Rio dream is still alive

Jonny Bell in action for Ireland during the World League 3 Series.
Jonny Bell in action for Ireland during the World League 3 Series.

Lisnagarvey Hockey Club duo Jonny Bell and Paul Gleghorne and their Ireland team mates have kept their hopes of qualifying for the Olympics alive with a 4-1 win over Malaysia on Sunday.

The Irish mens hockey team are on track to qualify for next year’s Olympic Games following a brilliant win in their World Hockey League play-off in Antwerp.

Following their 1-0 win over Pakistan during the week, the Irish knew that only a win would keep their hopes of qualifying for next year’s Games alive.

Sunday’s victory means they finished fifth in the World Hockey League and will be in Rio next year if results in the continental championships go their way.

The final places won’t be confirmed until all the continental championships have been completed, however.

Garvey’s Jonny Bell said it would be “a dream come true” to get to the Olympics.

Thanks to last week’s results, Ireland have given themselves a fantastic opportunity to get to Rio.

“Very much so,” said Bell. “Although we’ve still got to wait on a few things to fall into place before we are guaranteed our ticket to Rio.

“We finished strongly and have done all we could. Providing there are no upsets in the continental championships hopefully we will get there but we have to keep our feet on the ground. We still have the issue of qualifying and then there is form, injury, a year is a long time in sport.

“If we do get there the hard work will only be beginning,” he added.

In their World League 3 opener Ireland secured a 2-2 draw against Great Britain, finishing the match with a sense that they could have taken the win.

“The Great Britain game was a missed opportunity,” said Bell. “We probably should have come away with the win.

“Against Malaysia we had an off day. Sometimes you just can’t explain them, things didn’t go our way. We bounced back and put six goals past China.”

Ireland were then unlucky to suffer defeats against Belgium, who are ranked fourth, and Australia, a match Bell described as “massively challenging.”

They then produced two vital wins to give themselves a great chance to reach the Olympics.

“We were ranked seventh out of the ten nations and finished fifth, so we played above our ranking.

“Against Pakistan there were times we had our backs to the wall and it required a rear guard defensive effort but that game gave us a massive confidence boost.

“In the Malaysia match we played positively and dominated for large parts of the game. Afterwards there was real elation and a sense of relief.

“The Pan America games start in the next week or so. Certainly if Brazil don’t manage to finish sixth, it will look very positive for us, but if things don’t go our way we will still have Oceania and Africa.

“Somebody put down that we’ve a 90% chance but just because Australia have always won Oceania doesn’t mean they will again.

“From an Irish hockey prespective, this could transform and revolutionise the game, it could be the big break hockey really needs.

“From a personal perspective, it would be a dream come true, this is something I have aspired to from a young age, so I will be keeping my fingers crossed.”