'Review or not, nothing will make up for broken Olympic dream'

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Bell calls on FIH to review 'flawed' video referral system

"What's the big deal?" I was asked in the aftermath. "It's just a bunch of grown men chasing a ball around a pitch with sticks, and then crying when they lost."

That was certainly one way to look at the fate of the Ireland men's hockey team when their Olympic dream was snatched away from them in controversial fashion.

The incident, as the clock ran down, saw a challenge inside the circle and a Canadian forward falling to the ground. Had he been fouled? Had he stumbled? Had he been denied a 'clear goalscoring opportunity'? It was difficult to tell, no matter how many times you saw the same video replay, which was the only angle seen on TV.

As the two on-field umpires conferred, they decided there was no foul and that the game was over. For a moment, the Irish players celebrated a place in Tokyo 2020.

However, Canada still had their team referral. Unlike rugby, for example, where only the referee can call for the help of the TMO, in hockey a team can refer an incident to the video umpire.

Imagine the pressure he was under, in Vancouver, and with a place in the Olympics at stake. His decision, to the astonishment of most, was a penalty stroke.

How? What? Why? The shock was palpable. The rest is history - Canada scored and won the subsequent shootout. Ireland were left stunned, frustrated, upset and angry.

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Nearly three months have passed and the world's governing body, the FIH, have only spoken publicly about the integrity of their umpires and how there may be camera angles available to the video umpire not seen on the TV coverage. They have been short on specifics on this particular incident.

That's been frustrating for Hockey Ireland who, on behalf of their players, have been seeking answers.

Regulations call for a minimum of six cameras covering a game - but what if only one or two of them are actually focused on the incident that needs to be reviewed? There is no stipulation for the minimum number of camera angles that the video umpire must look at.

Of course, the video umpire may have had 16 angles to look at and still come to the same decision - or not. We will probably never find out.

With no possibility of having the result overturned or a replay sanctioned, Hockey Ireland were annoyed even further in a letter from the FIH which has been obtained by the BBC.

In it, as well as many general points about technology, the FIH state that "the level of disquiet and upset amongst the Irish and some of the wider hockey communities around the world, on social media in particular, has gone well beyond disappointment".

It goes on to say that, because of personal abuse, one of the officials, presumably the video umpire, has had to close his Twitter account.

The criticism didn't stop there.

"It has been particularly disappointing to read of some of the comments made by the players about the result.

"Fans inevitably turn to social media to express their disappointment and look for something or someone to blame, but it is fundamentally important for the values and therefore image of hockey that those who should know better - players and coaches in particular - accept defeat and disappointment in good grace, and accept umpiring decisions that are made during matches."

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'The video umpire should hang his head in shame' - Ireland captain Jonathan Bell

Hockey Ireland have taken their time, but have now responded.

"From the outset, Hockey Ireland has made it clear that it respects the decision of the umpires and has never sought to challenge this. The organisation, its players and management have at all times conducted themselves in a measured way in response to this issue. Hockey Ireland does not condone any negative reaction directed at the umpires, nor can it be held in any way responsible for the reaction of the global public on social media platforms."

They have also called for an independent review into the delivery of video referral technology.

Hockey Ireland hope their recommendations will be seen as constructive for the betterment of the sport and not seen as sour grapes.

For the players, however, nothing will make up for an Olympic dream that they believe was taken away from them.

It was always more than just chasing a ball around a pitch with a stick.