National commercial property advisers Matthews & Goodman could soon count an Olympic athlete amongst their staff members.
Michael Watt, a graduate surveyor at the firm's City office, is currently training with the Irish Hockey team in the run up to the Olympic games in Rio de Janeiro. The team, who discovered they had qualified last November, will be the first Irish hockey team to compete at an Olympics since 1908 and the first team of any sport to represent Ireland at an Olympic games since 1948.
Matthews & Goodman are supporting Michael during his sabbatical which will run until the games take place in August. Last month, the team went on tour in South Africa where they were subjected to a rigorous daily schedule of training, team meetings and matches against Canada, South Africa, Spain and Belgium. Currently the team are spending four days a week in Dublin and the remaining three in Belfast and will move to Cork on 1st May for three months before travelling to South America.
Michael’s love of hockey started at just four years old when used to watch his Mum, who played for one of the top teams in Ulster, from the sidelines. He went on to play hockey for his primary school at around seven years old and would later play for his local club Instonians. Whilst at University in Edinburgh he joined Grange Hockey Club and it was here he got called into the senior national squad at 18 years old. In September 2013 he moved to London to commence his graduate training with Matthews & Goodman and joined English premier league club Surbiton, where he played until the end of 2015.
With a heavy training schedule now in full swing, the team are starting to get used to their new regime and the support which is now on offer to them. This includes full time physiotherapists to help with those difficult to avoid injuries, nutritionists to monitor their diet and body fat and psychologists to help them work on the mental side of the game.
On top of their hockey training, the team train three times a week at the Northern Irish Institute of Sport, which only qualified Olympic athletes are permitted to enter.
Michael commented, "When we found out we had qualified, I felt relief yet it was also a little bit surreal. It was new territory for all of us as we were the first Irish hockey team to qualify for the Olympics in 108 years and the first team sport in 68 years. At the same time I couldn't get too carried away as I now had to focus on selection, which will be very tight. Training is going well. It is very intense but is also enjoyable to see how far you can push yourself. I look forward to playing more games as this breaks up long training periods nicely".