Belfast Telegraph

Home Sport Hockey

Watch: Ireland captain Katie Mullan given hero's welcome back to Ballymoney training after realising Olympic dream

Japan-bound: Katie Mullan celebrates with team-mates
Japan-bound: Katie Mullan celebrates with team-mates

Ireland's hockey heroines are in the sporting spotlight all over again after securing their place at the Olympics in last weekend's play-off win over Canada.

The side should be well used to adulation, having shot to stardom last summer when they upset the odds to reach the World Cup final in London.

However, as captain Katie Mullan admits, reaching Tokyo in 2020 has always been front and centre in the players' minds and in their motivations.

It's in that context that their 4-3 penalty victory at Energia Park in Donnybrook was greeted with delight across Ireland.

And that was true nowhere more than at Ballymoney HC.

Mullan was back in training with her hometown club on Wednesday night, when the Irish skipper had her player/coach cap on and her mind fixed on Friday evening's trip to Mossley.

But that could only begin once the soon-to-be Olympian was welcomed to the pitch by clubmates and fans, saying she was 'lost for words' after the noisy welcome.

Mullan had been played with German side Club an der Alster but turned down another year in order to return to her home club during the summer.

They're currently fifth in Ulster Hockey's top tier but whatever happens in her first year as a coach, it is set to end on the biggest of stages.

"(Ireland) have been on a long journey and although what we achieved last summer was very special, this was always our dream, what we set out to achieve from day one, so I think for us, as a group of players, it means everything to get to Tokyo," she said after Sunday's play-off win.

"Also the sacrifices we have made in all of our lives, whether that is giving up a dream job, missing out on many a family occasion for training camps - all that you give up along the way makes it all worthwhile.

"It's massive for the sport - for all the players that have gone before us and missed out on that Olympic dream, I think it would be something special for them too, players that played three or four qualifiers and missed out.

"Even bigger than that, as a nation, for a female sports team to qualify for an Olympic Games, it's creating history again for females in sport, young girls to give them something to aspire to in terms of an Olympic Games."

Belfast Telegraph Digital

Popular

From Belfast Telegraph