Ireland Women’s Hockey: being the best version of ourselves
Rupert Heather, EY Ireland
Ireland’s women have qualified for the Hockey World Cup for the first time since 2002, and Manager Arlene Boyles is adamant that the team are not just going to London to make up the numbers.
"Priority is to get out of the group, into the crossover phase and make the quarter finals. After that, anything can happen. These players could go very far and enjoy this World Cup," she says.
Boyles has had no shortage of success. Capped 123 times for her country, she won 8 Irish cups and 4 All-Ireland Hockey League titles with her club Pegasus, which she later coached.
Having steered Pegasus to an All-Ireland title in her first season in charge, Arlene joined Ireland’s management team as assistant coach in 2012.
Improving week-in week-out
In the build up to the tournament, Ireland will travel to training camps in Spain and England, playing a series of games against their international counterparts before heading to Scotland in March and Germany in June.
For the team – currently ranked 16th in the world – the blue riband event is a step up, but Arlene argues that the jump is not so big.
"Without doubt the national competition is improving week in week out. Training methods have improved because opposing teams have got better. That is all filtering through to better fitness, mentality and game toughness of our international players."
Psychology is paramount
The ‘Green Army’ will play America, India and reigning Olympic champions England in their qualifying group.
Arlene adds, "There are goals set at every training camp, and the psychology side of it is paramount. If you don’t believe you can do it, you may as well stay at home. The players have put in so much effort and hard work and have made big changes to their lives."
On competing with larger, better funded nations, Arlene is clear Ireland have nothing to fear.
"Team culture gets you over the line in games. When you are in a dog fight, you get something extra from the players around you. You want to see who’s got your back, who is prepared to stand up and fight – a lot of work goes into fostering that team spirit, both on and off the field.
Playing in the 2002 World Cup and helping get us back on the global stage is very satisfying, but the hard work has just begun. The next six months will see a lot of talking about the mentality of winning and coaching it."
The Women’s Hockey World Cup will be held in the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in London, England from 21 July to 5 August 2018, and will be televised by BT Sport.
Check out Ireland’s World Cup fixture schedule here.