Road to Tokyo goes through Ireland for field hockey standouts

Mark Pearson and Sara McManus key members of their respective national teams

The road to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics will go through Ireland for a pair of Tsawwassen field hockey standouts.

Both the women and men’s national field hockey teams will have to win a two-game qualifying series against Ireland this fall after the draw was announced earlier this week by Fédération Internationale de Hockey — the sport’s world governing body.

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As the higher seed, the Canadian men will host Ireland — Oct. 26-27 in West Vancouver.

A key member of the team is Mark Pearson, 32, a two-time Olympian who scored six goals in helping Canada earn silver at last month’s Pan Am Games in Lima, Peru. A 5-2 loss to Argentina in the gold medal game set the stage for the Canada/Ireland qualifying series.

Meanwhile, Sara McManus, 26, is looking to go to the Olympics for the first-time in her decorated career. Canada will face Ireland Nov. 2-3 in Dublin.

McManus also had a leading role in Canada capturing silver in Peru —scoring five goals. Canada reached the gold medal game for the first time since 1991 before falling to Argentina 5-1.

The result was another encouraging sign for a national team program that had been based in Europe for several months under new coach Giles Bonnet who wanted a better training environment and more nearby competition.

McManus returned to Belgium on Tuesday where she will be playing for KHC Leuven for the second straight year and also resume national team training next week.

“It’s definitely exciting to finally know who we are matched up against! Ireland is a team that has been very competitive recently so I think it’s going to be quite a battle,” said McManus.

“I’m very excited about the challenge and the opportunity we have. We have played them multiple times in my career. I think the last being the summer of 2018. But I know we have both improved and changed since that last match up.”

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