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Oscar Wilde’s Hockey Club ready to launch this summer

Hockey Ireland has joined with Sport Ireland and Sporting Pride for the #LetsGetVisible campaign as part of Dublin Pride Health and Wellbeing Week.

The campaign aims to recognise and acknowledge the importance of visibility and representation amongst the LGBTQI+ community, specifically in the sport sector.

Ireland is currently home to two LGBTQI+ specific clubs, the Pink Ladies and the Oscar Wildes. This week, we got the lowdown on the Oscar Wildes from founder Cormac McKay as he looks to get the club up and running.

***

“Starting a team in the middle of a pandemic! It’s difficult enough as it is!” he said of the new venture. “It’s a brand new club we are trying to setup but it now looks like we have a target with the Euro Games in Copenhagen set to go ahead in August.”

The Euro Games is an LGBTI+ inclusive sporting event including 29 sports and will take place from Wednesday, August 18 to Friday, August 20 in Copenhagen. McKay previously linked up with the Black Swans – from Copenhagen as it happens – at the competition in Stockholm and that’s “how I got mixed up in it!”

“That was about four years ago. I just answered an ad on Facebook. It was a Danish team that was looking for players so I ended up playing with the Black Swans of Copenhagen. I really, really enjoyed it! I met the Pink Ladies over there and I made a promise to the Ladies that I’d try and form an Irish team so here I am now trying to get it going.

“It’s always more fun when it’s overseas and it’s very much a fun competition. It’s not hyper competitive and I truly enjoyed it when I was in Stockholm so I definitely want to try and get a men’s team going.

For his part, McKay followed in his family footsteps to take up the game 24 years ago, first with Smithfield and then with St Brendan’s/Phoenix Park and now under the Dublin North banner with whom he still plays.

With the Oscar Wildes, they will host summer hockey sessions on Monday and Friday evenings at 8pm at the National Sports Campus in Blanchardstown.

It will be open to any new or old players of any age any skill to come and play; registration is only €20 for the summer.

“I have a handful at the moment and haven’t really promoted it yet to the clubs. I had been holding off until there are clearer guidelines coming from Denmark about what is allowed but, by the look of things, fingers crossed it will all go ahead.

“This will be a brand new team from scratch and we will have the facilities of the National Sports Campus as our training venue.

“It is a bit of fun; it is not a ‘serious’ competition but it is about trying to get more members of the LGBT community involved in sport.

“It is primarily for international events. I don’t really see us having enough players to run a league; maybe down the road, there might be enough to run a team in Division 8 or something like that. At the moment, I don’t see a need for a team like the Dublin Devils [in football] or the Emerald Warriors [in rugby].”

** If you’re interested in finding out more about the Oscar Wilde’s LGBTQ men’s hockey club you can contact Cormac McKay on cormac325@gmail.com.You can also follow them on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/Oscar-Wildes-LGBTQ-mens-hockey-club-2710879852257178/

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Junior Green Army win GB Series ahead of Five Nations in Spain

Sophia Cole’s late equaliser saw Ireland’s development squad land an impressive series win over their Great Britain counterparts at Jordanstown, ending the four-game run with two wins, a draw and one loss on the ledger.

The UCD midfielder struck with two minutes left on the clock with a peach of a backhand shot from a penalty corner to earn a 2-2 draw in the last game of the series.

Earlier in the tie, Limerick native Laura Foley cracked home to make it 1-1 from another set play before GB edged back in front in the third quarter.

The draw backed up a pair of 1-0 wins for Ireland, the first coming last Tuesday with Niamh Carey stealing in at the back post for the only goal and then, a day later, captain Foley scoring again following a brilliant counter-attack move instigated by Jessica McMaster.

Game three belonged to the visitors with Britain running up a 3-0 win but game four was much more even and the Junior Green Army got a deserved draw to shade the series.

Overall, coach Dave Passmore was able to deploy 27 players over the course of the week for the squad which plays a key role in developing players for the senior setup.

Ireland celebrate Sophia Cole’s late equaliser. Picture: Keith Wilson (https://www.keithwilsonphotography.com/hockeyireland)

Indeed, it has been a fertile production line of late with Olympic call-ups Sarah McAuley, Sarah Hawkshaw, Sarah Torrans, Lizzie Murphy and Michelle Carey all featuring in recent times.

From this, he has since named a reduced panel of 20 to travel to Club Egara in Spain for a Five Nations between equivalent teams from the Netherlands, Belgium, Spain and Germany. The tournament rules stipulate teams can field up to eight sides from an Under-23 category with the remainder having to be Under-21.

“There is a nice mix of experienced players with senior caps and younger players such as Charlotte Beggs who impressed in our recent trip to Spain,” Passmore said of this latest selection.

“There are no easy games in this tournament and we obviously have a hard start with the first match against The Netherlands but the GB series has demonstrated that we can compete and this should be a great leaning experience to see exactly where we are at.”

The series also saw the return of senior cap Erin Getty to the line-up after a break from the program and she slotted back in to great effect.

“I am delighted the Erin Getty has rejoined the squad after a concerted effort on improving her fitness and she was a stand-out player in the series against GB. She combines excellent technique with a really mature reading of the game and so fitted straight back in and the girls are delighted she is back playing.

“We are very thankful to Spanish Hockey for hosting this tournament alongside a boys event given the tournament we had planned in Dublin could not go ahead due to Covid Protocols.”

The following week, the panel will see a number of changes for a three-game series against the Wales senior team with games at Jordanstown on Friday, July 16, Saturday, July 17 and Sunday, July 18. Their summer series will conclude three more games against a Wales Under-23 side from July 21 to 23.

Under-21 5 Nations, Club Egara (Saturday, July 3 to Saturday, July 10, 2021): Charlotte Beggs (Pegasus/Ulster), Niamh Carey (UCD/Leinster), Ellen Curran (UCD/Leinster), Sophia Cole (UCD/Leinster), Amy Elliott (UCD/Leinster), Katie Fearon (Railway Union/Leinster), Laura Foley (Catholic Institute/Munster), Gemma Ferguson (GK, Ulster Elks/Ulster), Erin Getty (Queens/Ulster), Christina Hamill (Loreto/Leinster), Jane Kilpatrick (Loughborough Students/Ulster), Ellie McLoughlin (GK, Muckross/Leinster), Jess McMaster (Queens/Ulster), Lisa Mulcahy (Loreto/Leinster), Siofra Murdoch (Monkstown/Leinster), Siofra O’Brien (Loreto/Leinster), Caoimhe Perdue (UCC/Munster), Ellen Reid (Banbridge/Ulster), Yasmin Pratt (Loreto/Leinster), Abbie Russell (Old Alex/Leinster)

Non-Travelling Reserves: KJ Marshall (UCD/Leinster), Roisin Begley (Catholic Institute/Munster)

Management:
Head coach:
David Passmore
Manager: Lorraine McGowan
Coach: Steven Arbuthnot
Coach: Una McCarthy
Physio: Amy Phelan
Physiology support: Lauren Daey
Analyst: Aaron Passmore

Fixture schedule (all at Club Egara, Spain; times local)
Monday, July 5: Ireland v Netherlands, 8pm
Tuesday, July 6: Ireland v Spain, 8pm
Thursday, July 8: Ireland v Germany, 6pm
Friday, July 9: Ireland v Belgium, 6pm

Green Machine to take on Olympic-bound GB men

Ireland’s men will look to build on their encouraging series win over Scotland last weekend as they test themselves against Olympics-bound Great Britain at Bisham Abbey next week.

Those were their first games since November 2019 and coach Mark Tumilty handed 14 players a first taste of senior international hockey, running up two wins out of three games.

And Tumilty will again take the opportunity to have a look at some new faces. Banbridge’s Luke Roleston will be the fourth goalkeeper to get his chance to shine this summer, joining Jamie Carr on the roster.

Outfield, Cork C of I youngster Kevin O’Dea will line out in midfield alongside Nick Page who has joined the Irish setup. Page, 24, is a former England Under-21 international who qualifies for Ireland with an Irish grandparent.

Matthew Nelson is also available and he joins his younger brother Ben in the line-up.

Of the uncapped players deployed against Scotland, Ben Nelson, Mark McNellis, Kyle Marshall, Fergus Gibson, Johnny Lynch, Ian Stewart, Sam Hyland, Ben Nelson and Conor Empey are back for a second series.

“With some senior players unavailable due to work commitments, this is an excellent opportunity to give some of our younger players exposure to games against a top ranked nation,” Tumilty said of the selection.

“The players will have benefited greatly from the Scotland games and we look forward to the challenge these GB games will offer.

“I am pleased to have Nick [Page] available for these games. Ideally it would have been better to have integrated him into the squad in a training environment but unfortunately COVID has not made that possible.

“Nick brings extra competition for places and this is something I feel is vital for the long term goals of the senior men’s squad.”

The games will be GB’s first since their Olympic panel was announced and offers a high-quality test for the Green Machine as they continue their preparations for August’s EuroHockey Championships II in Poland.

Ireland men’s panel for Great Britain series – June 27 to July 1 (Bisham Abbey): Jamie Carr (KHC Leuven), Luke Roleston (Banbridge), Mark McNellis (Lisnagarvey), Tim Cross (Annadale), Peter McKibbin (Lisnagarvey), Sam O’Connor (Glenanne), Kyle Marshall (Beeston), Fergus Gibson (Loughborough Students), Daragh Walsh (Three Rock Rovers), Sean Murray (KHC Leuven), Jonny Lynch (Lisnagarvey), Kevin O’Dea (Cork C of I), Michael Robson (Annadale), Nick Page (Old Georgians), Sam Hyland (YMCA), Neal Glassey (Crefelder HTC), Ian Stewart (Corinthian), Ben Walker (Three Rock Rovers), Johnny McKee (Crefelder HTC), Matthew Nelson (Crefelder HTC), Ben Nelson (Lisnagarvey), Conor Empey (UCD) 

Fixture details

June 28: Ireland v Great Britain development panel

June 29: Ireland v Great Britain

July 1: Ireland v Great Britain

 

Pink Ladies back in action for their tenth year

Hockey Ireland has joined with Sport Ireland and Sporting Pride for the #LetsGetVisible campaign as part of Dublin Pride Health and Wellbeing Week.

The campaign aims to recognise and acknowledge the importance of visibility and representation amongst the LGBTQI+ community, specifically in the sport sector.

Ireland is currently home to two LGBTQI+ specific clubs, the Pink Ladies and the Oscar Wildes.

We caught up with the Pink Ladies’ social secretary Rebecca Murphy to talk about the club and the importance of the #LetsGetVisible campaign.

The club is celebrating its 10th year since formation in 2011 – with a special celebration to come when restrictions allow – with over 60 players donning the “hallowed Pink Jersey” in competition, from ex-international to total beginners and everything in between.

“When I moved to Dublin, that was my first time getting involved in hockey at all,” Rebecca said of her involvement, linking up with the club in 2017.

“It sounded like a bit of craic, a nice way to get fit and make a few friends and have a laugh. A lot of people were in that position and it is one of the great things about Pink Ladies.

“We do have a lot of people who never held a hockey stick, they start playing and then join clubs; I joined Muckross and have kept playing through the years in the regular season.”

A big attraction are the tours; in recent years, the Pink Ladies travelled to the likes of Rome, Paris, Amsterdam, Stockholm, Berlin, Antwerp and Rotterdam over the years.

“In a normal year, we usually take in a tournament abroad, usually part of the Gay Games or the EuroGames. There’s teams like The Royals from England, the Baby Gays from the Netherlands, a team from Australia in Paris a few years ago, and there’s a men’s tournament at the same time. We usually field two teams; it’s a lot of craic but also a decent tournament and can be quite competitive as well!

“The Gay Games is like the Gay Olympics and we were part of the wider Team Ireland contingent which was a massive thing. There was an opening ceremony and a large tournament.”

If restrictions allow, they hope to head to Copenhagen for this year’s event. Training returned this month with weekly sessions at Railway Union on Thursday from 8 to 9.30pm.

As a LGBTQI+ specific club, Rebecca feels it is also an “incredibly important” outlet on a number of levels.

“There are people who come down to Pink ladies to have the opportunity to make friends who are gay or lesbian who may not have that opportunity elsewhere.

“It’s a way of doing it in a very fun, safe, social environment as well as getting out in a healthy way in the fresh air during the summer.

“I know there are certainly people who have joined who you can see have grown in confidence and in themselves, on the pitch and off the pitch, growing in their own skins because they get to play people with whom they feel safe and understood, respected for who they are.

“That might be the only space they have; some of us have been out for years and have a group of gay friends outside of hockey. Some people may not have that and it gives that opportunity to make friends, where you can be visible, be out and it’s not something you have to worry about.

“It’s just a nice, comfortable space. It’s also a good way of getting women involved in sport; girls tend to fall off in participation after their teens so this is a nice, unthreatening way of getting some people back into spot if they have been out of it for a few years.

“It is quite a social thing and people have made some really long-lasting friendships from it which we really like seeing it continue from year to year.”

And, in the wider context of Sporting Pride’s #LetsGetVisible campaign, she says it is an important step forward.

“Ideally, you would like everyone to feel safe, secure and comfortable in your club, even if it is not an LGBT specific club. That’s where we want to get to, where everyone can feel like they can bring their whole self, their love, their relationship to the club where they are playing, feel safe and happy.

“That’s where campaigns like this are really important. LGBT people, we are in every walk of life, in every club, in every school, in every organisation. It’s important to be visible around that and that’s what makes the difference. We deserve that respect and to feel safe where we work and where we play.”

** To find out more about the Pink Ladies, go to their Facebook page here or email info@pinkladieshockey.com

Team Ireland confirm squad for Tokyo Olympic Games

The Olympic Federation of Ireland formally announced the Irish women’s panel to travel to the Tokyo for the Olympic Games with 16 players and three travelling reserves confirmed.

The side will fly out to Japan on July 9 ahead of their debut on this stage on July 24 against South Africa at the Oi Stadium.

Over 20 months since qualification was confirmed, captain Katie Mullan says this day brings about a realisation of many years hard work, not just of those who have their Olympic dream move closer, but also from the wider panel who helped push the standards.

“With competition in our squad at its best and only 16 spots available, we always knew this was going to be the toughest selection,” Mullan said.

“31 players have played a massive role in our preparations over the past 10 months and we are honoured to represent the Green Army at the Olympic games.

“There has been a tremendous amount of work put in by the girls and each of them deserve this opportunity. It’s an exciting time for us and our families.”

Speaking about the selection, Irish head coach Sean Dancer agreed it was the selection panel’s hardest decision yet but he is excited about the possibilities his line-up brings to the table.

“It has been a tough time to get it right,” Dancer said “I really feel we have picked a great balance of senior players and experience and then adding in the excitement and opportunity of youth. Once we get to the Olympics, it will be just about playing hockey and making the most of the opportunities that come from it.”

There was an extra layer to selection with only 16 spots available for the Olympics compared to the usual 18 that would be available for a world ranking tournament.

“Going from 18 to 16 adds an extra complexity to it and the team hasn’t been in that position before. We have to consider those extra little things people contribute to the team and weighing that up was certainly tough.

“Versatility is really important when you get down to 16, even to the point of getting someone to fill the goalkeeper role in case there is an injury [to Ayeisha McFerran].

“If there is an injury during the game or just before it, you can’t bring in a replacement so we would have to bring in one of the field players. Even things like that need to be considered. We do have a couple who are able and willing which is the first thing we need.”

The panel features 11 of the panel that played in the 2018 World Cup run to silver: Ayeisha McFerran, Chloe Watkins, Hannah Matthews, Nicci Daly, Róisín Upton, Deirdre Duke, Katie Mullan, Shirley McCay, Lena Tice, Lizzie Holden and Anna O’Flanagan.

All also featured in June’s EuroHockey Championships as did Hannah McLoughlin, Naomi Carroll, Sarah Hawkshaw and Sarah McAuley.

For defender McAuley, it continues her rapid rise to prominence since linking up with the panel in the spring and making her formal international debut in the last game of the Euros against Italy.

Sarah Torrans, meanwhile, gets her chance to make a senior international tournament debut. The speedster was initially named in the Euros panel but missed out through injury but is in line now to link up with the side.

Ireland can bring a number of travelling reserves to the event with Michelle Carey and Zara Malseed waiting in the wings for the outfield spots while Lizzie Murphy is the goalkeeping cover. They can potentially step in if there are injuries within the main panel.

What it means is, from the European squad, Nikki Evans and Megan Frazer are the ones to narrowly miss out on selection.

“We have gone for the option of Sarah Torrans coming back into the group,” Dancer said of the line-up. “She was performing well before the Europeans. No fault of her own, she wasn’t able to go through injury so when we cut back the numbers, Nikki Evans – with all her experience and incredible contributions to the team – was the unfortunate one to miss out.

“Sarah McAuley has impressed since coming into our environment as early as February and the first GB series. She got the opportunity to play that last Italian game [at the Euros] and she showed mobility, comfort on the ball and certainly showed she is willing to mix it with the senior girls.

“She has a very exciting career ahead of her and it is an exciting time for her. She does have minimal experience but sometimes that is the best way to approach it; she doesn’t have that eight of expectation and can just go out there and play and that’s what we hope she does.”

As for the historical context, Dancer is fully aware of the significance of this final run-in to a maiden Olympic appearance for an Irish women’s team, something he says the team will not take for granted.

“Ireland’s senior women have had a long history and everybody that has gone before, in this group and previously, has made a huge contribution to where we are now. That really needs to be acknowledged; we will be at the Olympics, doing it for all of them and the long history that has gone before.”

Ireland women’s squad for Olympic Games – July 24-August 4, 2021, Oi Stadium, Tokyo, Japan (club/caps):
Ayeisha McFerran (SV Kampong, 105) – goalkeeper
Naomi Carroll (Catholic Institute, 115)
Lizzie Colvin (Belfast Harlequins, 201)
Nicci Daly (Loreto, 194)
Sarah Hawkshaw (Railway Union, 38)
Hannah Matthews (Loreto, 152)
Shirley McCay (Pegasus, 311)
Hannah McLoughlin (UCD, 19)
Katie Mullan (Ballymoney, 198) – captain
Anna O’Flanagan (Muckross, 212) – vice-captain
Lena Tice (Old Alex, 1114)
Sarah Torrans (Loreto, 26)
Róisín Upton (Catholic Institute, 81)
Chloe Watkins (Monkstown, 229)
Deirdre Duke (Old Alex, 146)
Sarah McAuley (Muckross, 1)

Travelling reserves:
Lizzie Murphy (Loreto, 13) – goalkeeper
Michelle Carey (UCD, 5)
Zara Malseed (Ards, 2)

** All of the profiles of the athletes can be viewed HERE.

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Women’s development panel take on GB at Jordanstown

A 28 player Irish women’s national development squad will take on their Great Britain counterparts in four games this week as part of an eight-day camp at University of Ulster, Jordanstown.

The aim of this panel is to develop the next group of senior internationals, a key task with the likely evolution of the panel for the World Cup qualifier in October and a EuroHockey Championship qualifier in 2022.

The squad incorporates the Irish Under-21 group who will play in their European Championships next summer along with one Irish Under-19 player, Charlotte Beggs.

The squad in this current format has been in existence since 2018 and has seen many players progress to the senior setup with Serena and Bethany Barr, Michelle and Niamh Carey, Ellen Curran, Sarah Hawkshaw, Sarah McAuley, Hannah McLoughlin, Lizzie Murphy and Sarah Torrans among them.

This series will be used to select a panel for a Five Nations in Barcelona, Spain from July 5-10 which also features Belgium, Spain, Germany and the Netherlands. The squad will also play games against the Welsh seniors and Under-23s in July.

Speaking about the setup, head coach Dave Passmore said: “After a long year of lockdown where physical training has dominated much of what we have done, this is an ideal camp environment with matches to develop these players further.

“Under the direction of new S&C Coach Cliodhna O’Connor, the players have worked really hard to push their physical levels over the past six months. This is such a key feature in the women’s game and essential in allowing players to progress to the Green Army.

“It was great to get away to the south of Spain last week where we included five of the Under-19s due to play in the Under-19 Four Nations in July but this is the first time we can get most of the National Development Squad together in a camp environment and the matches will be ideal given the lack of competitive hockey in the past 15 months.

“While we were competitive against the Spain Under-21 and Development teams, it was clear most of our players lacked competitive match play so these matches will allow us to build on that and select the team for the Five Nations next month”

“We are delighted to have the support of Park Developments along now with two other new program supports in PrimeCore and Cantor Fitzgerald who will support our trip to the 5 Nations in Barcelona.”

Fixture schedule (all at Jordanstown)
Tuesday, June 22:
Ireland v Great Britain, 4.15pm
Wednesday, June 23: Ireland v Great Britain, 4.15pm
Friday, June 25: Ireland v Great Britain, 2pm
Saturday, June 26: Ireland v Great Britain, 10am

Irish women’s national development squad: Roisin Begley (Catholic Institute/Munster), Charlotte Beggs (Pegasus/Ulster), Nadia Benallal (Beeston/Ulster), Niamh Carey (UCD/Leinster), Ellen Curran (UCD/Leinster), Sophia Cole (UCD/Leinster), Amy Elliott (UCD/Leinster), Katie Fearon (Railway Union/Leinster), Laura Foley (Catholic Institute/Munster), Gemma Ferguson (GK, Ulster Elks/Ulster), Erin Getty (Queens/Ulster), Christina Hamill (Loreto/Leinster), Anna Horan (UConn Huskies, USA/Munster), Jane Kilpatrick (Loughborough Students/Ulster), Orla Macken (Pembroke/Leinster), KJ Marshall (UCD/Leinster), Ellie McLoughlin (GK, Muckross/Leinster), Jess McMaster (Queens/Ulster), Lisa Mulcahy (Loreto/Leinster), Siofra Murdoch (Monkstown/Leinster), Siofra O’Brien (Loreto/Leinster), Sara Patton (Railway Union/Leinster), Caoimhe Perdue (UCC/Munster), Ellen Reid (Banbridge/Ulster), Yasmin Pratt (Loreto/Leinster), Millie Regan (GK, Railway Union/Leinster), Abbie Russell (Old Alex/Leinster), Muireann Scanlon (UCC/Munster), Caitlin Sherin (Loreto/Leinster)

Not Available: Hannah Humphries (GK, Catholic Institute/Munster)

Management:
Head coach: David Passmore
Manager: Lorraine McGowan
Coach: Steven Arbuthnot
Coach: Una McCarthy
Assistant coach: Niamh Small
Physio: Thomas Murray
S&C: Cliodhna O’Connor
Physiology support: Lauren Daey
GK coach: Iain Hughes

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Umpire Alison Keogh reflects on step forward at Euros

Among the busiest performers at last week’s EuroHockey Championships in Amsterdam was Irish umpire Alison Keogh, clocking up four games on the pitch and four in the video umpire role.

It was a tournament which saw her make another step forward, umpiring her first ever European semi-final in addition to a second bronze medal match, significant milestones in her progression.

We caught up with her to get her thoughts on the tournament and how she felt it went for her personally. First off, we asked how she assessed the tournament in general?

“It was unbelievable to be back in front of a crowd,” she said “The Europeans in 2019 was probably the last time. There’s been a couple of games since then but nothing really substitutes that atmosphere that you get.

“Simply being here and be able to be with people you haven’t seen in a couple of years and to perform at that level is a privilege. I am delighted to get the semi-final in particular; it is a progression for me, particularly as we had quite a strong panel of six Pro League umpires.

“I guess you never walk away completely happy. There’s things we looked at coming into the tournament like the aerial ball, the interpretation of that has changed ever so slightly. You always look at game management, things like that which you always try to improve.

“But having not done hockey for so long, to get back to that level and to perform at that level was really great and I was pretty happy overall with my performance.”

Can you speak a bit more about the various stages of progression and the stepping stones it takes to get to this level?

“We have a number of different gradings. First off, you have to attend an event which is eligible for an international standard, usually a senior international event where you have umpires managers.

“They judge your performance based on decision-making, your presence, your team work on the pitch, your fitness, these kind of elements. At the end, you get a score. Depending on that, you might get upgraded. You try to get up to FIH level and then, depending on how you do, you might progress.

“They put you in higher levels of competition to test you and then if you perform, you might move on to a higher level again. There’s five panels, so once you are at Pro League level, it’s about maintaining performance to make sure you stay on that panel. Progression can come in different forms.

“It might be how you manage the game, or the type of games you get. Semi-finals or bronze medal matches are the ones people look at in tournaments but, actually, a sign you have progressed from simply being there could also be an important relegation game.

“I guess you never walk away completely happy. There’s things we looked at coming into the tournament like the aerial ball, the interpretation of that has changed ever so slightly. You always look at game management, things like that which you always try to improve.”

Your face became a frequent feature in the video booth, particularly in a crazy 6-5 win for Germany’s men against France. Talk a little about how that compares to umpiring on the pitch?

“TV is a completely different set of skills, a completely different preparation. You can’t practice until you are actually in it and you can only practice it in really important games. It’s actually tricky to get to grips with.

“What you have to done is remain as calm as possible and just keep it as simple as possible. On the pitch, things are quite instinctive but in video, you have to try and look for the black and white and be objective. The tricky calls are when it is not black and white.

“The briefing says that unless there is a clear reason to change the umpire’s decision on the pitch, you only step in if it is clear. If you remember that, it is slightly easier. It is a different set of skills and an interesting perspective.”

** Alison is currently on the reserve list for the Tokyo Olympics.
** To start your journey in umpiring, click here

Ireland’s young guns win series over Scottish men

Ireland’s young guns ran up a strong 6-1 win over Scotland’s men to win their uncapped series at Jordanstown in impressive fashion.

Mark Tumilty’s side had won the first match 3-1 before falling 1-0 on Saturday before this comprehensive scoreline from a weekend in which he gave 14 new players their first taste of international hockey.

They were 3-0 up on Sunday morning courtesy of goals from Sean Murray, Michael Robson and Tim Cross in the first quarter before Banbridge man Jonny McKee put them four clear.

The Scots got one back before half-time but an Ian Stewart corner goal – his second of the weekend – and a solo goal from Daragh Walsh completed an upbeat performance for the side in their first formal action since November 2019.

On Saturday, Scotland scored early on and held sway in the early stages before Ireland grew into the game but they could not break through David Forrester’s defences, the goalkeeper brilliantly denying Ian Stewart and Tim Cross in the closing stages.

The results bring a strong confidence boost to the panel ahead as they ramp up preparations for the EuroHockey Championships II in Gniezno, Poland in August.

There, Ireland need a top five finish to land a place in October’s World Cup qualifiers; prior to that, Ireland will meet the Scots again in a series and also face Great Britain.

“I am very pleased with the weekend,” Tumilty said of the weekend. “It was good to finish the weekend strong. I feel that the players are making good progress as we try to develop our playing style. It was also great for the players to spend time together off the pitch as this group now contains many new players.”

Men’s international series
Saturday:
Ireland 0 Scotland 1
Sunday: Ireland 6 (S Murray, M Robson, T Cross, J McKee, I Stewart, D Walsh) Scotland 1

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O’Flanagan double sees Ireland finish Euros on a high

Women’s EuroHockey Championships, Pool C
Ireland 3 (A O’Flanagan 2, Z Malseed) Italy 0

Anna O’Flanagan’s double earned Ireland a Ireland a closing win to secure sixth place at the women’s EuroHockey Championships in Amsterdam, ending a rollercoaster week on a high.

Ultimately, the main targets of World Cup qualification and a first European semi-final proved out of reach with “goals scored” denying both those outcomes in the group stages.

In that context, O’Flanagan – Ireland’s record goalscorer with 83 to her name now – reflected on a mixed bag of two wins, a draw and two losses.

“This European competition, the margins are so small,” she said after the win over Italy. “You are one goal away from a semi-final and then you are playing the Olympic champions for fifth; it’s crazy.

“It’s an amazing tournament to play in but also an extremely difficult one, the most difficult you will play in. We did some good things, some not so good so it is a big learning curve.

“A few things didn’t go our way for sure. Tournament hockey is a rollercoaster and we certainly had more downs than ups.

“We need to look at the fine details, improve on some small things and if we do that we can do some damage.”

O’Flanagan struck in the second and third quarters to set up the win before Ards woman Zara Malseed netted her first international goal in just her second full cap, giving an upbeat finish to a bruising tournament.

Megan Frazer and Naomi Carroll were both rested for this one, joining Chloe Watkins in the stands with Muckross’s Sarah McAuley coming into the side for her first formal cap.

And Róisín Upton departed in the third quarter with a head injury to leave Ireland working off a shortened rotation.

With Italy adopting a catenaccio system, the first quarter was a maze of patience as the Green Army attempted to unlock a packed defence. Other than O’Flanagan’s pot-shot, it passed by relatively serenely but the tempo ratcheted up a notch in the second quarter.

Ireland ran up a quartet of penalty corners while Malseed showed her key strengths, shooting on sight early from half-chances to test Sofia Monserrat’s padding.

And the goal arrived in the 27th minute when Upton drove forward from the back. Her cross popped up dangerously off a defensive stick but O’Flanagan did not stick around to wait for a whistle, clubbing the ball baseball style into the goal.

It enticed Italy out of their shell to some extent in the third quarter, winning their first penalty corner but Ayeisha McFerran was up to the task, knocking away her Kampong club mate Chiara Tiddi’s attempted drag-flick.

The extra breathing room came in the 42nd minute when Sarah Hawkshaw used her pace to out-strip her marker on the right baseline and she laid on the perfect pass for O’Flanagan to sweep in her second of the day.

Malseed extended the lead with an expert tip-in, guiding in her first international goal from Katie Mullan’s intercept and cross. They duly closed out the tie comfortably with McFerran never looking unduly troubled.

“We’ve been disappointed so far so it was really important for us as a team to play well but also to win and score some nice goals,” O’Flanagan concluded. “So nice to finish on a high; it’s always been a big summer for us and it nice to get a bit of confidence going forward.”

Ireland: A McFerran, Z Malseed, R Upton, N Evans, K Mullan, S McCay, L Tice, H McLoughlin, L Holden, S Hawkshaw, A O’Flanagan
Subs: M Carey, N Daly, H Matthews, D Duke, S McAuley, L Murphy

Italy: S Montserrat, T Dalla Vittoria, I Sarnari, A Oviedo, A Moroni, S Maldonado, P De Biase, C Tiddi, S Puglisi, S Laurito, L Oviedo
Subs: E Munitis, A Ayala, F Carta, E di Mauro, C Aguirre, L Fernandez, L Caruso

Umpires: I Makar (CRO), A Bogolyubova (RUS)

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Ireland’s World Cup hopes on hold after 5-1 loss to England

Women’s EuroHockey Championships
Pool C: Ireland 1 (D Duke) England 5 (S Evans 2, A Toman, L Owsley, J Hunter)

Ireland’s World Cup qualification bid looks set to come down to October’s final qualifier after they could not build on a strong start against England in the EuroHockey Championships’ Pool C.

Deirdre Duke’s outstanding early goal had them dreaming of a first win over England since 1987 – and a first in several Euro meetings – but three second quarter goals put paid to those hopes.

As such, barring an unlikely turnaround in fortunes – requiring a heavy England loss to Scotland and a big Irish win over Italy – Ireland will now contest an eight-team qualifier in October for a ticket to next summer’s World Cup.

“We started really well, building really good possession and going for it,” was the assessment of Lizzie Holden, playing in her 200th cap.

“The wheels came off in the second quarter and they gathered momentum. That was the difference and there are just such fine margins in these Europeans. It spiralled out of control but we still put in a really good shift and am proud of the girls’ work-rate.”

Coach Sean Dancer concurred, adding: “Really disappointing; there was a lot on the line today and that obviously adds a lot of pain to the whole thing.

“We started the game well first quarter and I was really happy with how the game was going. We just couldn’t keep it going.

“The key thing about that first quarter is we backed ourselves. We just didn’t do that second quarter, missed a couple of opportunities from our attacking penalty corners and let a few in.”

Underdogs going into the tie, the task was made trickier when midfielder Chloe Watkins was ruled out due to a quad injury. It meant a debut for Ards’ striker Zara Malseed but meant a rejig in formation for Dancer’s side.

The Irish survived a tricky opening with super first-up defence to limit any damage and soon, they started to make inroads at the far end.

The approach was more direct with Naomi Carroll and Katie Mullan finding space to drive on and the opening goal came in the 13th minute. It was a glorious piece of work, created 70 metres out from goal as Anna O’Flanagan chipped a Carroll pass beyond her marker to unlock space.

A quick interchange with Nicci Daly was followed by O’Flanagan’s perfect cross that Deirdre Duke dove onto.

But the game turned England’s way with three goals in a nine minute spell in the second quarter. Anna Toman picked a brilliant line to clatter the backboard from England’s second penalty corner.

Danger-woman Lily Owsley’s baseline run finished with an inviting pass to the back post that Sarah Evans gobbled up to swap the lead. And Evans was on hand to volley in the third just before half-time from Ellie Rayer’s pass, leaving Ireland with a mountain to climb.

And that became steeper in the 42nd minute when Giselle Ansley’s corner shot took a heavy defensive touch to lift out of reach of Ayeisha McFerran and into the goal with Owsley credited as getting the final touch.

Jo Hunter then completed the result with 70 seconds remaining, tipping over the line after another strong corner sweep shot from Toman.

Ireland will conclude this campaign on Saturday at 3.30pm (Irish time, RTE Player and BT Sport) against Italy, a last competitive game for the side before Olympic selection.

“The reality is it is still a must win game and we have to approach it that way,” Dancer added.

Ireland: A McFerran, R Upton, N Evans, K Mullan, S McCay, L Tice, N Carroll, H McLoughlin, L Holden, S Hawkshaw, A O’Flanagan
Subs: Z Malseed, M Carey, M Frazer, N Daly, H Matthews, D Duke, L Murphy

England: M Hinch, L Unsworth, S Evans, A Toman, S Townsend, E Rayer, G Ansley, L Owsley, G Balsdon, I Petter
Subs: E Burge, E Sanders, L Neal, J Hunter, C de Ledesma, F Crackles, S Heesh

Umpires: I Amorosini (ITA), S Wilson (SCO)