Tuesday 20 February 2018

Fulton delight as Ireland clinch Olympics spot

Australia 3-2 New Zealand

Trent Mitton scored the winning goal for Australia
Trent Mitton scored the winning goal for Australia

David Medcalf

"It's official. We are off to the Summer Olympics in Rio!" - the joyous Irish men's hockey tweet was posted shortly after 4am yesterday.

Australia's victory at the expense of New Zealand in the Oceania Cup final secured the precious ticket to the Games.

It was a sleepless night for followers of the Green Machine as they followed proceedings in New Zealand.

In the end, the world number one Aussies obliged with a 3-2 success - Trent Mitton scoring what proved to be the winner.

But Mitton later spurning an open goal threatened to become the stuff of nightmares as the Black Sticks forced a series of late penalty corners, none converted.

The outcome ensured that Ireland will participate in a team game event at an Olympics for the first time since 1948.

On that occasion, the country fielded sides in the football and basketball tournaments, without earning any medals.

"It probably hasn't sunk in yet but we're over the moon," coach Craig Fulton said.

His captain David Harte, who plays his club hockey in the elite Dutch league, was optimistic that Ireland will be competitive in Brazil.

He expects that, fresh from their bronze medal success in the European championships, they will be looking for a top four finish in Brazil next August.

Ireland will take their place in Rio de Janeiro with Brazil, India, Germany, Canada, Spain, Belgium, Great Britain, Argentina, Netherlands and Australia, with a 12th spot reserved for the winners of the African championship.

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