Belfast Telegraph

Ireland captain Jonny Bell admits he may become the next player to quit after Olympics heartache


Decision time: Jonny Bell
Decision time: Jonny Bell

By John Flack

Ireland captain Jonny Bell may become the latest player to call time on his international career in the fallout from the national team's agonising failure to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics.

The 32-year-old Lisnagarvey defender is weighing up his options but has yet to commit to continuing to represent his country.​

His fellow Ulstermen Eugene Magee and Chris Cargo have already quit the international arena following the ill-fated trip to Vancouver.

Ireland felt they were denied a place in a second consecutive Olympics by a controversial decision by the video umpire in the second leg of the double-header with Canada.

The on-field officials signalled it was game over but, following a video referral by the hosts, a penalty stroke was controversially awarded and converted to tie the scores on aggregate.​

The Canadians won the subsequent penalty shoot-out, coming from 3-1 down to qualify for Tokyo at Ireland's expense.​

Bell, who has 181 caps and played at the Rio Olympics, said: "It's a case of wait and see at the moment as Hockey Ireland set about advertising for and appointing a new coach.

"Then it will be a matter of seeing what programme is put in place before I make any decision about my future.

"I would love to play on forever but I also have to take into consideration other priorities in my life."

Bell will be 36 when the next Olympics takes place in Paris and, before the start of the qualifying process in 2023, Ireland will be attempting to book a place in the next World Cup which is scheduled for India in January of the same year.​

The next competitive event on the agenda is the 2021 European Championship which is hardly an exciting prospect for the Irish men's team.

For the first time in a decade, they will be playing in Europe's second tier, having been relegated from the top flight in Antwerp last August.​

Meanwhile, Cookstown will be putting their 100% Ulster Premier League record on the line when they travel to Donegal to face in-form Raphoe this afternoon.​

Raphoe defeated champions Instonians in their last outing, having drawn with the Belfast side a fortnight earlier, and Cookstown's Stuart Smyth expects a tough test.​

"It's been a really good end to 2019 and we'll be going out to make sure that we start the New Year on the right foot," said the striker. "And given how Raphoe have been going over the past few weeks, it will take a really top performance from us to make sure that happens.​

"Raphoe's draw with Instonians at Shaw's Bridge was impressive, and the win over them in Donegal really puts the cat amongst the pigeons for the run-in."​​

Fixtures: Ulster Premier (2.30pm unless stated): Kilkeel v North Down, Mossley v Bangor, Newry v South Antrim, Portadown v Instonians (1pm), Queen's v Ballynahinch (1pm), Raphoe v Cookstown.

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