An emotional Irish women’s hockey team arrived back into Dublin Airport after a World Cup in which they surpassed everybody’s expectations including their own.
The team did a conga down the aisle of their CityJet flight taking them home from London less than 24 hours after they were beaten 6-0 by the Netherlands in the World Cup final.
They were embraced by many of their families who waited patiently in the Platinum Lounge at Dublin Airport for their arrival. Among them were Ellie (6) and Jack (3) Shaw who rushed into the arms of their emotional father Graham, the team coach.
They hadn’t seen their father for three weeks and barely at all over the last eight weeks as the team prepared for the World Cup. He is still processing the enormity of the last month. “I’m looking forward to a holiday in Kerry. I’m chuffed for the girls. I’m really proud to be a part of it,” he said.
The team were greeted by Minister for Sport Shane Ross who said their achievement in reaching the World Cup final was one of the greatest ever in Irish sport. It was, he added, a “Ronnie Delany” moment as recalled being old enough to remember Delany winning the 1,500 metres at the Melbourne Olympic Games in 1956.
There were tears after Mr Ross announced that he would providing €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.
It was the least they deserved, said goalkeeper Ayeisha McFerran (22), the goalkeeper of the tournament who guarded her award as tightly as she did her nets during the tournament.
“We know it’s been crazy over here and everyone has jumped on the bandwagon,” she said.
“We have been asking him for a while for far more funding so that we can get on to that platform that we know we can achieve,” she said.
It has been a late Sunday night, she confessed. “A few drinks were had. You know how we Irish like to celebrate.”
The bond between the team, who have endured many setbacks on the way to World Cup success, was evident as they sang song after song together beginning with that old soccer World Cup anthem Óle, Óle, Óle, continuing with that Lighthouse Family anthem High and finishing with a paean to their redoubtable goalkeeper.
“We got the best goalkeeper in the world,” they sang to the tune of “He’s got the whole world in his hands”.
Midfielder Lizzie Colvin is intending to get married in South Africa in October. She will have 17 new bridesmaids at the ceremony. “I have to rethink the bridal party. After a fantastic last few weeks, I have to have these girls at the wedding.”
The public will be able to express their thanks to the team when a public reception takes place in Dame Street at 3pm.