Women's Olympic hockey qualifier: Ireland captain Mullan hoping to 'create history'

Katie Mullan captained Ireland to the World Cup final in the summer of 2018
Katie Mullan captained Ireland to the World Cup final in the summer of 2018
Women's Olympic hockey qualifier: Ireland v Canada
Dates: Saturday 2 November & Sunday 3 November Times: 19:00 GMT and 19:10 GMT Venue: Donnybrook, Dublin
Coverage: Live video stream on the BBC Sport website from 18:50 BST on Saturday and 19:00 on Sunday

Ireland women's hockey captain Katie Mullan says creating history by qualifying for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games would be "extremely special".

Ireland play Canada in a two-legged qualifier at Donnybrook this weekend.

"To be the first Irish female team to qualify for the Olympics in any sport, you want to create history like that.

"We've seen the influence our success at the World Cup last year has had on the sport and beyond that on female sport in Ireland," said Mullan.

Ireland fell agonisingly short of making the 2016 Rio Games but put together an incredible run to reach the World Cup final in July 2018.

Crowd can give Ireland 'extra boost'

The Ballymoney native believes the backing of a sizeable crowd in the region of 6,000 people at the Dublin venue on Saturday and Sunday evenings will help give the Ireland side the momentum they need to make history.

"We want to back up what we did last summer and one thing that we all felt came out of the World Cup was we felt we had an extra player on the pitch because of the crowd and the sea of green around the stadium.

"We know we're going to have that this weekend with the number of people who have bought tickets to come and watch us.

"We don't see that as an extra added pressure - we see that as a calming thing, something that gives us an extra boost."

Mullan admits that there has been a "nervous energy" in the Ireland camp in the week leading up to the matches but again thinks that can be used to the squad's advantage.

"It's about managing that and leaning on each other to manage that. It brings us that wee bit closer together - that's the special thing about this group of players," explained the 25-year-old forward.

"We must stick to our plan that Sean [Dancer, Ireland coach] has put in place and execute the tactics he wants to play.

"We will also be leaning on all our past experiences - relying on what we have done in the past and how that can stand to us, picking up on the lessons we have learned along the way.

"We have a very experienced team, the average number of caps in our team is quite high."

'We have to forget what we're playing for a little bit'

Shirley McCay will reach a special milestone on Saturday when she wins her 300th cap for Ireland but Mullan says the younger players in the squad also have a big part to play if the squad is to progress to Tokyo.

"It will be a special day for Shirley but she is more than aware that's not the big reason we are playing this weekend. She has said that herself.

"The younger players who have earned their places in the team will bring a new level of excitement and something different to the squad.

"It's 120 minutes of hockey and we have to forget what we're playing for a little bit and go out and trust in our training and the processes we have put in place - just play hockey, play with freedom and enjoy it."

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