TV View: Boom-Boom-Boom, let’s hear it for Ay-o and all the Green Machine

All of the late nights and early mornings couldn’t stem the orange tide in London

“Boom-Boom-Boom, let me hear you say Ay-o, Boom-Boom-Boom, let me hear you say Ay-o” .

Such was the deference to Irish goalkeeper Ayeisha McFerran over the past two weeks in the Hockey World Cup that she was given her own terrace anthem from those supporting the Green Machine on their magical journey to the final showdown.

Ayeisha! It’s an Arabic name, we looked it up and now expect it to feature prominently in the list of new baby names by year’s end. The goalkeeper came to symbolise all that was great about the spirit of mind and the resilience of body in Ireland’s march through the group phases and the quarter-final and the semi-final before finally hitting a brick wall that came disguised as the Dutch team of unbeatables.

On Saturday evening after a heart-thumping semi-final win over Spain, the Irish coach Graham Shaw made his way up to the BT Sports team of pundits. “What the hell’s happening? What’s going on?” he wondered aloud.


Helen Richardson-Walsh and her other half Kate Richardson-Walsh – both hockey legends and Olympic gold medallists with Great Britain – were there to reassure Shaw that it wasn’t a dream and that his team were indeed playing out a remarkable real-life story.

Ahead of the final, though, the buzzword in the BT Sport punditry studio (actually a rather fragile but homely looking structure in the corner of the ground at Lee Valley in the Olympic campus in London) was one that seemed to have everyone believing if actually it was all for real.

There was talk, and talk again , about Ireland’s run being “a fairytale . . . a wonderful fairytale, a romantic story, you can’t help but fall in love with it.”

And Shaw was back on the pitch before the match to be interviewed by the Richardson-Walshes where he informed us he had been up at “ten to five” in the morning to continue his video analysis of the Dutch, a team who had entered the competition as the red-hot favourites and number one ranked team in the world.

Could his team beat the unbeatables? “We wouldn’t be here if we didn’t believe we could win . . . it is difficult to run down busy streets and busy roads and that’s what we’re going to do, create busy roads,” said Shaw, invoking images of setting up roadblocks to stop the Dutch in their tracks.

Over on RTÉ, Shaw was again being quizzed by Darren Frehill about how his team would manage the Netherlands super team of all super teams. “We’ve not had a massive amount of sleep but we can sleep when we get home,” said Shaw of how his backroom team had stayed up late and got up early to work on tactics. “It’s a difficult plan, they’re a very ,very good side . . . we need to track their runners all over the field, we can’t play with any fear.”

Back at base in Montrose, Peter Collins was chatting to a couple of Irish hockey legends Lisa Jacob and Kate Dillon who didn’t go down the road of fairytales and provided a no-holds barred analysis of the challenge that lay ahead . . . and Collins’s intro to the final laid the scene: “They have dared to dream and the final script has yet to be written”.

As one goal after another hit the back of the Irish goal, it seemed as if the Dutch – as they have done through numerous World Cups – had written the script. “There are plenty of goalkeepers who have picked the ball out of the net against the Dutch,” said Charlie Brougham on BT after Ayeisha had been beaten for a sixth time.

When it was all over, Dillon reminded us of just how good McFerran had been throughout the tournament. “In my eyes, she’s the number one or two world goalkeeper at the moment.” In the eyes of the judging panel, she was the goalkeeper of the tournament, collecting her award just before her and her team-mates were awarded their silver medals.

And Jacob looked at the bigger picture of the impact the run to the final and winning a silver medal would have for the sport in Ireland.

“If a horse wins a race and whoever is second, they don’t talk about the margin they’ve been beaten by. At the end of the day Holland are first, Ireland are second Spain are third and it something to be so proud of,” she said.

Philip Reid

Philip Reid

Philip Reid is Golf Correspondent of The Irish Times