SHOULD Irish hockey player Shirley McCay decide to write her autobiography at some point in the future there’ll be no shortage of relevant material or career highlights to be documented.
Yet there is one or two hugely-important chapters of the Drumquin woman’s remarkable story still to be written. This weekend McCay and her Irish team-mates have a glorious opportunity to qualify for the Olympics Games for the first time ever as they face Canada in a winner-takes-all two-legged play-off at Dublin’s Donnybrook Stadium.
And if that wasn’t significant enough the first of those defining deciders will see the former Omagh Academy Schools’ Cup winner win her 300th cap.
Already the most capped female athlete in Irish sport, McCay is looking forward to the seminal showdown with the Canadians.
“It seems to have taken so long to get here that we just want to get on with it at this stage,” she said.
“We were in Germany last week playing Korea and Belgium in warm-up games with mixed results. It’s always good to play tough teams and learn from it.
“It was a good couple of weeks preparation and we are just itching to getting going now.
“We are favourites to win the play-off. Home advantage has been key in all the qualification matches in the last couple of weekends.
“The home team has won every one, so yeah its good to have that home advantage.We’re hoping for a good crowd and for that crowd to make a bit of noise. We can’t wait.
“I don’t think they’ll be any complacency. Canada are a team on the rise, they have beaten teams ranked well above them in recent months, this is their do or die and we know we are in for a fight.
“We have touched on the fact of what it would mean to play in the Olympics, we can’t ignore the elephant in the room. But it’s just been one step at a time for us, Sean (Dancer – the Irish coach) has said qualification is just another step on the ladder and he has emphasised that our ambitions should be top six and medalling at the Games.
“There is no reason we can’t look beyond qualifying and in a way this weekend is just another step along that journey.”
McCay, 31, has achieved everything in the game except playing at the Olympics and was a key member of the Irish team which against all the odds reached the final of the World Cup in London last year.
It’s been an incredible journey for the 31-year-old who will surely hang up her hockey stick should Ireland qualify for Japan 2020.
However this weekend is her only focus and the fact the Ulster Hockey coach is set to reach the milestone of 300 caps, while significant, seems of secondary importance.
“Saturday, touch wood, is 300. That’ll be interesting,” she continued.
“Last week’s games were supposed to be capped but they were played behind closed doors and away from the cameras so in the end they weren’t capped.
“So it’s going to be this weekend instead and I suppose there is no better time.
“My mum is buzzing that it didn’t happen in Germany and it’s going to be on home soil!”