We're currently enjoying a Charlton Years-esque era for Irish men's hockey. Last year, they qualified for the Olympics in Rio, the first Irish team to do so since 1908, and yesterday, the followed that up with another huge qualification.
They qualified for the next year's World Cup for the first time in 28 years yesterday, but the journey hasn't been without its drama.
Craig Fulton's side found themselves in a fifth place play-off after a string of defeats during their World League campaign. The 'Green Machine' was showing a little rust after back-to-back losses to Germany and Spain.
The wheels threatened to come off entirely until a dramatic penalty shoot-out victory over the French kept their dreams of World Cup qualification alive. That win got them into the playoff game against New Zealand for qualification.
— Hockey Ireland (@irishhockey) July 22, 2017
Fulton had a Alan Sothern to thank, his solo goal was enough to secure a slender 1-0 victory over New Zealand to earn their spot in next year's showpiece in India. Speaking after the game, Fulton expressed his relief at the result.
It was a tight game and it could have gone either way. It was a win built on character and defence basically won us that game. We wanted to come away with qualification and that's really pleasing from tonight, it was a great squad effort.
— International Hockey Federation (@FIH_Hockey) July 22, 2017
Irish captain Jon Bell echoed these sentiments, insisting World Cup qualification was Ireland's main goal heading into the competition.
We're over the moon. The shift the guys put in was absolutely fantastic. It wasn't our prettiest hockey, but that doesn't matter because we're through to the World Cup. Delighted.
We were bitterly disappointed to lose the quarter-final to Spain, it was a game that we thought we had a lot of chances. To get this performance is a testament to the character and the belief within the squad.
The victory is particularly sweet for the Irish contingent who have had their fair share of disappointments in recent years.
In 2012, Ireland missed out on qualification to the Olympic Games in London after a last minute deflected goal saw them lose 3-2 to South Korea in Belfield. They also missed out on qualification for the World Cup in 2010 in New Dehli.
Their achievement marks a wondrous turnaround under head coach Fulton. The team became the first outfit to represent Irish hockey at the Olympics since 1908 last summer in Rio and were the first Irish team of any description to qualify for the Games since 1948.