Tokyo malfunction for Ireland Sevens is already firing the team up for Paris, says Billy Dardis

*** EMBARGOED – STRICTLY NOT FOR PUBLICATION BEFORE 06:00am 22 October 2021 *** 21 October 2021; Allianz have announced it’s official 3-year partnership with the Olympic Federation of Ireland, which is inclusive of the Olympic Winter Games taking place in 2022 and Summer Games in Paris 2024. Pictured at the official announcement in Dublin is Olympian and Irish rugby 7s captain Billy Dardis. More information on Allianzs partnership with the Olympic and Paralympic Movements can be found on allianz.ie . Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile *** NO REPRODUCTION FEE *** (Image: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile)

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Billy Dardis says Tokyo tears will fuel the Ireland Sevens' bid to go for Paris 2024 glory.

A first Olympics for Irish rugby in Sevens ended miserably after Anthony Eddy's side were edged out of a quarter-final slot by Kenya on points difference.

Skipper Dardis puts Ireland's no-show down to the short time to get their heads around qualifying – they picked up the last ticket for Tokyo in the qualifiers in Monaco the month before the Games started.

"It was incredibly frustrating, a real bitter pill to swallow afterwards," reflected Dardis.

"Thinking back to it, we were two points away from qualifying for a quarter-final of an Olympic Games which would have been pretty special. So, it was incredibly disappointing.

"At the end of the day, we came away from it and said: 'OK, this doesn't automatically make us a bad team, we achieved what we wanted to achieve in qualifying'.

"Yes, Irish people want to go to the Olympics and not just be happy to be there, they want to compete. I just think with the qualifying tournament being so close it didn't really help.

"Certainly, afterwards, we spoke about it. We had a few guys move on now, but a few of us spoke about that after seeing the rowers come back with medals, seeing Kellie Harrington – you see how special it would be to get a medal.

"We're looking now, Paris 2024 is only around the corner really.

"So, that's lit a fire inside of all of us. Instead of qualifying, we want to push on and win a medal. That's the goal from here."

Dardis admits that he could have called time on his Ireland career last Christmas when he finished his masters degree in Consulting.

Instead, the Naas man and a number of others, including veteran Sevens international Terry Kennedy, have decided to keep going, while working part-time as well.

"It was tough seeing guys finish after Tokyo," he said. "That dressing room was pretty grim after we got beaten well by Kenya in our final match.

"I think that’s when the waterworks started to hit guys. The realisation hit home that that was their last game.

"Foster Horan, Greg (O’Shea), (Adam) Leavy. Harry (McNulty) has finished up with us for the moment. Seeing those big characters in the squad moving on, it was very tough.

"I felt like I was at a junction. I'm 26 and could have jumped into this other career and go down the corporate route.

"Especially over the last 18 months I had come to realise how much I enjoyed rugby, training the craic with the lads, the high performing elite environment I just thrive on it.

"I love that fast paced energy. I spoke to Anthony and he said I could play rugby for the next 10 years if I wanted to and my body holds up.

"My parents and anyone I speak to would say, 'you’d be stupid not to continue playing, you can make your money in your 30s and 40s – while you have this opportunity go and enjoy it'".

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