Irish pray as Rio hopes hinge on Kiwi-Aussie clash
Irish hockey fans will have their alarms set early tomorrow as they wake to learn the fate of the national men's side.
The Green Machine's invitation to the Rio Olympics hangs on a fixture being played 11,000 miles away at Stratford on New Zealand's North Island.
Ireland are praying for an Australian victory over the hosts in the faraway fixture at the Oceania Cup tournament, which tips off at 2am Irish time.
Success for the Aussies will guarantee Craig Fulton's men a place at the Games next summer, to become the first squad to represent the country in a team sport at the Olympics in living memory.
If the Kiwis spring a surprise on the world No 1s then their participation in Brazil will be very much in doubt.
''We are all waiting for D Day," said Ireland captain and goalkeeper David Harte.
"If Australia are successful and go on to beat New Zealand, it will probably make me the happiest man in the world."
On the other hand, should the Black Sticks beat the Aussies, then the focus will turn to the African Nations tournament a week later in Johannesburg.
If the hosts win there, the South Africans have indicated that they will not travel to Rio, which would leave the door open for Ireland.
Harte is acknowledged as one of the best keepers in the sport but the Corkman has never before had the opportunity to parade his skills at the very highest level.
Now he and his team-mates have fingers cross that events at the Oceania event go their way.