"The guys have done Ireland proud" - Ireland hockey coach Craig Fulton praises his side's efforts after Olympic exit

Fulton says he was extremely proud of his side but also expressed disappointment after the result

"The guys have done Ireland proud" - Ireland hockey coach Craig Fulton praises his side's efforts after Olympic exit

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Irish men's hockey manager Craig Fulton found it difficult to hide his disappointment after Ireland' Olympic dream finished last night with defeat against Argentina.

The South Americans ran out 3-2 winners, handing Ireland their fourth loss of the Games. 

"Extremely disappointed to be honest. I think we played well tonight," he told reporters after the match. "We had the game plan and we stuck to our guns. They are a very good team, don't get me wrong. 

"[Argentina] will probably go on and medal in one way, shape or form. They're a good team and I think when we're scored our second goal to go 2-2 and then conceded within a minute and a half, that was a tough one to take.

"Overall, I hope we've raised the profile of Irish hockey, especially in Ireland. This team has sacrificed to get to this point and perform at this level. It's a big stage to perform. The guys have done Ireland proud."

John Jackson dejected after last night's defeat. Image: ©INPHO/James Crombie 

Ireland men's hockey team acknowledge the crowd that came out to support them after full time. Image: ©INPHO/James Crombie 

Fulton dismissed the idea that the occasion may have got to the team, stating that it was difficult to shut out external factors in a game of such magnitude.

"It was going to do that anyway. The dream of winning a medal and being in a quarter-final is alive every minute that you're playing. That's what this tournament does, ti's like nothing else. You can't explain that to anyone. You can't tell them what it's going to be like. They have to go through it and only once they leave this environment they'll look back and realise where they were and what was at stake. That's a good thing because then you'll hopefully have the team back to qualify for Tokyo.

"It's bigger than everything but at the same time you want it to be bigger than everything because it is. It's the pinnacle of our sport because it's an amateur sport.

"Not taking anything away from tonight, tonight was about playing the game and not just for the occasion. We had to come out and win. At least we had something to play for. We did well beating Canada yesterday and tonight we just came up short."

Shane O’Donoghue celebrates scoring his sides second goal with Kyle Good, Eugene Magee and Chris Cargo. Image: ©INPHO/James Crombie 

"To be fair I think that we can rewrite the structure for team sport  with the government, it could be amazing. We'd like to plan the next four years and how we could go about this, because there's something here. There's definitely something here. 

"If we haven't inspired another group of hockey players back home, I don't know what will. I don't know what's going on back home but I know the guys have done the country proud. We hope that we can put structures in place to get them onto a decent training and strength and conditioning programmes. We want to keep it sustainable.

"We've only got two or three guys over 30. There's nine guys over 30 in that Argentinian team, 32 to 37. That's another two cycles. So if we can get these structures in place and have some sort of partnership to keep them playing two years out from the Olympics, they could go a long way."