Hockey World Cup: Same root, different routes

A Few moments after the anthems played out in Bhubaneswar on Friday, all England players turned right for shaking hands with their Irish counterparts.

Published: 08th December 2018 06:07 AM  |   Last Updated: 08th December 2018 08:51 AM   |  A+A-

Express News Service

BHUBANESWAR: A Few moments after the anthems played out in Bhubaneswar on Friday, all England players turned right for shaking hands with their Irish counterparts. Ian Sloane and David Ames, who had previously belted out The Soldier’s Song with their fellow schemers, were now exchanging pleasantries with their former colleagues, friends and teammates after a rousing rendition of God Save The Queen. A third — Mark Gleghorne — also did the same. 

Having shifted his allegiance from Republic of Ireland to England in 2008 (he didn’t play till 2011 because of a mandatory three-year cooling-off period), Mark remained stone-hearted when he partook in the walk-through. He maintained the same protocol when he came face to face with No 26, who was named Paul. He didn’t show any sense of recognition, and his eyes didn’t betray the affection he still clearly holds for his brother. 

“Yeah, I do feel sorry for him,” Mark, who had scored the final goal to give England a deserved 4-2 win, said of his sibling. “Really disappointed for him. I don’t know how they have managed to go out. The World Cup always throws up funny results.”This, though, isn’t a story of two brothers who faced each other on one of the biggest stages this sport has to offer. It is rather a story of the struggles and tribulations they’ve put themselves through to get to where they are today.

This is Mark’s story, because he willingly sacrificed three years of his career to have a better chance of winning medals at Olympics and World Cup. Damn nationalism when you can get the chance to stand atop podiums and achieve fame. So, he left Ireland when he was 23, to begin what he hoped was a new, exciting chapter. He had even written the first page of this chapter: “playing for Great Britain in Olympics in front of home fans in London”. 

Fate threw a spanner into his best-laid plans. A series of recurring injuries — including one to his foot, sidelining him from October 2010 for a year — ensured he missed the bus. Considering he took the decision to switch after suffering the pain of losing with Ireland in the Olympic qualifiers four years ago, this was deja vu of sorts. “It was heart-breaking,” he had said during an interview at the time. 

Considering the fact that one of his aunts — Jackie McWilliams — won an Olympic bronze with Great Britain in 1992. Another, Margaret, is an Irish Hall of Famer. All that made it doubly hard for the 33-year-old; he had a responsibility to live up to legends in his family. A shoulder injury soon after the Olympic qualifiers for the 2008 Games sealed it for him. England was going to be his future.    

This is also Paul’s story; in some ways, he is even the protagonist. For a while, Mark battled injuries and on-field disappointments. But Paul had to fight past a completely different beast: depression. The 31-year-old made his debut for the Green Machines in 2009. But his love affair with the national team could have ended even before it began. As early as 2001, when he was just 14, insomnia, suicidal tendencies and self-harm kept Paul awake all the time. He knew it wasn’t normal.

But he had convinced his adolescent self that he could never ever talk about it with anyone because of how it would be perceived. “I would be seen as weak,” he told himself several times. He lived with it through school and college, and made his debut for the national team.      Considering the complexity of the issue, it’s remarkable to even imagine how the younger Gleghorne managed to excel — he already has the ninth-most appearances for Ireland — for more than five years that were riddled with very little sleep, absolutely no counselling and anxiety attacks. 

In fact, he used the sport to make his escape from a very dark place before taking it head on by seeking professional help for the first time in January 2014. To raise awareness about mental health, he even penned a blog titled “Mental Health Awareness.” On Friday night, the brothers, originally from Antrim in Northern Ireland, tried to outdo each other for 60 minutes. One triumphed over the other. Then again, there are no real losers here.  

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