in other hockey tournaments but then there are aspects of it that are different in terms of the scale of the support and attention we have received.

“A few of the lads were doing radio interviews and things like that. It’s the biggest build-up I’ve ever experienced and that is very exciting.”

It’s a mammoth task ahead but as some of world hockey’s super-powers have already discovered, the Garvey lads and their Ireland team could well surprise us all - just ask Team GB about last year’s EuroHockey bronze medal match.