Róisín Upton: "We're ranked eighth in the world and we're the only team who have never been to the Olympics before"
"We're ranked eighth in the world and we're the only team out of 12 who have never been to the Olympics before."
Never in her wildest dreams did Róisín Upton think she'd make it to a World Cup final - but she did.
In 2018, the Limerick hockey player was part of a squad who made it to the finals in London's Lee Valley Stadium. Head-to-head against the Netherlands, Team Ireland arrived home with a silver medal and the support of the entire country behind them.
At the time, the team were ranked 15 out of 16, but their performance on the pitch said otherwise.
"We were probably as stunned as anyone else," Róisín tells Her. "We knew we could perform but to get to the final, it was phenomenal. It was in London too, so people could get out to see us once the hype started to build. It was really great to be a part of."
The World Cup wasn't the end for Team Ireland. In fact, it was only the beginning. Since last year, they have been busy training for the upcoming Olympic Games in Tokyo.
An incredible feat for any athlete at the top of their game, Róisín's hopes were dashed in 2020 when the coronavirus pandemic led to the swift cancellation of the games. But after some intense training blocks and a few socially distanced drives up from Munster, she says the team are doing their utmost to be as prepared as possible.
"It was great to finally get out of the house and see the girls and do what we love and are so fortunate to do," she says. "But it was also strange, we were all limiting the social connections we have with each other.
"It has started to get a lot busier since January, we went over to Spain and then Team GB came to us in March, so we're getting in as many games as we can. It's not been without its bumps in the road though, it's been a strange year for everyone."
Team Ireland's performance in the World Cup heightened expectations, which Róisín says "is a funny thing. We're ranked eighth in the world and we're the only team out of 12 who have never been to the Olympics before.
"It's all so new to us, but teams are aware of us now, we've got a good profile from the success of the World Cup. But we're in a tough pool, you need to come top four to get into the quarter finals and then you're competing with the top teams in the world."
Support of women's sport in Ireland is on the increase, and yet the vast majority of coverage remains focused on the male game. Róisín says that for Team Ireland, the past few years has been all about profile building, something she is confident the team have been able to do.
"Even local GAA clubs are chatting about hockey and giving their opinions about what we should and shouldn't be doing," she jokes.
"We always wanted to build a profile. As a whole for women in sport, we're just a tiny part of that, but it's been great to see more media coverage and profiles of legends like Rachael Blackmore and Katie Taylor, athletes still at the top of their games.
"These are people we're not just hearing about once a year, we're seeing their journey, we're watching them compete. I think that's whats missing in women's sport is the continuous narratives, not just dropping in and out of interest. That's definitely improved over the past few years."
Irish women’s hockey player Róisín Upton at the launch of Circle K’s To Team Ireland initiative, giving the Irish public the chance to show off their creativity by drawing or writing a picture or message on a postcard in support of Team Ireland.
Pick up and return your postcard to your local Circle K for a chance to win some fantastic prizes. Find out more here.