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Clare hockey star’s scenic route to the Tokyo Games

NAOMI Carroll’s journey to Tokyo has been anything but straightforward.
The Cratloe woman has endured difficult times from missing out on a place in the Irish women’s hockey squad for the 2018 Women’s Hockey World Cup, tearing her anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) and then when she finally did get back to full fitness, the pandemic decimated the hockey calendar.
She persevered and has now earned a spot in the Olympic squad. The Clare woman endured a 37 hour flight to Japan, but despite all the travelling, is in high spirits. After the pain of recent years, she knows all about long journeys.
“Because our protocols have been so good, myself and my body feels really good. I haven’t been suffering with jet lag too badly. We arrived into Tokyo and spent just over three hours there. We had to get a COVID test, get through customs and immigration and then get on a bus. It was a seven and a half hour bus journey to Iwate (a small area on the north east coast of Japan).”
She says the locals have welcomed the team with open arms.
“The people have just been incredible. When we arrived it was 6.30 in the morning and there were people out waving banners and flags. It was the same when we got to the pitch and we had a tree planting ceremony. They performed a dance for us, like a local heritage dance.”
It has been less than a month since the Clare native discovered she was called up to the Irish women’s hockey squad with this achievement just beginning to sink in. Carroll received a large send-off last week as she prepared to leave for Tokyo.

“When we were leaving and going to Dublin airport, all of my club hockey team (Catholic Institute) came out. My family were there and my friends were too so I got to see them before I was going.
“It began to sink in how big this actually is and then we arrived in Iwate after 37 hours so we are starting to see it sink in.”
It (the send off) was absolutely incredible and not something I was expecting at all. Myself and Roisin Upton were travelling together in our meeting point and then we saw a huge amount of cars. We had everyone wishing us all the best.
“The good luck cards and messages wishing us the best mean a lot. Each time it’s giving you that bit of a buzz that you are off to Tokyo.”
Ireland are in a group of six teams with the top four reaching the quarter finals. They start their campaign against South Africa on Saturday July 24.
Carroll believes the squad are in excellent shape heading in to the Games as she aims to do her parents Fintan and Margaret, Cratloe and Clare proud on the world stage.
“It is absolutely huge to be representing Cratloe and I’ve been so lucky to be part of a number of teams in Clare. I’m so lucky with all the support.”
“I’m just really excited for it and I think it’s brilliant as well for my family. As I’ve mentioned they’ve been incredibly good to me with everything that’s gone well and things that haven’t gone so well. Through all the ups and all the downs they’ve been there for me.”

by Ivan Smyth

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