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Eugene Magee retires from Irish Hockey and says pain of controversial Canada loss is still raw

Club call: Eugene Magee will continue to play for Banbridge
Club call: Eugene Magee will continue to play for Banbridge

By John Flack

Eugene Magee has announced his retirement from international hockey less than a fortnight after Ireland failed to make it to a second consecutive Olympic Games in the most heartbreaking of circumstances.

It proved to be sad end to his career for the 33-year-old Banbridge midfielder, who had competed in Rio 2016 and would dearly love to have made his swansong in Tokyo.

But Magee has now hung up his stick at international level as Ireland's most-capped player with 295 appearances in the green shirt.

He would have made it a triple-century of caps had Ireland qualified for Japan but it wasn't to be after hockey's video referral system came under intense scrutiny in the Vancouver qualifying series.

A 5-4 sudden-death penalty shoot-out defeat to Canada - minutes after the hosts were awarded a controversial last-second penalty stroke by the video umpire to level the double-header at 6-6 on aggregate - meant that Magee was unable to fulfil his dream.

Understandably, he says those events still hurt and he hasn't got over the bitter disappointment.

He said: "If we had been beaten fair and square, say by a goal or two over the two legs, while it would still been gutting, it wouldn't have been as hard to take and we would have got over it in time.

"But I can still feel the pain and, obviously, it's not the end to my Ireland career that I would have wanted."

Once the dust settles, Magee will be able to look back on an international career in which the highs were interspersed with quite a few lows.

Vancouver was his fourth appearance at an Olympic qualifying tournament under various formats and three of them ended in failure.

The agony of 2012, when Magee missed out on a place in London after Korea scored against Ireland with eight seconds left in Dublin, was almost as painful as the Canada experience.

A berth in Beijing in 2008 also proved elusive, but Magee can at least say he is an Olympian after competing in Rio in 2016, although Ireland were unable to get out of their group.

Last November, he was a member of the squad that qualified for a first World Cup since 1990 but, once again, Ireland found themselves on an early flight home.

Magee's finest hour came in London in 2015 when he scored one of the goals in a 4-2 win over England at the European Championship to seal the team an unprecedented bronze medal in the most competitive of hockey's five continental events.

EY IHL FIXTURES: Corinthian v Banbridge (1.15pm), Lisnagarvey v UCD (2.30pm), Monkstown v Glenanne, Three Rock v Annadale (3pm), YMCA v Pembroke (1.30pm)

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