Lisnagarvey Hockey Club’s international stars are on cloud nine this week.
That’s after Australia did enough to edge out New Zealand 3-2 in the Oceania Cup final and cement the Green Machine’s spot as the first team from any sport to represent Ireland at the Olympics since 1948.
Watching the game together with the Ireland squad in the BBC NI offices, Garvey captain Jonny Bell went through an emotional roller-coaster.
“It was a pretty surreal moment,” he told the ‘STAR.’
“It was nerve-wracking, especially as New Zealand were pushing and looked like they might sneak something.
“Everybody knew what was at stake and how much work we had put in. It was all coming down to that moment. As I said last week, it was the biggest game of our lives and thankfully it went the right way to get what Irish hockey deserves.
“Now we’re all keen to get going in our training and continue to prepare.
“I’m sure that will all be ramped up after Christmas and it will be interestuing to see what funding we can get and what sort of commitment is required.”
Alongside Bell in that Ireland training squad are Garvey team-mates Timmy Cockram, Paul Gleghorne, Neal Glassey, James Lorimer and Sean Murray, all of whom will be desperate for a place on the plane to Rio.
“The Olympics is such a long time away and there and things like form and injury that will play there part but everybody will be giving their all to get into that squad,” said Bell.
Teenage midfield star Murray made his debut for Ireland just last week but even with such inexperience, Bell reckons the former Wallace skipper has every chance of becoming an Olympian.
He said: “Sean’s performances for the club have been outstanding and it was great to see him getting his Ireland debut. There’s no reason why he can’t be in the final squad now.”
The qualification, Bell hopes, will also be good news for hockey clubs around the country, including Lisnagarvey, as the sport’s profile continues to rise.
“It won’t all happen with the flick of a switch but hopefully the governing bodies can maximise this opportunity with a lot of hard work. This can be a real catalyst,” he said.