Lizzie Colvin hopes to summon the spirit of Parana when the Irish women travel to Antwerp in March for their Olympic qualifying tournament.
The remote Argentinean town was the venue for Ireland’s best performance of recent times, played out in front of huge, vocal crowd, as they came within minutes of toppling the reigning world champions.
Performances of that ilk – as well as strong showings against the likes of South Africa, India and Belgium recently – have created a buzz and the bubbly Colvin believes the Parana experience has given the side a hunger for an Olympic place and more dates on the big stage.
“For the majority of the girls, it was the most exciting game they played in their lives. The crowds were unbelievable.
“You might think [a crowd like that] would make you more nervous but we really fed off the crowd. They weren’t just cheering for Argentina but seemed just up for a really good game. The energy, the style of play; we got a really good taste of what it could be like and all the girls want to re-live that.
“It was unfortunate that we did concede the goal five minutes from the end but it was one of the best performances we have put in against one of the best sides in the world.
“After Argentina, there was a real buzz in the team as we put in so many good performances for quite a young and inexperienced side. In South Africa [in January], we were quite disappointed with some of the results but we came away with a lot of lessons.”
Among the most crucial lessons were how to deal with Belgium. The lowlanders had the better of Gene Muller’s side in last August’s Europeans and are one of the main threats for a final place at the OQT in March.
As such, it was an eye-opening notion to play them three times in Randburg but Colvin says that the couple of draws garnered have acted as part of the healing process after the rough time endured in Monchengladbach.
“It was good to play the Belgians and shake off any of the baggage we might have had from the Europeans so it was positive feedback.
“Before we played Belgium, we were all a bit nervous because we didn’t know if our backlash would come off but we are all quite relieved we did get to play them and get rid of any emotions we had from that day.
“We learned so much from playing against them. Now, we’re excited about meeting them in the OQT because we know we can beat them. It was close in those matches but we just have to go out and score the goals on the day.”
Looking at the tournament as a whole, Colvin approaches the tournament as “a really exciting opportunity” to fulfil a lifetime ambition, one forged in the Orchard county.
There, she was part of the incredible rise of Armagh hockey club where she took up the game as a seven year-old. Playing with the likes of Emma Stewart, Amy Stewart and Steph Quinn – all of whom became teenage senior internationals – she helped the club to a string of promotions.
They reached the upper echelons of the Ulster Premier League before studies brought her to Trinity College and a hook-up with Loreto having already made her Irish debut.
An Electric Ireland Irish Hockey League and Electric Ireland Irish Senior Cup title ensued but she now has her eyes on reaching the international showpiece, a desire forged from watching the classic ties on television, picking out the Netherlands-China final from Beijing 2008 as the one to stand out in her mind.
She says that apart from hosts Belgium, Spain are the team that stand out as the major roadblock to fulfilling her dream.
“We drew 1-1 with Spain in the Champions Challenge and know we can do it and have the ability to beat them so we are going in quite confident.
“I’ve always watched hockey at the Olympics and it’s always been my dream. Being in the squad for four years, this is the year we can actually believe we will be there. We’ve put in good performances, had a taste of victory against some good sides. It makes the dream more real that we can get there. I have complete faith we can do it.”
You can follow the fortunes of the Irish side here on SportsNewsIreland throughout the event.
And …. Finally ….. a reminder that Ireland will host the Electric Ireland FIH Road To London tournament in UCD, Dublin from the 10th – 18th March 2012. This is a great opportunity for fans of Irish hockey to get behind the Green Machine and support them all the way to the London 2012 Olympics. Tickets on sale now for more information go to www.hockey.ie or email email@example.com or call 01 7163262.