08 Aug 2018
Hundreds were there at the arrivals hall in Dublin Airport and thousands lined the streets of Dublin on the Bank holiday Monday to give Ireland’s women’s hockey team a hero’s welcome following their historic silver medal win at the Hockey World Cup.
Rank outsiders going into the tournament, Ireland’s first in 16 years, the squad’s wins against the USA, India and Spain surpassed everybody’s expectations including their own.
Under the captainship of UCD veteran and Graduate Sports Scholar Katie Mullan, the side became the first Irish field sport team ever to reach a world cup final.
A recent biomedical Engineering graduate, Katie was joined on the field by fellow UCD teammates Deirdre Duke (Law with Social Justice) and Elena Tice, who is studying Economics.
Also stepping out on the world stage in London were UCD graduates Nikki Evans (Business and Law), Gillian Pinder (Bachelor of Business & Law), Chloe Watkins (Commerce, International), Anna O'Flanagan (Law with Economics) and Emily Beatty (Psychology).
Veteran goalkeeper Grace O'Flanagan was also a member of the team who studied commerce here in UCD but took a career change studying medicine in RCSI and is now a Senior House Officer in Otolaryngology at Royal Victoria Eye and Ear Hospital
The second-lowest ranked country in the competition, Ireland upset the odds to reach the last two but were unable to produce a fairy-tale ending against now 8 time world cup champions and 3 Olympic gold medallists the Netherlands.
Despite losing the final 6-0, the girls in green’s efforts have been praised as “a historic achievement” by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, and are being celebrated as one of Ireland’s top sporting successes of all time.
Greeting the talented sports stars as they arrived in Dublin Airport on Monday morning, Minister for Sport Shane Ross said while the team had been defeated; reaching the last two had been a great victory for the Irish.
He added it must be remembered too that it was an amateur team against professionals.
Mr Ross then announced €1.5 million in extra funding for teams preparing for the Olympic Games in Tokyo in 2020, much of which he promised would go to the hockey team.
President Michael D Higgins said the underdog team had broken new ground, and praised the side for inspiring a nation.
“To reach the final was a fantastic accomplishment and to do so with such skill, dedication and team spirit is truly inspirational,” he said.
“This team has broken new ground for Irish hockey and Irish sport and their momentous achievement will encourage young women and men all around the island of Ireland to take up sport.
“For that, and for their success on the pitch, the team and support staff deserve all of our thanks.”
UCD Captain Deirdre Duke scored two goals in the opener against USA which is where is all began to come together. In an interview with Newstalk Deirdre said “it’s a dream come true to even play in a world cup but to score two goals is just bizarre…I just don’t want the bubble to burst”
Duke also commented on the importance of women’s sports and how the team feel proud to be part of the growing numbers of women’s sport in Ireland. “Women’s sport is growing and growing. You have to pinch yourself to realise that you are part of that,”
“The GAA... Croke Park getting more people last year [a record 46,286 attended the All-Ireland Ladies football final between Dublin and Mayo]. To think that we are a part of this and driving the bandwagon is pretty special. Hopefully we keep pushing on and increase the level of interest.”
Speaking after arriving home, team captain Katie Mullan left little doubt what the next goal is.
“We’ve never played in a World Cup, now we have. We’ve never played in an Olympic Games, now that’s our next goal.
“It’s been incredible. Hopefully young girls will look at this story back home and say that they want to be sporty, be in a team and go for it.”
This now means that the Irish women’s senior team has climbed 8 places in the FIH World Rankings to 8th with preparation beginning the Tokyo Olympic Games in 2020.
It truly was a beautiful day!
It was a beautiful day... beaten but unbowed, @irishhockey have done themselves and their country proud. World Cup silver medallists - what a journey! #GreenArmy #HWC2018 #RTEsport pic.twitter.com/Rxb1lDf2r7— RTÉ Sport (@RTEsport) 5 August 2018