Clifton College's Assistant Director of Hockey and Ireland National Hockey team player, Stuart Loughrey, speaks about his time at the Hockey World Cup.
The start of the World Cup program began in back in September with fitness testing at the institute of sport. It was at this camp that the Hockey squad of 27 were introduced to our new coaching team. It was great to a have a fresh face in the set up who wanted to bring new elements to the way we play in an exciting phase.
Our program consisted of weekly Monday and Tuesday camps in Holland (Kampong and Papendal). This was a central location for the team as many of the lads were playing professionally in Holland, Belgium and Germany. Training in Holland also provided us with the opportunity to train against the Dutch.
The camps were a big ask for the 27-man squad, with many of us working full time jobs. However, thankfully everyone negotiated time off with their employers. Personally, I cannot thank Clifton College enough for the amazing support they have given me over the past two years.
The weeks went by quickly, training camp, work, Reading hockey then back to the airport, and before I knew, it was November. The Four Nations in Valencia provided vital match practice against some of the top sides in the world (Spain, Holland and England). There were lots of positives to build upon going forward and to be selected for the World Cup was a huge honour.
The first game in the tournament was by far the best atmosphere I have ever experienced in my career to date. Playing in front of a full house of 15,000 against the number one team in the world in your first game was the stuff of dreams. The game could have gone either way and, unfortunately, we ended up the wrong side of the result by losing 2.1.
The game against China was a frustrating one. Having dominated possession and created numerous goal scoring opportunities, we only managed a 1.1 draw. It was a bitter pill to swallow, being higher ranked (which is unusual for Ireland) we pride ourselves on grinding out results, but unfortunately it wasn’t meant to be. The result meant that going into our final game against England a draw would be enough to go through to the knockouts.
Playing England is always a physical game. In the first half, England seemed to have the lions share of possession and opportunities. However, in the second half, the game came to life and we started to build connections and create more goal scoring opportunities. When we brought the game back to 2.2 I felt confident we could see the game out. However, in those crucial minutes following the goal, one lapse in concentration proved costly. Our World Cup was over....
Looking back, the China game clearly played the biggest role in our early exit. It very frustrating because we knew were capable of going further in the tournament. After a week or so when back at work, I was able to appreciate the enormity of whole experience. I consider myself very grateful to have played in one of the pinnacle tournaments in any hockey player's career.
I am extremely proud to have represented Ireland in a world cup. The atmosphere in the stadium was something I will never forget and I will always look back at my time with fond memories. I look forward to reminiscing about it with the lads in 20 years time over a few beers...