Banbridge’s Eugene Magee wants to exorcise a few demons, starting in San Diego this weekend.
The skipper is off, along with Bann team-mates Drew Carlisle, Bruce McCandless and Stevie Dowds, to begin Ireland’s quest for a place in the Olympics.
Firing him on are the fresh memories of 2012, when South Korea struck in the closing seconds to deny the Green Machine a place in London’s Games.
“I still have that qualifier flying through my head,” he told the ‘LEADER.’
“We got to the final and lost out in the last seven seconds to Korea. Had we beaten them, we would have been into the Olympics already. That match has haunted our dreams for four years now.”
The squad flew to America at the weekend to begin preparations for the World League Two tournament, which they begin on Friday by taking on Chile in their Pool A opener.
After that, Ireland face Austria on Sunday and Italy on Tuesday before going on to the knock-out stages. They must finish in the top three to progress to World League Three in June and keep up their bid for a place in the Olympics. Any slip-ups, and more nightmares await Eugene and his Ireland team-mates.
“We have to get through this tournament and then we’ll go one step closer,” Eugene explained. “The overall aim is to get to Rio but this competition is crucial. If we don’t make it through, our chances of getting through to the Olympics are over.
“Then it would be another four years until our next chance and who knows how many guys will have retired by then. This might even be my last chance to get there.”
Eugene was oh so close to fulfilling his Olympic ambition last time out, when Ireland hosted the qualification tournament.
They made it all the way to the final and were ahead twice thanks to Peter Caruth and Timmy Cockram. However, South Korea came back and snatched the win in the closing seconds.
This time, Eugene is confident the new squad have what it takes to make up for that crushing defeat.
“I think we have a good team,” he said. “It’s relatively young but the guys are all decent players.
“We have a solid, experienced back line. Kirk Shimmonds is in the squad and he has played very well. I’m fairly experienced now as well.
“Up front, we have young Shane O’Donaghue, who is playing very well and now Stevie Dowds has made his way into the squad for a major tournament, which is great for him. He’s very deserving of his spot.”
Ireland’s most capped player, Eugene will be helping Stevie and his other two Bann team-mates to adapt to an major international setting.
“Drew has worked hard all year and has earned his place,” he said. “Bruce is a very solid player for Ireland. It’s great to have those boys in the squad and it will be nice to bring our experiences back to help Bann, especially because we’re still in the running for the five trophies.
“I just hope we can achieve something out of the trip. We had one poor match against France recently so we need to learn from those mistakes. Our training camp in South Africa was helpful too. Playing against the likes of Holland Belgium gives us something to shoot for.
“We’ll have to play well out there though. We have been perceived as a smaller country before and we have made moves forward so sometimes you don’t really know what to expect against these sides.”