SANDYFORD man Mitch Darling has announced his retirement from the men’s international hockey team following a glittering career, highlighted by a European bronze medal and being part of both the ground-breaking Olympic and World Cup squads.
The diminutive striker made his debut in 2006 just after his 18th birthday, a time widely viewed as the year zero for the men’s rise from outside the world’s top 20 to reaching the top 10 with vastly improved structures introduced.
Darling went on to earn 183 caps, scoring 51 times, perhaps the pick of them a blockbuster reverse strike in Rio in 2016 against Germany.
His final cap came in the World Cup in India in December against England, the Green Machine’s first appearance on this stage since 1990.
“When I got my first cap in 2006 I could never have dreamed reaching the heights we did,” he said of his retirement. “I am definitely privileged to have played with some of the best players to ever wear a green shirt.
“Being involved in such a special era holds some amazing memories and undoubtedly the biggest career defining moment was the Rio Olympics, an experience to be cherished forever.”
He is the fourth of the Olympians to formally retire following John Jermyn, Clonskeagh man Ronan Gormley and Michael Watt.
His path to the national team began at Three Rock Rovers Hockey Club and Wesley College, winning All-Ireland titles with both before going on to play professionally in Belgium and Holland with KHC Leuven, SCHC, Den Bosch and HC Rotterdam.
His return to Rovers has coincided with two EY Champions Trophy titles in succession as well as two Irish Senior Cup wins – their first wins in that competition since the 1970s.
“I want to thank the coaches who contributed significantly to my development during the early years from Wesley College and Three Rock Rovers. I’m eternally grateful to the Irish support staff and management, both past and present, who went above and beyond to help us perform on the pitch.
“As a player I think I really flourished under the tutelage of Paul Revington and Craig Fulton; incredible men and detailed coaches that revolutionised both the game and the players in Ireland.”
Irish coach Alexander Cox – who took on the job in August 2018 – paid tribute to Darling for his efforts in recent times with the panel, juggling full-time work and elite sport to be part of the recent World Cup.
“I want to congratulate Mitch on an amazing international career with The Green Machine. He has had an important influence on the successes that the team has enjoyed over the last 10 years.
“Not only because of his outstanding qualities as a player but also as a great person in the group, we will miss him.
“As a new chapter in his life starts, I wish him all the best with his family and professional career”.