Tuesday 26 March 2019

'It’s just incredible' - Ireland coach Shaw says his hockey heroes are already Irish sporting legends

Ireland's Graham Shaw celebrates after winning the shoot out Quarter Final at The Lee Valley Hockey and Tennis Centre, London.
Ireland's Graham Shaw celebrates after winning the shoot out Quarter Final at The Lee Valley Hockey and Tennis Centre, London.

Kevin Palmer in London

Ireland coach Graham Shaw struggled to contain his overflowing emotions as he tried to sum up his side’s historic achievement of reaching hockey’s World Cup final.

Gillian Pinder’s dramatic goal in the shoot-out was enough to see off Spain and seal a place in Sunday’s finale, with Shaw admitting his joy is mixed with a healthy serving of disbelieve.

“It’s just incredible, absolutely incredible,” he began. “This is a great day for Irish hockey and I didn’t believe we would ever be talking about a World Cup final.

“To be honest, I didn’t believe we would even qualify for this competition and now here we are in the final. This is the 16th ranked team in the world and no one gave us a chance to do this, but we are here now.

“The aim for us was to get out of the group and winning the quarter-final against India was an incredible achievement for us. To be honest, we woke up this morning and we were confident, but there is one thing feeling like you can win a game and then going out and executing.

“We were fantastic in the first half and we were probably disappointed to only be 1-0 ahead, but they came on strong in the second half and we had to hold firm.

“I can't quite believe this is happening, but we have a final to play now and we have to go and win it. I don't even know what to say. I'm overwhelmed. What an effort.

“Spain are a really good side and made it very hard for us. This is just incredible for our sport. I never thought this would happen in our lifetime. I'm just so proud of them."

He went on to suggest his heroic girls in green deserve to be hailed as Irish sporting greats, after pulling off a series of results that have put hockey at the forefront of national attention.

“It was a testament to the mental belief and the fitness of these girls that we were the strongest in the final five minutes of the game and I find it hard to believe we are now in a World Cup final,” he continued.

“Hopefully this is the changing moment of our sport in Ireland. We will be in the top eight in the world now and I hope this is a changing moment in their lives.

“We see so many people in Ireland who are iconic in their sports and they are rightly given credit for what they have done and now these girls are already legends in my book. To come in ranked so low and reach a World Cup final is absolutely amazing in my book.”

Shaw has devoted so much of his life to hockey and battled to get the sport the attention it is now receiving and he hopes Ireland’s incredible run in Ireland will change the perception of the sport in Ireland.

“Hopefully we have inspired the next generation of hockey players in Ireland, we can be incredibly proud of that,” he added. “Teams like Holland have not wanted to play us in the last few years, but they will have to respect is now. We are in a World Cup final. Incredible.”

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