David Harte says Ireland ready for Rio Olympics mission
Top three finish in group is imperative to gain favourable quarter-final
Ireland goalkeeper David Harte: one of 11 players in the panel who narrowly missed out on qualification for London 2012. Photograph: Inpho.
It is the turn of the Irish men this week to attempt to qualify for the Rio Olympics as they begin their World League round three campaign in Antwerp this morning against Great Britain (11am Irish time).
For 11 of the panel, they will hope to heal the scars of 2012 when Paul Revington’s side were level in their final London qualifier with Korea with seven seconds to go before a video referral saw the Asian side score a winning goal and crush Irish dreams. With the women’s agonising defeat to world number seven side China last Thursday fresh in the mind, there is plenty of motivation for the men.
The format is the same as the women’s event. Ireland play in an initial five-team group from which the top four will qualify for the quarter-finals, which acts effectively as a straight battle for a ticket to Rio.
There are three automatic Olympic berths on offer at the tournament. The secondary route to Rio is via the continental championships, which provides five more spaces.
In the group, Ireland (14th in the world) will meet world number five Great Britain – who started the competition last Saturday with a 2-2 draw against Belgium (fourth ranked) – China (31), Malaysia (12) and the host nation.
Former Cork Harlequins’ man David Harte says a “top-three finish” is imperative in order to set up a potentially more favourable quarter-final spot.
To that end, Malaysia and China – whom Ireland meet in back-to-back games on Thursday and Friday – look to be the key matches.
Harte, though, says that each game represents a chance for points, especially as Ireland have beaten GB within the past year. “We are here to compete with every team and look to get a result from whoever we play,” he said. “Obviously, from the outside, they are teams closer to us in world ranking and we would of course like to get full points from those two encounters with China and Malaysia.”
Played in greenDavid Ames
Ireland, for their part, have just one change from World League round two, with striker Kyle Good coming into the panel in place of Bruce McCandless who sustained a broken foot in the Irish Senior Cup final.