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Harte set to miss Olympic quest

David Harte
David Harte

By John Flack

Ireland's men have been dealt a major blow ahead of their Olympic qualifiers with Canada with confirmation last night that goalkeeper David Harte has been ruled out of the double-header, which starts tonight in Vancouver (10.10pm UK time).

The Munster man, twice voted World Goalkeeper of the Year, has an unspecified injury and has been replaced by Lisnagarvey's James Milliken, who has yet to be capped.

Monkstown's David Fitzgerald, who was in the original squad, will come in to the starting line-up for Harte.

Meanwhile, Ireland head coach Mark Tumilty will be urging his players not to panic in the double-header which is a new experience for both teams.

The aggregate winners over the two legs will progress to Tokyo, with the second instalment to come tomorrow (9.20pm).

In years gone by, most teams aspiring to compete at the Olympics had to come through at least two full-scale tournaments and then often had to wait until the results of the various continental championships to secure back-door entry if they didn't qualify automatically.

This time though it's sudden-death with a penalty shoot-out to be used if the teams are level on aggregate after the two games.

Tumilty is quietly confident that Ireland, now with 10 Ulstermen in their squad, can succeed and reach a second consecutive Olympic Games following their appearance in Rio three years ago.

He said: "It's two games for us to produce two big performances. It's 120 minutes and we don't need to win the first game.

"As long as by the eighth quarter, when we're into the last 15 minutes of the second game, and we are still in with a chance, that's what we want.

"We don't want to be chasing the game in the fourth quarter of match one and this is an entirely different scenario because you're adding the scores together and that's something none of us has experienced before.

"So, it's different in that respect and it's been a challenge in setting the right environment and right tone in the group - and there can't be panic when we go into the games.

"If we just play to the style we want to play and play to those principles, and then execute in both circles and at both attacking and defensive penalty corners, we will be okay.

"Corners are going to be key, they score a lot of corners and they defend corners very well so that's a challenge but we have been practising a lot of set-pieces," he added.

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