O’Donoghue and Ireland buzzing for Euros
“There is still a buzz around the squad and the hockey
community back home,” Shane O’Donoghue says of Ireland’s mood ahead of the
European championships campaign.
It comes off the back of a fine World League semi-final
campaign, one which saw the green machine beat higher-ranked Pakistan and
Malaysia to move within reach of a potential first ever Olympic qualification
O’Donoghue – who played last season with Dragons in Belgium
– is one of the key cogs in the engine room, a goal-scoring midfielder with a
powerful corner flick on top.
He showed plenty of that potential two years ago as a
20-year-old in Boom in a topsy-turvy tournament for the Irish with some serious
high points but almost ended in disaster.
A last-ditch fightback against the Czech Republic preserved
their status in the top tier for a third successive continental championship.
“Yeah, the last Europeans
was a bit of a roller coaster. We faced the Dutch and narrowly lost out 2-1 and
then we came back from 2-0 down against England in which we drew 2-2
[O’Donoghue scored twice] which resulted in us narrowly missing our chance to
play in the semi finals which would have been our first time.
“We played some good hockey
and in some ways exceeded our expectations at the time but we grinded out a big
game against the Czech Republic.”
This year, Ireland start with a key game against France on
Saturday morning to start their campaign before facing the big dogs – Germany on
Sunday and Belgium on Tuesday.
To prepare for the competition, Ireland initially took time
out after a big preparation for the World League, dating back to round two
which took place in March.
Since returning to action, Ireland have had an intensive
four-week block to build for London. It included a couple of high octane
against the Netherlands, running them close in the second game, 2-3.
“To play games against the
likes of the Dutch for us as a squad and where we want to go is fantastic. The
Dutch are a very strong outfit but it was our first outing together with some
new faces in the squad and we improved a lot from game one to game 2.
“For us, it was to get back
to the level in which we finished at World League 3 and to focus purely on us
and make improvements form both games.
“It was important that
after world league we took some time away from hockey as, since World league 2
in March, we have had various international games and training camps both at
home and abroad.
“We have had some high
intensity training camps the past couple of weeks and obviously the games
against Holland last weeks so preparation has been short but very positive.”