The Olympic Council of Ireland met members of Ireland men’s Irish hockey team at the Northern Ireland Sports Institute at the weekend before the squad headed off to South Africa for the first stage of their preparation for Rio 2016.
25+ players and performance support staff were briefed by Stephen Martin and Martin Burke on preparations for Rio from a hockey specific and Team Ireland perspective. The new OCI Team Ireland private Team Ireland app is also a valuable resource for over 450+ on the Team Ireland long list of athletes and performance support across 16 sports.
In Rio Ireland will meet Holland, ranked two in the world, Germany ranked three in the world, Argentina (6), India (7) and Canada (14).
Ireland has already stepped up a level with an unprecedented bronze medal at last year’s European Championships just reward for a work ethic that will continue in South Africa.
In South Africa Ireland will have eight matches over 11 days and will also train on the days they have scheduled matches, something the players normally would not do.
“We don’t get a big block of time together and January is that time so we have to make full use of it,” says Ireland’s South African coach Fulton.
“This is huge for us and we are taking quite a big staff. We’ve two physios and we’ll train twice a day and play in the evenings. We’ve 25 players. The main message is continual improvement. This is the time to do that.
It takes a lot of belief and soul searching to know that you can play against these teams,” says Fulton. “Also our conditioning is critical. But mentally, yes, we have had a break though.