When the boat came in

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

There were sev­eral things off the pitch that fa­cil­i­tated the Ire­land team’s suc­cess on the pitch and was one of those could be de­scribed in loose terms un­der the heading “when the boat comes in” – not the mid-1970s BBC pe­riod drama but the in­tro­duc­tion of for­mer Ire­land rugby in­ter­na­tional Gary “Boat” Long­well.

A Euro­pean Cup win­ner with Ul­ster (1999), the sec­ondrow won 26 caps for Ire­land from 2000-2004 and dur­ing that ca­reer once asked to have his badly bro­ken lit­tle fin­ger am­pu­tated so he wouldn’t miss out on an Ir­ish game. His re­quest was turned down.

He went on to be­come high per­for­mance di­rec­tor with the Ul­ster rugby academy, then move to Sport North­ern Ire­land while do­ing a Mas­ters in Sports Psy­chol­ogy, and it was for the lat­ter that he was in­vited to work with the hockey play­ers. He re­called: “I’ve learned a lot more from them than they have from me, how to get men­tally ready for games and how to re­lax. “I just ob­served, looked for trends, looked for lit­tle things. They are all high fliers in their work life but have this in­cred­i­ble ded­i­ca­tion to their sport.

“It was im­por­tant that they en­joy this ex­pe­ri­ence. They didn’t let that pass them by. They rel­ished it. Bot­tom line what you had was a re­ally spe­cial group. They were al­most the last to re­alise it.”

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