Lisnagarvey’s Olympians jetted off to Rio on Tuesday, as their Olympic journey began.
Garvey Captain Jonny Bell, Paul Gleghorne, Timmy Cockram and Mikie Watt were all part of the squad who left for Rio from Dublin on Tuesday evening.
The Ireland team, the first field sport team from the island to qualify for the Olympics in any sport since 1948, were due to fly to Frankfurt then Rio, before they will travel onto Buenos Aires where they will play several matches ahead of the games.
Speaking from the airport shortly before their flight, Jonny Bell spoke of his pride at having been presented his Ireland Olympic kit by his father earlier this week, and his excitement to get going.
“I’m very excited,” Bell commented. “Obviously this is the beginning of the adventure, hopefully a successful one.
“It’s good to finally get going,” he said as he awaited his flight.
“There was a family day at Carton House, where everybody was presented with their kit for Rio by a family member, which was nice.
“My dad presented me with mine, which was a proud moment. “Obviously he’s supported my career over the years, him and mum have supported me, and it’s nice that they have ownership of this too, and can be a part of it.
“My parents will be in Rio too, they head over on August 4, although we probably won’t get to see our families much as focused on the competition.”
The local players have had a busy time since the squad announcement, with a visit to Stormont having also taken place.
“We were invited up and had a photo shoot,” Bell explained. “Alastair Ross is a Garvey member and he’s a junior minister now, so he invited us up.
“It is absolutely amazing the amount of coverage and profile it is getting,” Bell added.
“It is a privilege to play in the Olympics. It is the pinnacle of sport for a lot of sports and it is something that everyone recognises and is aware of.
“I am happy to be on the plane and now can focus on hockey and the job at hand.”
Writing on their Facebook page as their players were pictured with their Ireland kits, Lisnagarvey Hockey Club said: “Proud moment for the club and our Olympians. Well done Mikie, Tim, Paul and Jonnie”. (sic)
Lisnagarvey Chairman Mark Murray commented: “It’s a fantastic honour for the guys to be selected and with the shirt presentation it’s all getting very close.
“It was an excellent idea by Irish Hockey to create a special event to mark the occasion as it is only the second time in 108 years, so doesn’t come around very often.
“The club is very proud of their achievement and hope they can all enjoy the rewards for years of dedication to their sport to reach Olympic level.
“The initial schedule in Rio his pretty hectic with a quarter final place the target,” he said.
Rob Johnson, Acting CEO for Hockey Ireland, said: “To be the first field team sport to represent Ireland at an Olympics in 68 years is a historic achievement.
“On behalf of Hockey Ireland I would like to wish the team the very best of luck and to say that we will all be supporting you throughout the Olympics.”
You can follow all the action from Rio the local players will be involved in as all of Ireland’s matches will be shown live on RTE.
Their Olympic schedule is as follows:
Match 1: August 6th 15:00 India vs Ireland;
Match 2: August 7th 22:00 Netherlands vs Ireland;
Match 3: August 9th 16:30 Germany vs Ireland;
Match 4: August 11th 15:00 Ireland vs Canada;
Match 5: August 12th 23:30 Ireland vs Argentina.