David Harte on Olympic Qualification for the Men’s Hockey Team

“It was a phenomenal feeling and something I won’t forget for a long time, hearing the final hooter sound on that Sunday in Valencia”

As the dust settles on the successful Olympic qualification berth won by Team Ireland’s men’s hockey team at the Olympic qualification tournament last week, goalkeeper David Harte, who is also a member of the Olympic Federation of Ireland’s Athletes’ Commission, reflects on a really special moment for the team.

The bitter-sweet tournament saw both the men’s and women’s team progress impressively through the tournament to the last four, with three Olympic spots up for grabs. In the final opportunity, while the hugely determined women’s team fell on the wrong side of qualification after a brilliant tournament, the phenomenal men’s side qualified with an emphatic win over Korea in the third/fourth play-off.

The men’s team turned the tables on their disappointment from missing out on qualification for the Tokyo Olympics just over four years ago, which made it all the sweeter,

“It just was representative of where we’ve come from, definitely low points that we had four years before that in Vancouver and also other near misses along the way like missing out on World Cup qualification. Finally we could get the job done. It was a phenomenal feeling and something I won’t forget for a long time, hearing the final hooter sound on that Sunday in Valencia.”

Going into the tournament, only three teams out of eight would qualify through. Team Ireland was initially seeded towards the bottom of the rankings, with a hunger and knowledge that the Paris ticket was within their reach. Progressing through the pool, they faced Spain in the semi-finals, who beat them for a place in the final, with the backing of their home crowd in Valencia. The final opportunity for them to qualify came down to the third/fourth play-off with Korea.

“Whenever there’s an Olympic ticket or Olympic place, spot, whatever you want to call it, on the line you know what it means it’s the biggest one that there is for an athlete and in any sport so of course there was pressure but it was all down to what you did with that pressure. We approached the game wanting to just go out and attack Korea from the first whistle and that’s what we did. We played a bit more freely than we did in the semi-final against Spain knowing that Korea weren’t of a similar standard, that they were definitely there for the taking. We all had a look at ourselves before that game realising that man for man we were a better side than Korea and it was about how we came out that day and we came out all guns blazing. We saw that in the in the final score. I think we went two up at one stage, and were constantly leading throughout the game. It was a phenomenal feeling getting the 4-3 victory and qualifying through.”

Harte is one of the most experienced players in the team, having competed in the Rio Olympics, was named World Goalkeeper of the year twice, and has been a member of the Olympic Federation of Ireland’s Athletes’ Commission since 2017. Speaking about the experience that he was able to share with the team, he said,

“Having had that Rio experience and of course being involved in the Athletes’ Commission for many years, I suppose what I was trying to do was, for myself as well, to instil a lot of belief in the group. I think also being able to think clearly under pressure from a personal side of things . I was happy with my clarity of thought in big moments to ask for video referrals in that Korea game, and also in the all-important pool game against Japan. As there was a stroke given against us and I was 100% sure that I’d been behind the player on the line and that had to be a short corner and not a penalty stroke. We got the rub of the green that time when it came to video referrals you know when we look back and how hard to be where 4-5 years ago.


“An Olympic spot! You know it does give you goosebumps even just saying it out loud that you’ve qualified for the Olympic Games and the message try and get across to the others, together with the likes of Shane had been there before and Michael Robson who was there in Rio as a reserve. This is the pinnacle of every athlete’s athletic journey and it’s definitely not to be underestimated and at the same time also not to be feared.

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