Limerick's Roisin Upton in action for Ireland in their World Cup fixture with India in London
HOCKEY World Cup silver medallist Roisin Upton is due to begin Irish college in Spiddal on Sunday, August 19 – but will put her departure Connemara back a day to attend Limerick’s mammoth All-Ireland hurling final showdown at Croke Park – should she manage to secure a ticket.
Upton played a starring role in Ireland’s historic march to the Women’s World Cup Hockey final in London last weekend when her brave side only succumbed to eight time winners the Netherlands.
The Irish women went into the prestigious tournament held at Lee Valley Hockey and Tennis Centre, Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, with the second lowest ranking, but with 24-year-old Raheen women Upton playing a key role, the Green Army topped their pool before seeing off both India – when the Limerick woman netted a crucial penalty – and Spain in penalty shoot-outs to reach the decider.
Along the way, the Irish team captured the hearts of the nation’s sporting public and have been showered with congratulations this week.
Roisin Upton said: “Getting to just compete against the best in the world and figure out how good you are I think that was just huge excitement for us before the final.
“We were getting so many messages from sports fans outside of hockey at home, saying 'ye can do this, ye can go all the way'. In some ways we were thinking some people don't realise how good the Dutch are.
“But I was disappointed with the 6-0. I think some of their goals we could have defended better.
“After full-time in Sunday’s final we quickly just went into the tunnel, took a quick breath and said 'let's just enjoy this moment again. We couldn't believe it.’
“For many people back home watching, you could see how good the Dutch are. They are all full-time, all professionals. Their player of the tournament is sponsored by Jaguar and gets a new car every six months or every year. That is the culture there, it's football and hockey.”
An untimely hamstring injury picked up a month before the World Cup began left former Catholic Institute player and Crescent College Comprehensive student Upton fearing the worst.
“About four weeks before the tournament in the warm-up for one of the games, I pulled up, I picked up a hamstring tear.
“I thought it would take about two weeks to clear up, but it did not go my way. I had one week where it felt brilliant and then there was a problem. We were flying out to London for the World Cup on a Tuesday morning and I had to get the last phase of my back-to-play done.
“I came home Sunday and I couldn’t do it. I was out on the Comp pitch, went up and down three times with my Dad and it just didn’t really feel great. I was panicking.
“Gone are the days when you can lie to the physio and say it ‘feels fine’ and over the next few days it might have felt better. I had a GPS unit on and I knew I would have to upload it on-line, so I was panicking.
“I let it settle for a day and the next day I went out and did it through a little discomfort. I was worried I may not be alright.
“We had a warm-up match against South Africa on the Thursday before the World Cup started and I played the first half of the game. I cut it tight, but got there in the end, thank God.”
Live TV coverage on RTE, as well as blanket coverage in newspapers, on radio and social media platforms provided hockey with a massive boost in profile in recent weeks.
An announcement by Sports Minister Shane Ross that there would be an extra €1.5million for teams preparing for the Olympic Games in Tokyo in 2020, including hockey, has been warmly welcomed.
Roisin Upton said: “It is brilliant to get the funding. Hopefully it will mean that we can have more contact hours together. When we looked at what the schedule would be after the World Cup it was very vague.
“Now potentially there may be more contact hours in November and December. Funding will be massive in terms of getting us together again.
“The other huge thing that we really need is an international stadium.”
Former Mungret-St Paul’s GAA player Upton added: “I have to go to Irish College to Spiddal for two weeks later this month, then it’s back into Mary I where I’m doing a Masters for primary school teaching.
"I am yet to get my hand on a ticket for the All-Ireland hurling final. I would love to be there. I am going to Irish College on August 19, but I wouldn't miss the hurling final."