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Kate Dillon closes the curtain on her Ireland career

By John Flack

Published 23/06/2015

New chapter: Kate Dillon won 50 caps for Ireland
New chapter: Kate Dillon won 50 caps for Ireland

The fall-out from Ireland's unsuccessful bid to qualify for an Olympic Games for the first time has begun with the retirement of Railway Union utility player Kate Dillon from international hockey.

She played in all of Ireland's matches at the World League 3 tournament in Valencia, winning her 50th cap last week and on Thursday she turned 30.

But what should have been a joyous occasion turned sour with a penalty shoot-out defeat by China on her birthday which ultimately ended the Olympic dream.

The pain of that agonising loss took its toll on the Irish players who, had they won the sudden-death decider, would have been on the plane to Rio next year.

In an emotional statement, Dillon revealed the anguish she felt as Ireland failed to reach the Olympics at the seventh attempt, dating back to their first qualifying campaign ahead of Barcelona 92.

"To say my heart was broken in Valencia is an understatement but to have spent the last two years training and playing with the girls has been an absolute pleasure and an honour," she said.

Dillon was the proverbial late-starter as she won her first cap as a 28-year-old in 2013 when she made her debut against Scotland.

Before that she was a member of the Irish Development squad but felt she "was only making up the numbers" under then national coach Gene Muller.

But the South African's successor, Darren Smith, put his faith in Dillon, who will now be concentrating on club hockey and running the café she owns in Blackrock, Co Dublin.

"I can remember Darren arriving into the shop to tell me he was giving me my first cap in June 2013 and I was speechless," she recalled. "The belief he and the rest of the staff had in me is something words cannot explain and I am so grateful for the opportunity.

"I have made lifetime friends. I will be their number one supporter from now on and I also want to thank everyone who has sent such heartfelt messages."

Dillon's absence will leave a void to fill as Smith's successor, Graham Shaw, will shortly select his squad for the European Trophy tournament, which gets under way in Prague on July 18.

Tonight: England U-23 v Ulster U-23 (Bisham Abbey, 5pm).

Belfast Telegraph

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