Ireland's women's hockey team is not your average top tier team.
Unlike their peers, the Irish women are all semi-professional players with day jobs. Which makes their accomplishments in recent years even more impressive as captain Katie Mullan shares exclusively with Olympic Channel.
Mullan and her teammates have qualified for their nation's first ever Olympics and the 26-year-old has set high targets for herself and the squad at the upcoming Games in Tokyo.
"Having won the World Cup silver medal at the last major tournament, we have to set our goals on winning an Olympic medal." - Katie Mullan
Fighting the Covid pandemic
Unlike most elite athletes, Mullan along with her teammates all hold jobs around their training routine.
Mullan works as a medical visualisation engineer in a company that prints 3D anatomical models for surgeons to help them with complex case surgeries.
However, when training came to a halt earlier this year, it gave Mullan the opportunity to put in more hours at her day job and to play a part in the fight against the spread of the Covid virus.
During lockdown she shared how she was helping to "produce lots of PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) to help the healthcare and hospital industry with preparing for the influx of patients due to Covid."
"It was nice to be involved in the frontline and see results. We were working long, long hours... but it was it was brilliant experience." - Katie Mullan
Winning World Cup silver
Ireland's women's hockey team had never won any major international silverware before 2018.
Prior to that the squad had only finished as high as 11th place at the 1996 World Cup.
The 2018 edition saw the 16th-ranked team enjoy a dream run in the tournament, that earned them a spot in the final. Although they eventually lost to the top-ranked Netherlands in the final, they managed to clinch their maiden medal at an international event
"We took the World Cup by storm. And I think we shocked everybody, including ourselves in the very end. We really believed we could do something special and a World Cup silver medal is definitely that." - Katie Mullan
It was a huge result for the small hockey nation, which Mullan attributes to not only the players out on the field, but also those who had played before them, adding " for a number of years, there has been decades of players that have represented Ireland and sacrifice ten, twelve years of their life to play for Ireland. And it was as much about those players that had paved the way for us to have the opportunity to go and do it, as it was about us that day. So it was a huge celebration for hockey in Ireland."
A repeat at the Olympics
As a result of their success, the team have moved up to eight in the world rankings, the highest they've ever been.
While there have been changed to the squad, the captain is aiming to finish above their world ranking and sees no reason why they shouldn't set their sights on a podium finish in Japan.
" It would be silly of us not to have that goal having come off the back of winning a World Cup silver medal." - Katie Mullan