Ireland men's Olympic hockey heartbreak: Players gave up careers and relationships says coach Mark Tumilty

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Ireland hockey

Ireland men's hockey coach Mark Tumilty says players in his squad gave up careers and relationships to chase the dream of Olympic qualification controversially denied them on Sunday.

The Irish were one second away from qualifying for the Tokyo games when Canada were awarded a penalty stroke.

Canada converted and won the resulting shootout after a dramatic two-legged play-off in Vancouver.

"I look at the commitment some of the guys have given," said Tumilty.

"They have given up careers. Probably a lot of them have given up relationships. They have given up the potential to be on the property ladder to fulfil a dream of going to Tokyo."

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They think it’s all over! Ireland miss out on Olympics after penalty drama

Irish unable to speak to video umpire after game

Tumilty and the Northern Ireland-based members of his squad arrived back in Belfast on Monday evening some 24 hours after their crushing disappointment in Vancouver.

The long transatlantic flight did nothing to assuage the squad's anger about what had transpired in Sunday's extraordinary second leg.

After winning Saturday's opener 5-3, Ireland were already celebrating a 6-5 aggregate win when Canada asked for a video referral after Lee Cole's challenge on James Wallace inside the Irish circle.

Video umpire Diego Barbas astonished the Irish by awarding a penalty stroke, which Canada scored before prevailing in the subsequent shoot-out.

"I can't see how a penalty stroke was given. The umpire had blown the whistle. He had signalled that the game was over," added Tumilty, put in temporary charge of the Irish men for the Olympic play-off after the end of Alexander Cox's reign following relegation at the European Championships during the summer.

Tumilty told BBC Sport Northern Ireland that attempts to discuss the decision with Barbas after the game had proved unsuccessful.

"We had no communication with the third official which is disappointing.

"I would just like to know from him how he has come up with that decision. We probably will never find out."

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'The video umpire should hang his head in shame' - Ireland captain Jonathan Bell

FIH must comment further - captain Bell

Asked for a response to Sunday's controversy, the International Hockey Federation [FIH] released a one-line statement on Monday saying that umpires' decision are "final" and that the governing body does not "comment publicly" on them.

Ireland captain Jonathan Bell insists that is not an acceptable stance for the world governing body to take.

"Trust in the officials in fundamental to every sport. If the players have no trust in the officials, then the whole fabric of the sport is undermined," said Bell.

"The FIH has a duty to come out, whether it is an apology, a clarification or a route map on how they are going to put this right to ensure it doesn't happen again. Certainly I will be expecting something like that from the FIH."

It is being estimated that team's heartbreaking failure to qualify for the Olympics could cost Irish hockey up to a £1m in funding that would have come from both Sport Northern Ireland and their southern counterpart.

Undoubtedly, several members of the squad will not be around for another Olympic cycle as Paris 2024 approaches while it remains to be seen whether Tumilty will be appointed on a permanent basis.

"It has ramifications for the funding of our game, to enable us to try and be better prepared to try and qualify for Paris in 2024," said Tumilty.

"It's easy to say it's just a game. When you see what the guys have given up? I've given six weeks. Those guys have given a lot longer than that."

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