Hockey brothers ready to battle it out in Rio for Olympic glory with Team GB and Ireland
"Our dad is like our biggest fan but he’s caught in the middle."
Hockey playing brothers Mark and Paul Gleghorne are Rio rivals as they prepare to play for opposing teams at the Olympics.
The Antrim pair are already warming up in Brazil, but while Mark will line up for Team GB, Paul will don a the green shirt of Ireland.
Mark said: “I want him to do well and he wants me to do well, but when we compete against each other we don’t want the other one’s team to do well at all, so it’s weird for us because we’ve never been like that before.
“I find playing against Paul very weird, it’s not something that is particularly nice because Paul and I are close, we talk a lot and we’ve grown up together so that’s why it’s a bit strange.”
While the pair can’t meet each other in the early stages of the competition, which begins next week, they could battle it out for a semi-final spot if both teams make it to the quarters.
But one loyal family member is not picking sides, even if their friends already have.
“Our dad is like our biggest fan but he’s caught in the middle and he won’t pick a side whenever we’re playing against each other,” said Mark.
“He says he doesn’t really support a team, he just supports us so quite often he would wear a GB top and an Irish top over the top of the other. He sits on the fence.
“Most of my mates back home seem to support Paul over me though — they want to see Ireland do better than GB but it’s all good fun.
“It’s quite nice to have a bit of friendly rivalry so I don’t mind.”
When Mark, 31, and Paul, 28, were just teenagers, their beloved mother passed away after a battle with cancer.
Opening up about his mental health issues last year, Paul bravely wrote a blog about his mental health struggles.
“I don’t think getting to the Olympics defines who you are, but it’s been a goal in our lives and something we’ve worked for a long time,” said Mark.
“It’s among other goals you set yourself but it’s a pretty cool thing to be a part of. We’re just delighted to both be here.
“But I’m here to perform, not just to be an Olympian. It’s part of a lot of goals in our lives, but we want to go out there and play well as well.”
Mark admits it is “strange” to think that the former RBAI pupils could be role models to youngsters in Northern Ireland.
“I remember when I was a kid watching the Olympics or any sport on TV and I wanted to be that person on TV,” he said.
“Paul and I would be out in the back garden pretending to be whoever it was we were watching at the time so it’s strange but pretty cool to think that people could watch that and maybe do the same.
“I’ve never really thought about inspiring people, but I’m really hopeful that GB and Ireland can raise the profile of hockey back home.”
With the GB squad hoping to secure a medal and Ireland with sights on a place the knock-out stages, Mark and Paul both have heavy training schedules in Rio.
Mark said: “We’ve no plans to meet up but we’ll keep in touch and catch up at some stage.
“When you’re here, you play a lot of games in a short space of time so neither of us will be looking to walk too far to meet up.
“GB are ranked fourth in the world so we are a real medal prospect and that’s our target but at international level, there’s very little room for error.
“I’m confident that we can go and do it, though we could end up having to beat Ireland in the process.
“Either way, I always want Paul to play well and vice versa... Just maybe not against each other!”
The Olympic Games kicks off this Friday with a spectacular carnival-themed opening ceremony.
10,500 athletes from 206 countries will compete in the Games, with 29 from Northern Ireland.
Out of our local sports stars, six will represent Team GB while the others will compete for Ireland.
The 306 events will be spread across 32 different venues in Rio, plus other Brazilian cities will host football matches.
Belfast Telegraph Digital