Boom-Boom-Boom, let’s hear it for A y-o and all the Green Ma­chine

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

The Irish Times - - The Best Of Times Women's Hockey World Cup 2018 - Philip Reid

‘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.

Heart-thump­ing

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.

‘Won­der­ful fairy­tale’

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.”

No-holds barred

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.

‘‘

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”

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