Mark Gleghorne received his first international cap as a teenager and won a European U18 gold medal as a junior. His hockey pedigree is also impeccable – one of his aunts, Jackie McWilliams won Olympic bronze with Great Britain in 1992, while another, Margaret Gleghorne, competed in the 1986 World Cup and is in the Irish Hockey hall of fame as one of the island’s greatest ever players.
You last played for Ireland in that Olympic qualifier for Beijing in 2008, where you missed the final on goal difference – did that disappointment play a part?
There were a lot of little things that made me switch. One was that, after that tournament, I had to have a shoulder operation and I was out for a long-long time – pretty much a year. It was a time when I wasn’t playing international hockey and it gave me time to reflect and talk to many people both inside and outside the Ireland setup. Not qualifying for the Olympics was hard to take, but there were a lot of little reasons and that was one of them.It was a very difficult decision and it wasn’t one that was made quickly. Some of my best friends were in that Ireland team and some of them are still some of my best friends!
There were a lot of things to weigh up – I suppose it just came down to my personal goals, what I wanted to do and how I am as a person. I changed my mind a lot of times before the final decision. It was a very tough decision.
You then missed out on London 2012. Were you disappointed to miss the final selection?
My injuries beforehand didn’t really help me. I just wasn’t playing at my potential –while I am getting back towards that now.
I didn’t play for a year up to about October 2011 with my foot injury – I just really struggled for form after that. Obviously it is a pretty pressurised situation to be struggling in, and to not have had a lot of hockey under your belt for selection. It was heatbreaking not getting selected. But you never know it could have done me good in the long run. We’ll just have to wait and see.
One of your big assests is the penalty corner drag-flick – you were scoring those as a teenager so you must have learnt young – who taught you?
My hometown club [Antrim Hockey Club] had a South African guy who came over called Alan Kelly. He was the guy who brought it [drag-flicking] over to Northern Ireland and he was the first guy I ever saw drag-flick.
I was really too young to try get the power then, but seeing him and trying to copy his technique helped me as I got stronger.
When I was 13, in my head, I could drag-flick everything. I was always at the school coach to let me drag-flick and he said ‘right let me see you’. I drag-flicked and he just laughed and said come back to me next year.
That’s what I did. I practised a lot. I lived close to my local leisure centre in Antrim and I was able to get on the pitch often to practise my hockey and my drag-flicking. I practised pretty much for a year and when I was 14-15 it really took off – it really helped me.
Tell us about your cricket career with Ireland.
I played under-age cricket for a few years. Then they changed the hockey to the summer. It used to be the under-age European [hockey] tournaments were at Easter so there was always a break between the hockey and cricket seasons. That enabled me to do both.
In 2002 they moved hockey to the summer. That was the year we won the European U18s with Ireland in Rotterdam. I went straight from there to play the European cricket tournament.
I was just so tired and I hadn’t played cricket for a month. It was then it became impossible to do botth.
Obviously the higher you get up the more you practise and even winter nets became a bit of an issue. I miss the cricket sometimes, But I made the right choice – I enjoy the hockey more.
Who were your team-mates in that Ireland group?
Eoin Morgan (England), Boyd Rankin (England), Kevin O’Brien (Ireland), William Porterfield (Warwicks & Ireland) Gary Wilson (Surrey) – quite a lot of guys who have gone on to have good careers. We had a strong group.
What did you do?
Wicketkeeper batsman – I stood behind the stumps and did a little chirping. Being a wicketkeeper you can’t help yourself can you? I am pretty quiet off the pitch. But when it comes to sport, especially cricket… it can be good fun.