Hockey: Nicci Daly ready to hit top gear for Tokyo 2021

by Stephen Findlater

With positive noises the Olympic Games will go ahead – with or without fans – hockey star Nicci Daly is grateful for the long lead-in time as she looks to potentially sign off a remarkable career on the biggest stage. 

When lockdown hit, the Loreto player was on the comeback trail after a number of niggles over the winter months. It meant a potential race against time for one of the Green Army’s most skillful players but the postponed Games meant the 32-year-old could look at a longer-term strategy to give her the best possible chance of selection. 

“Coming back after six months off, the key thing is getting the body used to being in a ‘hockey position’ again!” she told Dublin Gazette at the 20×20 Show Your Skills finale this week. 

“The break has been nice to rest and reassess. It seems to take a bit longer for me than others. I got through the last block [of training] well; I am not exactly where I want to be but I am happy with where I am going. It’s nice we do have this period of time before it really ramps up to gradually reach the levels I want. 

AIG and 20×20 today marked the conclusion of the AIG Show Skills competition, launching a highlights video celebrating some of the 3,000 spectacular entries received over the course of the competition. As a proud 20×20 ambassador, Irish hockey international, Nicci Daly was on hand to help launch the video. To view the video, please visit https://twitter.com/AIGIreland/status/1326479795107016706

“You spend your whole career waiting for an Olympic Games,” she added. “We waited a long time and it’s been a year since we’ve qualified. You’re looking forward to that moment. It was definitely tough to take at the time. 

“We didn’t really know what was going to happen. It was hard to stay motivated. But now that we’ve gotten some positive messages coming from the Olympic Federation and Japan, in the sense that they are preparing for an Olympics, Covid or no Covid. 

“As a player that’s getting a little bit older, I’d seen Tokyo as being the end for me. The training is tough. Sean [coach, Dancer] really emphasises a lot the physical side of the game and trying to run a lot with the ball, to be more of an attacking team.  

“Is my body going to be okay tomorrow? Will I be able to keep going with what’s being asked of me? Having that down time is nice.” 

That latest block of training has seen several high-octane inter-squad fixtures with a number of young faces freshening things up with Katie-Jane Marshall, Caoimhe Perdue, Michelle Carey, Sarah Patton and Sarah MacAuley involved in those encounters. 

It is an effort to replicate the club matches currently on hold and Daly welcomes seeing the new faces around even if it does mean another layer of competition to get into the final 16 for Tokyo. 

“The new players have given us a new impetus and a fresh approach, new playing styles and skillsets which is nice to have. They have come in an integrated well so the training environment has been really good.  

“It motivates everyone in the squad to do as well as they can. At the end of the day, we want the best squad going. If people can help push us on, it’s healthy. The young guns will certainly do that.” 

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