July 31, 2021

By Daniel Leussink

TOKYO (Reuters) – Debutants Ireland took an emotional hit on Saturday after exiting the women’s hockey tournament at the Tokyo Games following a 2-0 defeat by Britain, despite giving all they had in their five Olympic matches.

“I’m devastated. I’m so proud of the girls and all the effort they put in,” said a sobbing goalkeeper Ayeisha McFerran.

“I can’t fault it and I’m proud to pull on the green jersey. I’m devastated our journey has to end now as this group.

“I believe we have so much more but yeah, it’s tough right now.”

Ireland needed a win to make it into the knockout stages.

Before Tokyo, Ireland had never qualified for the women’s Olympics hockey tournament, which was added to the Games schedule in 1980.

The Green Army had narrowly missed out on qualifying for both the 2012 and 2016 Games.

A disappointed head coach Sean Dancer said the team needed to keep moving forward.

“It is what it is,” he said.

Veteran Chloe Watkins also said it was hard to take everything in.

“We obviously wanted more from this tournament,” she said.

“But at the end of the day – hopefully in a few days, a few weeks – we look back and realise what we did.

“We’re here at the Olympic Games. That’s a monumental achievement for us as a nation and as players individually.”

McFerran said she did not know what to expect when the team arrives back home.

“I haven’t even thought that far ahead. I didn’t think of finishing this soon,” she said with a laugh.

“I know family and friends are going to be super-proud of us. The hockey in Ireland I hope will still be on the bandwagon.”

(Reporting by Daniel Leussink, editing by Pritha Sarkar)