Sport

‘Fellas are putting their lives on hold for Olympic dream'

May 15th, 2016 7:00 PM

By Kieran McCarthy

Standing tall: Ireland captain David Harte, from Kinsale, pictured at the launch of Hockey Ireland's crowdfunding campaign in advance of the Rio Olympic Games. (Photo: Billy Stickland/INPHO)

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THE world’s best hockey goalkeeper admits he’s surprised that no major sponsor has come on board to support the Irish men’s hockey team ahead of August’s Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.

Kinsale’s David Harte – voted the number one hockey shot-stopper in the world earlier this year – is captain of the Irish team preparing for the Olympics, and while these are exciting times for all involved, the Green Machine’s preparations have been hit by a lack of funds.

Harte, his twin brother Conor and his teammates have embarked on a major fundraising drive as they look to raise the necessary €225,000 – their current shortfall in funding – which will be split between the programme designed for the build-up to Rio and to help the players who have to take time off work or study to train full-time ahead of the 2016 Olympics.

Only seven of the current 25-man Irish hockey panel are full-time players, including David (based in Rotterdam) and Conor (who plays his club hockey in Belgium), but other teammates are not in the same position.

‘I am in a lucky enough position where hockey is my career but some players have had to leave their jobs, some have had to take a sabbatical for a year, others have had to stop university and one of the lads has had to relocate from London back to Belfast to live with his parents to help him realise his dream of representing Ireland at the Olympic Games,’ former Bandon Grammar School student David Harte told The Southern Star.

‘Hardly any of the players are full-time bar seven of us. Other guys need to take time off full-time work, others are struggling to deal with their mortgages as they are taking time off work to concentrate on hockey – players are putting their lives on hold to realise their Olympic dream.

‘Everyone is going that extra length and doing over and beyond to make that 16-man squad that will be going to Rio to realise a lifelong dream. We are also starting full-time training soon in our build-up to the Olympics.’

Two players have already quit the Ireland panel as they can’t afford to take the time off needed to prepare for the Olympics, and Harte is hoping the their major fundraising campaign, Obssessed, will help raise vital funds for the first Irish team to qualify for an Olympics since London 1948. 

This fundraising campaign is well underway, and golf outings and a banquet dinner with Ireland rugby coach Joe Schmidt as the guest speaker are also planned – but David Harte admits it’s surprising that no major sponsor has come on board with this team to take advantage of the huge media exposure they will receive in the run-up to the Olympics.

‘We found out we qualified on October 25th so we are almost half a year in, and the real hype and build-up is drawing near as we get closer to August and the Olympics,’ he explained.

‘It is a surprise that a major corporate sponsor hasn’t shown interest so far. We are the only sporting team so far from Ireland to qualify for the Olympics – the first Irish team since 1948 to do so. You think that would have an influence on a potential sponsor, but not so at the minute – that’s why we have embarked on this fundraising campaign.’

Check out www.pledgesports.org/projects/obsessed/ for more details on this campaign to see how you can help the Green Machine on the road to Rio.

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