Monday 10 December 2018

'Most of us are off social media' - Shoot-out hero Gillian Pinder on how Ireland are staying grounded

Ireland’s Gillian Pinder celebrates scoring the winning goal in sudden death of the shootout
Ireland’s Gillian Pinder celebrates scoring the winning goal in sudden death of the shootout
Kevin Palmer

Kevin Palmer

IRELAND shoot-out hero Gillian Pinder is struggling to believe she will play in hockey's World Cup final in London this afternoon.

Pinder held her nerve to fire home the dramatic shoot-out goal that allowed Ireland to see off Spain in yesterday's semi-final at the Olympic Park and now they will play in hockey's biggest game this afternoon.

Pinder's name can now be etched into Irish sporting folklore as the first athlete to fire this nation into a maiden World Cup final and she was struggling to come to terms with the magnitude of this achievement.

"I can't believe we are going to play in a World Cup final," she told us. "We just wanted to try and get out of our group when we qualified for this tournament. Now everything has taken off in such a fantastic way.

"We have one game left to play now and we will give everything we have got, empty the tank one last time and see where it takes us.

"It doesn't get any better than this. This is dreams come true time."

Ireland players celebrate after the Women's Hockey World Cup Finals semi-final match between Ireland and Spain at the Lee Valley Hockey Centre
Ireland players celebrate after the Women's Hockey World Cup Finals semi-final match between Ireland and Spain at the Lee Valley Hockey Centre

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Pinder, who recently graduated with a business and law degree at UCD, revealed she blocked out the magnitude of her decision effort in yesterday's shoot-out, as she insisted thoughts of a World Cup final were not in her mind as she fired her effort past Spain keeper Maria Ruiz.

"I didn't take the one vs ones the other day against India and we decided to change it up a bit," she said. "I scored my first one and when we went to sudden death, I said I would take it.

"Thinking about it is more difficult than actually doing it in many ways. You have to block out what is at stake and I certainly wasn't thinking we would be in the World Cup final if I score here. That might not have been good for me.

To be honest, even now I'm not thinking that we are in the World Cup final because it seems impossible to believe, but it's true and we can celebrate that.

I never know what I'm going to do in the one on ones. The girls laugh at me because I don't have any idea what I'm going to do until I get there. The idea is their keeper won't know what I'm doing if I don't and it seemed to work today."

Pinder admits she is struggling to comprehend the prospect of becoming an Irish sporting hero, with coach Graham Shaw trying to shield his girls from the euphoria that has built up around their miracle World Cup run.

"It's easy to say stay grounded and don't get carried away, but that is not easy when you are in a World Cup final," she continued.

"We are the 16th ranked team in the world and on paper, we shouldn't be beating anyone, but look at our results and it shows what is possible.

"We are putting hockey on the map in Ireland and people who are not hockey fans all seem to be getting interested and you can't ask for any more.

"We are trying to stay away from the excitement back home, even though our phones have just been hopping. Most of us are off social media, but the text messages and WhatsApp messages have been flying and you get an idea of what it might be like back home.

"I guess we will find out what this has meant to Ireland when we get home and for now we are trying is stay in the moment. We have a World Cup final to play and while I can't believe I'm saying that, it is real."

Pinder's parents proudly watched on as their girl became a sporting hero and she admits the support the Irish players are getting in London is helping to drive them to glory.

"You look up in the stands and there is a sea of green shirts, which is just great to see," she added.

"They are like the extra player for us. You hear the cheer when they say who is backing Ireland and it lifts you. We needed them in the second half when Spain were on top and when you hear the cheers, it helped us to get over the line. Now for one last push."

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