John Jermyn ready for Rio Olympics as Irish squad named

Almost a year ago to the day, Ireland’s record goalscorer John Jermyn was in his wellies close to Derrynane while the men’s national team had just put themselves in prime position to qualify for their first Olympic Games since 1908.
John Jermyn ready for Rio Olympics as Irish squad named

Fast forward 12 months and the Cork C of I man is perhaps the main surprise — despite being 34 with 163 caps to his name — in Craig Fulton’s squad for Rio, following confirmation of the 16 central players and three reserves to travel to the Games.

Jermyn did not play for Ireland between September 2012 and April 2016 but he did enough in the past six months to force his way into the Olympic side.

His drag-flicking ability and nous around midfield adds to a vastly experience Ireland squad.

Beyond Jermyn, the panel fell along reasonably anticipated lines. Indeed, 11 of this squad have been together since the World Cup qualifiers of 2009.

They came within moments of qualifying for London in 2012, denied at the death by Korea with seven seconds to go. Many considered stepping back from the international set-up at that stage, some taking extended breaks.

Eugene Magee, speaking at the squad announcement yesterday, said that near miss was a turning point for many.

“2012 probably was the lowest point of our career, certainly mine,” he said. “We were devastated. But you could look at it two ways; we could have stepped away or use it as fuel for this next four years. Many of us took that route and used it to spur us on. It was like ‘now I know how much I really want this’ and am going for it.”

Was he tempted to quit? “No! I thought, if I have the potential in me to do something special, I think it would be a waste of life not to do something with that potential. That’s what drives me.”

Along with Ronan Gormley and John Jackson, Magee is one of only three players to have played for Ireland over 200 times. Kinsale’s David Harte, the world’s best goalkeeper, was the most assured of a place in the squad with Monkstown’s David Fitzgerald as his back-up.

Harte’s twin, Conor, will join Jackson and Gormley in the backline with Jonny Bell. Paul Gleghorne completes the defensive line-up, putting him in the unique position in which he could potentially play against his older brother Mark.

Mark was named in the Great Britain squad having previously played for Ireland, taking three years out of international hockey to switch allegiance.

The Irish midfield features the freshest faces with Shane O’Donoghue — a nominee for the world’s emerging talent of the year for 2015 — set to be the main pivot in midfield alongside Jermyn and Magee. Pembroke flyer Kirk Shimmins, the youngest member of the panel, and the versatile Chris Cargo got the nod ahead of Michael Robson. Up front, Alan Sothern and Michael Watt both have over 50 international goals to their name and form an attacking unit who have played a huge amount together in the last seven years. Mitch Darling and Peter Caruth were also both part of the class of 2009 when in their early 20s, with Kyle Good completing the line-up.

Gareth Watkins and Matthew Bell are the unlucky players to miss out completely with Tim Cockram and Robson travelling to Rio as the outfield reserves.

Their Olympic challenge begins on August 6 against India in a six-team group from which a top-four place will earn a quarter-final berth.

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