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Niamh Carey nabs vital winner as Green Army move one step closer to World Cup

** Ireland celebrate Niamh Carey’s winning goal. Picture: Frank Uijlenbroek/World Sport Pics

Women’s World Cup qualifier
Ireland 3 (L Tice, A O’Flanagan, N Carey) Belarus 2 (S Bahushevich, R Batura)
Niamh Carey’s incredible start to her international career continued as her 48th minute goal earned Ireland a 3-2 win over Belarus in Pisa, putting them within one win of the 2022 World Cup.

It was a remarkable piece of work as she was knocked over by Belarus goalkeeper Maryna Navitskaya but still managed to roll over on the ground and scoop the ball into the backboard.

Earlier, Ireland had made a brilliant start with Lena Tice and Anna O’Flanagan putting them 2-0 up inside four minutes only for Belarus to fight back with Sviatlana Bahushevich and Ryta Batura levelling things.

But Ireland kept their nerve with skipper Katie Mullan picking out Carey with a beautiful line into the circle from which Carey settled the contest.

“It certainly wasn’t the way we wanted the game to go, especially when we went 2-0 up so early,” was coach Sean Dancer’s assessment.

“Credit to Belarus who got back into it and had some nice plays. Their coach [Herman Kruis] has certainly been doing some good stuff with them and it turned into a hard fought match but, to our credit, the girls kept fighting and won it which is the main aim.”

Ireland pre-match. Picture: Frank Uijlenbroek/World Sport Pics

“It’s still do or die! Final tomorrow but we always knew it was going to be the case. We are up for the challenge and are under no illusion whether we play Scotland or Wales [at 3pm Irish time]. We need to bring it and probably bring a little bit more than we did today!”

The Green Army could scarcely have started better with Michelle Carey burning up the middle to win a first minute penalty corner. Lena Tice powered home from the top with an accurate slap for 1-0.

The speed shown by Carey was a sign of things to come as the direct running of her, twin sister Niamh and Sarah Hawkshaw wreaked havoc throughout the tie.

In the fourth minute, Anna O’Flanagan was then credited with the final touch from a real melée, created by Niamh Carey’s charge and shot which spun up and behind the goalkeeper Maryna Navitskaya. Naomi Carroll had the first bite and O’Flanagan followed up to make extra sure.

But any notion Belarus would be a beaten docket was quickly dispelled as Sviatlana Bahushevich deftly flicked in from close range in just the fifth minute.

At that stage, it looked set to be a goalfest with the game wide open with Ireland looking to exploit their speed at every opportunity to stretch the game. For Dancer, the pace of Sarah Hawkshaw, Sarah Torrans and the Carey twins was a key factor but, allied to the way Belarus approached the tie, it made for a helter-skelter fixture.
“One of our strengths is our speed and skill and we certainly want to bring that as much as possible. The way Belarus set up their press and structure allowed the game to become quite open. In the end, it probably became too open.

Indeed, it was a surprise the tie made it through the second and third quarters without further action on the scoreboard. Niamh Carey’s goalbound effort was hooked off the line by a back-pedaling defender while a Mullan crack at goal pinged the post.

The Green Army could not make further use of their half-dozen penalty corners and Sarah Torrans agonisingly missing out from a Hawkshaw cross.

While they were creating the better chances, Belarus always looked like they were in the hunt, forcing some big interventions from Hannah McLoughlin and Róisín Upton.

Niamh Carey on the attack. Picture: Frank Uijlenbroek/World Sport Pics

And so it proved in the closing quarter from the Belarussians first set of corners, Ryta Batura eventually scrambling home after a couple of deflections.

But no sooner were they level than Ireland replied with Mullan’s rangy pass and Carey’s brilliant finish. It made it two goals in two capped international matches for the current UCD student, raised at Railway Union, with a memorable finish.

And Coach Dancer has been thrilled by her all-round game this week: “It’s a great conversion rate off the bat, two from two! The impressive thing she brings is her engine, her speed and endurance make it really tough for people to keep up with her. She got some really nice touches in at times when we needed them.”

It puts Ireland through to the final of this tournament where the World Cup ticket will ultimately be decided with Scotland or Wales the opposition.

Ireland: A McFerran, M Carey, R Upton, K Mullan, L Tice, H McLoughlin, C Watkins, S Torrans, S Hawkshaw, A O’Flanagan, N Carey
Subs: E Getty, Z Malseed, N Carroll, D Duke, E Curran, S McAuley, L Murphy

Belarus: M Navitskaya, I Siamionava, H Zhylevich, U Kasabutskaya, D Belavusava, R Batura, Y Yubko, S Bahushevich, K Papkova, M Nikitsina, V Lapitskaya
Subs: N Shtsin, K Mihunova, K Kutai, D Hanets, A Sys, K Zhuk, T Liavonava

Umpires: H Harrison (ENG), C Martin-Schmets (BEL)

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Irish World Cup hopes to be determined over the weekend

** Ireland’s men in Cardiff. Picture: Irfon Bennett

The Irish men and women’s teams will hope to end this weekend with World Cup qualification tickets confirmed following their respective Thursday wins over Russia and France.

Both face knock-out fixtures on Saturday with the men facing Wales in Cardiff in a straight showdown for a ticket to India 2023. The women, meanwhile, have to win twice over the weekend, starting on Saturday against Belarus with victory setting up a Sunday date with either Wales or Scotland.

It means no margin for error but it is something men’s coach Mark Tumilty is keen to play down and focus on the performance at this stage.

“Qualifying not something we have talked too much about. The focus has always been putting in two performances this week for 60 minutes – we have done one of them and now it’s just 60 minutes again but to get to a World Cup would be fantastic!”

It will be a huge tussle against the home nation. Historically, Ireland have had the edge over Wales but the hosts are currently enjoying a golden period, rising seven places in the world rankings to an all-time high of 18th.

Indeed, they relegated Ireland from the top tier of European hockey in 2019 with a 4-0 result in Belgium and, in Rupert Shipperley and Jacob Draper, have Olympic experience to show the level of quality they now bring to the table.

Much has changed in the past two years with Tumilty bringing in several high quality new faces to the line-up and his new look side will aim to build on the composed win over Russia.

The Green Army in Pisa. Picture: Frank Uijlenbroek/World Sport Pics

With tickets sold out, Ireland will be looking to spoil the party and secure a place at the World Cup for a third time.

For the women, they meet a Belarus side in their qualifier semi-final who are ranked nine places below Ireland but produced a stand-out 7-1 win over Russia in the first round.

The Green Army have won the last four meetings between the sides but that performance means there is little room for complacency. Indeed, Belarus won the second tier of the European Championships in August and are coming in hot from a busy summer leading up to this tournament.

With the two countries moving in different circles on the world stage this summer, Chloe Watkins says it will be a new challenge.

“It is difficult to predict how things will pan out and we haven’t seen a huge amount about how they play so far so it is difficult to plan. But if we play to our potential, we should have enough in us to get over the line. We reset after the France game and now we focus on Saturday and nothing else.”

That tie takes place at 11am (Irish time) with www.eurohockeytv.org the outlet streaming the fixture. The men’s tie follows on the same website from 2.30pm.

Saturday, October 23rd
World Cup qualifier fixtures
Men:
Ireland v Wales, Cardiff, 2.30pm

Women: Ireland v Belarus, Pisa, 11am (Irish time)

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Trinity to host reformatted Intervarsities

This year’s Intervarsities will take place in a new format with the women’s Chilean Cup and Plate taking place on October 23rd with the Mauritius Cup and Plate for men being played a day later on October 24th.

To account for Covid-19 restrictions, the premier third level competitions is back on the calendar having been ruled out in 2020 and it will be played over one day each rather than the usual three-day event.

In the Chilean Cup, four teams will take part with Trinity College, Ulster University, DCU and TU Dublin. It leaves a strong potential for a new winner with DCU and TU Dublin having not won the title before in its 85-year history.

Trinity’s last success was in 2002 while UU are the only side to break the UCD monopoly on the title since 2010, winning in 2015. The Belfield outfit is not taking part in this year’s competition.

The four entrants will face off in an initial round-robin series with the top two advancing to the final at 5pm on Saturday evening with all the games being played at Trinity’s Santry Avenue grounds.

The Chilean Plate takes place on the same day and will feature Maynooth University, RCSI and TU Shannon who are making their debut in the competition.

A day later at the same venue, the Mauritius Cup will take place in the same format with Trinity College, Ulster University, DCU and TU Dublin taking part once again with the same match sequence.

TU Dublin are the only side yet to take home the Mauritius Cup before with Trinity having won the title 22 times, UU 14 times and DCU bringing it back St Clare’s in 2001 and 2010.

The Mauritius Plate will feature University of Limerick, Maynooth University and RCSI.

Entry list

Mauritius Cup: Trinity College, Ulster University, Dublin City University, Technological University Of Dublin
Chilean Cup: Trinity College, Ulster University, Dublin City University, Technological University Of Dublin
Mauritius Plate: University Of Limerick, Maynooth University, Royal College Of Surgeons
Chilean Plate: Maynooth University, Royal College Of Surgeons, Technological University Of Shannon

Chilean Cup schedule (all at Santry Avenue; Saturday, October 23):
9.30am: TCD vs DCU
10.45am: UU vs TUD
12pm: TUD vs TCD
1.15pm: UU vs DCU
2.30pm: DCU vs TUD
3.45pm: UU vs TCD
5pm: Cup Final

Mauritius Cup schedule (all at Santry Avenue; Sunday, October 24)
9.30am: TCD vs DCU
10.45am: UU vs TUD
12pm: TUD vs TCD
1.15pm: UU vs DCU
2.30pm: DCU vs TUD
3.45pm: UU vs TCD
5pm: Cup Final

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Walker double puts Irish men within one win of 2023 World Cup

Men’s FIH World Cup qualifier
Ireland 2 (B Walker 2) Russia 0

Ben Walker’s double put Ireland within one win of the 2023 World Cup as they got the best of Russia 2-0 in Cardiff with a composed defensive performance.

Walker swooped in the first five minutes of each time with close-range finishes to left-wing crosses to make the difference.

Around that, Ireland were cool and calm at the back with Jamie Carr recording a clean sheet with some robust stops while the likes of Conor Harte, Kyle Marshall and Lee Cole left precious little through.

It means a win on Saturday against either Wales of Italy would stamp the Green Machine ticket to India 2023 and in that context, Walker described it as “a perfect start but only have the job is done”.

“We have a bit of time to recover and it is hard to get too excited over one game because it will mean nothing if we don’t see it through then.

“We were very solid at the back and Jamie [Carr] did pull off some fantastic saves which kept us 1-0 in the first half. We had a good mindset, took our chances when they came and probably could have had one or two more.”

Captain Sean Murray concurred, adding: “In a must-win game, it wasn’t the prettiest but we are happy to come away with the 2-0 and move on, do the homework on whoever we play next from Wales or Italy.

“We all know defence will win us the game; if we shut the back door then the lads will do the job up top. Sometimes they had counters but the lads did well to break things down, put in the good tackles and, with Jamie in nets – a world class goalkeeper – he made the saves he had to make which made the difference.”

It took just four minutes to get up and running with a brilliant turnover 60-metres out from goal was transformed into a rangy run from John McKee. He drifted left before clipping across goal where Walker was crouching low to deflect home.

Conor Empey – in his tournament debut – flashed over another chance soon after before Russia settled, aiming to deploy their counter-attacks from distance. They also drew a first corner which Tim Cross charged down well.

Alexey Sobolevskiy went inches wide with another chance but, by and large, Ireland were absorbing their attacks with relative comfort and they carried the 1-0 lead into half-time.

One became two in the 33rd minute, this time Shane O’Donoghue was the creator with a quick free down the left corner and he picked a fine angle for his cross. Walker nipped in front of his marker and guided in another sweet first-time finish.

And that was how it remained as Russia never really picked up enough momentum to threaten a comeback while Tumilty’s side had a couple of counters which could have yielded more tangible rewards.

Sobolevskiy’s shot on the turn was booted away by Carr while his counterpart Ivan Ozherlev produced an incredible block to deny Cole from an Irish penalty corner which would have killed the game off with seven minutes to go.

It was not required, though, and Ireland’s two senior national teams – following the women’s 4-1 success over France earlier – can now enjoy a Friday to rest and recover having significantly advanced their World Cup hopes.

Ireland: J Carr, T Cross, J McKee, K Marshall, S O’Donoghue, S Murray, J Duncan, M Robson, B Walker, L Cole
Subs: L Madeley, D Walsh, N Glassey, P McKibbin, C Empey, S Hyland, M Ingram

Russia: I Ozherelev, N Yankun, S Matkovskiy, A Skiperskiy, E Artemov, P Golubev, I Loginov, A Borisov, A Sobolevskiy, D Starienko, I Zamalutdinov
Subs: D Kuraev, G Arusiia, D Bereza, D Zheleznyakov, A Dryanitsyn

Umpires: I Diamond (SCO), P van den Assum (NED)

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Green Army shake off shackles to beat France in opening World Cup qualifier

** Niamh Carey celebrates her debut goal. Picture: Frank Uijlenbroek/World Sport Pics

Women’s FIH World Cup qualifier
Ireland 4 (R Upton, H McLoughlin, Z Malseed, N Carey) France 1 (G van Bolhuis)

Ireland moved a step closer to World Cup qualification as they overcame a sticky first half to eventually run riot against France in Pisa, setting up a Saturday date with Belarus in the semi-finals.

An even and relatively chanceless first half was contrasted by a big second half in which corner goals from Róisín Upton and Hannah McLoughlin settled the nerves before a flurry of late goals saw Zara Malseed and debutante Niamh Carey also on the mark.

They will now go on to meet Belarus in Saturday’s semi-final (11am, Irish time) following their hugely impressive 7-1 win over Russia in the tournament’s opening game. Ireland need to win that one and then also succeed in Sunday’s final to assure passage to next summer’s main event.

Reflecting on the win, Upton said it was crucial to follow the pre-match plan despite the first half frustrations and it paid dividends.

“It’s something we talked about, sticking to the process no matter how long the game went on at 0-0, or even if we concede,” the Limerick woman said afterwards.

“We were really pleased we stuck to the plan and broke through. We knew we needed to win corners; the execution in the first half wasn’t so good so we had to pick it up and nail it. Getting on the scoresheet early in the second half settled everyone.”

Early on, the Green Army enjoyed a bright start, winning a couple of penalty corners to no avail while Anna O’Flanagan drew an excellent stop from Mathilde Petriaux who impressed for the world number 27 side.

France, though, also showed intent with Emma Ponthieu at the heart of things, keeping Ayeisha McFerran on her toes as the first half ended blank.

After the break, Sean Dancer’s side hit full throttle with Sarah Hawkshaw winning the corner which led to the deadlock being broken, a rocket of a penalty corner in the 32nd minute.

McFerran was forced to make a stunning low glove save from Marie Simon’s corner chance as the French upped their intensity having gone behind but Ireland finished out the third quarter better.

And they got an extra buffer from a corner; Upton’s first-up shot was blocked but McLoughlin picked up the ball and unleashed a brilliant backhand shot which took a slight touch in off a defender.

Malseed got in on the act with another powerful strike on her reverse for 3-0 as goals suddenly rained in thick and fast. Guusje van Bolhuis got one back a minute later from a French set piece but respite was brief for her side as Niamh Carey swooped to tip in a rebound from Ellen Curran’s initial shot for 4-1.

And Upton said it was not surprising to see the UCD player get in on the act.

“It’s no different to what we see every day in training! Her first cap has been a long time coming but she scores goals like that constantly, even in the uncapped games and it is great to have her here.”

For Carey, herself, it was a super start to her international career, a marked difference from her twin Michelle’s first cap during June’s European Championships.

“Knowing it was a tournament game, there is that added pressure of it being ‘must-win’. It was nice, though, facing a lower-ranked team, unlike [her twin] Michelle’s first cap against Holland [in June], knowing we would have more of the ball and I would get some touches than she would have had!”

Next up, Ireland (12th in the world) will meet Belarus (21st) with a place in Sunday’s final on offer. The Green Army must win both to qualify for the World Cup.

Ireland: A McFerran, M Carey, R Upton, K Mullan, L Tice, N Carroll, H McLoughlin, C Watkins, S Hawkshaw, A O’Flanagan, N Carey
Subs: E Getty, Z Malseed, S Torrans, D Duke, E Curran, S McAuley, L Murphy

France: M Petriaux, E Ponthieu, J Brachet, M Simon, A Lesgourgues, G van Bolhuis, E Verzura, I Lardeur, A Garot, D Gaspari, T-M Schubert
Subs: M Lahlah, Y Lhopital, G Verrier, E van der Zanden, N Roque, L Ehrmann

Umpires: Y Makar (CRO), L Baljon (NED)

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Carr looking to finally hit turf at World Cup qualifiers after Polish quarantine

For Jamie Carr, this week’s World Cup qualifier in Cardiff has already proven a significant improvement on August’s European Championships as the Irish goalkeeper looks to make a big impact this week (all games to be streamed live on www.eurohockeytv.org).

The Green Machine take on Russia in their first game on Thursday (4pm, Irish time) with only a win keeping alive their chances of reaching the World Cup in January 2023. Advance and they will meet either Wales or Italy on Saturday for a winner-takes-all showdown for one of the two spot on offer this week from the tournament.

** Click here for full squad announcement

“We’re headed in the right direction for sure,” Carr said ahead of the tournament this week. “We have checked all the boxes before the tournament, made sure everything was covered and the lads are raring to go.

“We have learned a lot over the last year from the last qualifiers through the Euros this summer. We are ready to put right our shortcomings in the past and put a big performance in.”

Indeed, the team have all reported present and correct in the Welsh capital, something of a relief for the panel who were beset by close contact cases for those Euros in Poland.

In the end, despite no positive tests, two of the initially named squad had to stay at home after close-contact pings while Carr and Luke Madeley ended up stuck in a Gniezno hotel room for 10 days, only venturing outdoors on their day of arrival and departure in Poland.

“Someone had entered the flight without a PCR test or vaccine; when they arrived in Poland, they tested positive,” the goalkeeper explains of the nightmare scenario.

“At first, our whole squad was deemed a close contact [and had to stay indoors] until we confirmed who were fully vaccinated. Luke and I were the only ones who didn’t have our second vaccinations so we had to self-isolate for the full 10 days.”

Jamie Carr with Conor Harte prior to Ireland’s meeting with Malaysia in October. Pic Billy Pollock

It meant a frustrating watching brief for the duo who currently play with KHC Leuven in Belgium following a hugely successful spell with Three Rock Rovers, winning three successive EY Champions Trophies.

“Watching the lads play was a nightmare! Game days were stressful and unenjoyable! Of course, we were fully supporting the lads but it was difficult seeing them out there, knowing you should be too, testing negative a thousand times, putting that hard work to the test. It’s just life sometimes.

“I tried to give input into team meetings from watching the video clips and help the defenders, give them tips as if I was out on the pitch.”

Nonetheless, it offered a rare opportunity to see the tactical game in a different light: “Watching it that way [stuck in a hotel room], you can take the emotion out of it and see the bigger picture.

“I [usually] only see things from the goal from one perspective and can’t see the whole picture. I was able to gain an insight the lads wouldn’t have when we chatted about it while they could also feel something [on the pitch] which I hadn’t noticed in the heat of the moment. You can gain that perspective.”

It’s not a perspective he is willing to try out too often, though, and since that tournament, he has hit the ground running with Leuven.

His club coach Xavi Trenchs is a former Spanish international goalkeeper and recently publicly sung his praises, saying in the Belgian press: “he has everything to become one of the best goalkeepers in the world”.

Carr – along with Irish team mates Daragh Walsh, Madeley and Sean Murray – have helped the club sit third in the Honor Division. That form is timely for Ireland between the posts with David Harte working his way back from injury sustained in the spring.

And Carr says getting such high quality games in the league of World and Olympic champions has been a massive boost.

“There is only so much training you can do; you need to be under the kosh every weekend, playing top level games and it has helped me personally to transition over to the Irish team more easily. The travel is busy but it is all worth it in the end!”

That travel has seen him play each Sunday and then take Monday morning red-eye flights back to Dublin for the past four weeks for Irish sessions.

Now it is time to finally put it all into practice with no margin for error in Cardiff. Wins on Thursday and Saturday bring a World Cup spot; anything else and that is off the table.

“It’s refreshing in a way to not have a group stage, straight knock-out, to focus the mind. You have to win at all costs and there’s no time to build into the tournament so we have to hit the ground running. We can’t afford to start slow. This one has been in the back of our minds for months now and so we’re excited to get going!”

Ireland men’s squad for World Cup qualifiers (club/caps)
Jamie Carr (GK, KHC Leuven, 34)
Mark Ingram (GK, Pembroke, 27)
Tom Cross (Annadale, 22)
Luke Madeley (KHC Leuven, 23)
Lee Cole (Monkstown, 90)
Conor Harte (KHC Dragons, 254)
Peter McKibbin (Lisnagarvey, 8)
Kyle Marshall (Old Georgians, 7)
Shane O’Donoghue (Glenanne, 197)
Sean Murray (captain, KHC Leuven, 85)
Neal Glassey (Crefelder HTC, 67)
Daragh Walsh (KHC Leuven, 58)
Michael Robson (Annadale, 120)
Johnny McKee (Banbridge, 49)
Conor Empey (SCHC, 2)
Sam Hyland (YMCA, 2)
Ben Walker (Braxgata, 42)
Jeremy Duncan (Monkstown, 63)

Travelling reserves
Matthew Nelson (Lisnagarvey, 69)
Kevin O’Dea (UCD, 7)

Head Coach: Mark Tumilty
Assistant coach: Jason Klinkradt
Manager: Neil Irwin
Physical trainer: Eoin Cunniffe
Physio: Cameron Steele
Video technician: Ross Willis

 
FIH Men’s World Cup 2023 – European qualifier (Cardiff, October 21-24, 2021)
Thursday, October 21: Ireland v Russia, 4pm
Saturday, October 23: semi-final
Sunday, October 24: final/classification matches

** Full tournament information here: https://tms.fih.ch/competitions/1361

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Getty relishing return to Irish setup for World Cup qualiifers

** Erin Getty playing for the Irish U23 side vs Wales this summer. Pic: Front Row Union

Erin Getty is looking to grab her opportunity with both hands at this week’s World Cup qualifiers following her return to the Irish senior women’s panel nearly four years on from her last cap (click here to read more about the squad).

It follows a long and winding road to get back to this level having debuted against Germany in Dusseldorf in April 2017 for the first of her eight caps.

This time around, she is in Pisa a day out from the first of three must-win games with world number 27 side France on the agenda (10.30am, Irish Time – live on www.eurohockeytv.org).

She is one of three players making their ranking tournament debuts alongside Ellen Curran and uncapped Niamh Carey.

“It is a baptism of fire, going into such an important tournament,” Getty said ahead of a cut-throat tournament in which any loss will rule Ireland out of the running for next summer’s World Cup.

“It’s not just for the girls coming in but also important to build on the legacy of what the older girls have created with success in the World Cup and Olympics. We are under no illusions it will be easy. Every match will be hard. We are prepared and focused for France on Thursday.”

Her international journey had begun at lightning speed in the midst of finishing up her A-Levels in 2017, she was catapulted into the senior panel by Graham Shaw.

It marked her out as a potential bolter for the 2018 World Cup with her performances at club level with Randalstown and with the youth international sides.

But a severe hamstring injury left her on the sidelines for nine months and it has proven a long road to get back into the Green Army frame.

“I was really enjoying every moment up until that point,” Getty said from Pisa where Ireland will meet France on Thursday in the first of three must-win games for a place at the 2022 World Cup.

“I came back from that but wasn’t where I needed to be physically and wasn’t in a position to make the step up to the seniors.”

Getty did go on to captain the Irish Under-21s at the 2019 European Championships and the Irish indoor side later that year but, in tandem with her microbiology course at university and the Covid break, it was only this year she felt in the right shape to push for senior selection with the support from Queen’s Sport and their elite athlete programme.

“I took a step away to get to where I needed to be physically to put my hand up to rejoin the squad this summer after Covid.

Erin Getty in action for Ireland in 2017. Pic: Adrian Boehm

“At Easter time, I contacted Dave Passmore to say ‘I think I am where I need to be – if you would like to have me, I would like to be involved again’ with the age group panels.”

Passmore was the national indoor coach and also oversees the Under-23 development programme, making him a key figure in her regeneration.

“There were plenty of difficult conversations along the way about taking a break away from the programme. It has always been open, honest communication with him – he trusted in my ability and I knew where I had to be to get back in.

“He was as excited to see me as I was to see him and everyone in the squad. That helped knowing everyone was behind me and it has been great to have.”

Passmore duly hailed her as the stand-out as Ireland’s development team enjoyed a marquee series win over Great Britain as well as defeating the Welsh senior team.

And it put her in the frame for one of the defensive spots following the conclusion of the Olympic cycle and she is keen to embrace every second.

“I am just really enjoying it. Maybe I am playing my best in recent years but it is just an exciting time with lots of opportunity to grab with both hands.

“It is an exciting time but definitely a transition with the turnaround time for the girls at the Olympics. The time for us newcomers coming in has been quite tight and it hasn’t been a long preparation period but what we have done in a short time has been pretty impressive. We know exactly what we have to do and is exciting to go out and do it!”

Irish senior women’s panel for World Cup qualifiers (club/caps):
Ayeisha McFerran (SV Kampong, Netherlands, 110)
Lizzie Murphy (Loreto, 13)
Lena Tice (Old Alex, 119)
Róisín Upton (Catholic Institute, 86)
Hannah McLoughlin (UCD, 24)
Sarah McAuley (UCD, 6)
Sarah Hawkshaw (Railway Union, 43)
Michelle Carey (UCD, 7)
Katie Mullan (captain, Ballymoney, 203)
Ellen Curran (Pembroke, 24)
Sarah Torrans (Loreto, 31)
Chloe Watkins (Monkstown, 234)
Zara Malseed (Ards, 4)
Naomi Carroll (Catholic Institute, 119)
Niamh Carey (UCD, 0)
Deirdre Duke (Old Alex, 151)
Anna O’Flanagan (Muckross, 217)
Erin Getty (Queen’s, 8)

Travelling reserves
Charlotte Beggs (Ulster Elks, 0)
Jane Kilpatrick (Belfast Harlequins, 0)

Head coach: Sean Dancer
Assistant coaches: Gareth Grundie, David Fitzgerald
Manager: Lisa Jacob
Physical trainer: Claire Brady
Physio: Stephen Brownlow
Video Technician: Mark Kavanagh

FIH Women’s World Cup 2022 – European Qualifier; Pisa, Italy (October 21 to 24, 2021)
Thursday, October 21: Ireland v France (10.30am, Irish time)
Saturday, October 22: Semi-finals / classification matches
Sunday, October 23: final / classification matches

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World Cup and Olympic star Holden confirms her international retirement

Lizzie Holden (née Colvin) has confirmed her retirement from international hockey following a history-making 13-year career that brought World Cup silver, an Olympic appearance and 206 caps.

The 31-year-old steps away having made her debut as a teenager, fresh out of Portadown College at a hail-stoning Garryduff at June 2008’s Celtic Cup, finishing off in the searing Tokyo heat this summer.

The effervescent midfielder has run the gamut of emotions from qualifier heartbreakers to those glorious 2018 summer days in London and everything in between, seemingly always bringing out the widest of smiles.

“I always felt the Olympics was going to be my last dance,” she said of her decision to step back. “I had gone back and forth in my head for a long time but I think it is the right time for me to step away”

“We were so intense as a team for so long and we would spend weeks together on tour. Im just sad that I don’t get to see my friends every day now.”

Lizzie Colvin celebrates Olympic qualification with Nicci Daly. Pic: Inpho

“I feel that I have finished my career on a high and having spent the time thinking about this decision, I’ve had an opportunity to reminisce about so many good memories over the years with current and past players and I’ve made life-long friends. I’ve been very lucky to travel around the world and share such unique experiences with a great group of people.”

Her earliest beginnings came at Armagh Hockey Club, playing her part in their incredible rise with several successive promotions to reach the top tier of Ulster and Irish hockey.

From those early years, she played alongside a wealth of future internationals like Alex Speers, Emma and Amy Stewart, Hannah Bowe and Rachel Mulligan with Niall McCool and Mick McKinnon leading the coaching team.

“This announcement is mainly about saying thank you to everyone who has been part of my hockey journey, both on and off the hockey pitch. I want to make a special mention to Armagh Hockey Club, all the parents, coaches and volunteers who helped me through and had such a profound impact on me, particularly the late George Compston – he was my first coach.

“Then when I moved down to Dublin, everyone in Loreto was so kind and supportive of me and allowed my confidence to grow as a player. Then when I moved back up North to play for Belfast Harlequins, they made me feel so welcome and as one of their own. All three of clubs have been such important influences to me at different stages of my career. ”

“At Armagh, we used to train so hard and you’d never question it. I think back on those days; after you’ve done a full hour and a half session on the pitch and you would go straight on to the football pitch and do shuttles back in forth, usually in the rain! I think that’s where i developed my hard work ethic and a really, really gritty determination.”

At the 2019 EuroHockey Championships

It also opened her eyes to a different world. Armagh went on trips to the Netherlands, taking on Den Bosch in their youth, while McKinnon – who was Ireland’s assistant coach in Tokyo – organised for national coach Gene Muller to drop into the club for a session.

“To have that exposure at such a young age, you did not really appreciate it. We were turning up to training and having the craic with all the girls, but actually we had fantastic exposure to some really top quality coaches and players.”

When Muller got in touch, though, it took a long time for him to get an answer to her first international call.

“I was laughing about this with my Dad there the other day. Back in the day, you wouldn’t have email on your phone and I remember just logging in to my emails one night, and there had been this one email sitting in my inbox for a couple of days, Gene Muller asking if I wanted to play in some uncapped games against South Africa in Dublin!

“You’d never sit on that for as long as i did! I remember being terrified going down to Dublin but I was so lucky there were so many of the girls from the Armagh team in the squad. I remember Gene saying to me you’ll be doing well if you trap the ball and a make a pass on your first cap.”

That came at that Celtic Cup a month after she finished school, a 1-0 win against France during a drenched weekend. A picture remains of everyone cramming into the dugout for one rain delay.

College brought her to Dublin at Trinity to study law; she linked up with a Loreto side going through a golden era of sorts with Nikki Symmons, Cathy McKean, Niamh Small, Louisa Healy and Clodagh Grealy taking her under their wing.

Colvin, third from left, takes shelter during her first international weekend at the Celtic Cup. Pic: Adrian Boehm

Internationally, she shone at the Champions Challenge II in Kazan in 2009, scoring in her first two tournament games, but it was that year’s European Championships that stuck in the mind.

“We lost 7-0 to Germany. I really enjoyed the game even though we lost because of the quality of it but I remember vividly one of the german players being interviewed afterwards, saying ‘well, you know, they weren’t very good’.

“I remember thinking that I’d love to beat them some day. It took nearly 10 years to really start to compete against Germany but, we drew against them [in the 2019 Euros] and beat them in Germany. I wanted to compete against the best in the world.”

Like many others of that time, a highlight was the December 2011 tour to Argentina, particularly the tie deep on the country’s interior on the banks of the Parana river.

“I know everyone talks about it, but it really was a stand-out memory; we were playing high quality games against the number two in the world and it was just such a fantastic atmosphere.

With her World Cup silver medal

“They had obtained an old pitch which had been rolled up and transported down to the club we were playing at and the club members laid the pitch. And I remember some the other teams giving off about the quality of the pitch and how the ball skipped.

“But I just remember thinking this is just so cool and special. During the anthems, the PA went off and the Argentian team had to sing acapella and the whole stadium just erupted with singing. You could feel the passion and excitment in that stadium and we certainly thrived on that during the match.”

Her first Olympic cycle ended with a 4-1 final qualifier defeat to Belgium in Beerschot. She took a while to process that situation, taking time out to take stock. Only a few weeks after accepting an invitation back into the panel from Darren Smith, she suffered an ACL injury, putting her back on the sidelines for another year.

Despite the setbacks, with the “incredible” medical supports she received, she returned stronger than ever and, in Smith, had a coach to help elevate her game and the Irish team to be greater contenders.

“Darren really did give me a lot of confidence to accept the type of player that I am and what skill I could bring. He made everyone feel like they had a role.

“He really lifted us and gave us the confidence to have a go and compete against the top teams teams in the world. I think we showed that hunger and desire in Valencia [at the 2016 Olympic qualifiers] and ultimately we played above our ranking and topped the pool. We then had to deal with the heartbreak of the China game. I don’t think I’ve ever watched the back!

“After that, I didn’t know if I would go back to play. I was just heartbroken; I had to finish off my exams and go back to work and I was living away from home and away from my boyfriend and just thought I don’t want to do this.

“But after taking a bit of time off, I knew that I had unfinished business with my hockey career. I was very lucky that the team welcomed me back and gave me the chance to play again. I definitely felt there was a shift in the mindset of the team since the Rio qualifiers and there was a quiet determination to make it to the World Cup.

“We had come along way as team and our style has developed over the years. It was attacking. It was aggressive. And it’s just really fast and really exciting.”

Not that it was not fraught, qualifying for London by “the skin of our teeth”, Holden hitting the winner against India that ultimately got them over the line in a 2-1 win over India.

Having spent a decade to reach the elite stage, she says the pressure was off when they rocked up to London and defied all expectations.

“We were just having the time of our lives. There was a lot of confidence, but also we were all comfortable and relaxed. That really played into it, because we knew that there wasn’t an expectation.

“The weather was amazing; we were staying in a nice hotel in the middle of London. We were enjoying the experience and I think it showed on our faces in that first game against America, winning against a very top quality side. From there, the momentum just kept going and going.”

Following the 2021 European Championships with her long-time team mates

“The standout moment was when we lined up for the anthem and we saw our family and friends that had travelled over, it was a celebration about how far we had come.”

It brought the Olympics into focus like never before, ratcheting up a notch on two more rain-drenched nights in Donnybrook, getting by the challenge of Canada in a shoot-out after two intense 0-0 draws.

The 2020 vision became 2021, pushing back the Tokyo dream 12 months and bringing in doubts about what next?

“I’m not gonna lie; there was a couple of months where it was really difficult because we couldn’t travel abroad and get match practice.”

“That first trip to Spain we went on in January [this year] felt like we were going to the World Cup again because we were so excited. Just to get out to a different country and play; it was really, really good fun.

“I was just so grateful to have that opportunity to keep playing. The preparations for this past summer were extremely tough but I tried to enjoy every moment and savour the experience.”

“Sean [Dancer] gave me the opportunity to represent Ireland at the Olympics and I look back and know that I’ve been part of such a special group of people who have faced so many challenges of the years. There have been so many highs and lows but I ‘ve always tried to give my best, to battle hard and never give up. It has been such a privilege to be part of the green army team and I hope that I’ve left the jersey in a better place.”

As for the Olympic reflections, it is a mixed bag – a once in a lifetime experience but one tinged with frustration as Ireland missed out on the quarter-final spots.

“It took me a couple weeks to process; it’s very hard to realise what you’re going through at the time. There’s a reason why it is the most competitive tournament in the hockey calendar or in any sport in the world; it is just unbelievably tough.

“You have to get everything right at the right time and try not to be overwhelmed by the experience of just being at the Olympics, surrounded by so many incredible athletes. I have a newfound respect for any athlete that is able to get on the podium because it is just so, so tough.

“It was a life long dream for me and I will never forget walking down that street in the Olympic village with all the flags and up to the Olympic rings.

With husband Matthew and her Olympic jersey

“The first night when we played against South Africa, it was hard that there weren’t any fans there but at the same time it was just so emotional for us to say that we have finally arrived after so many years of hard work.

“There is frustration that we didn’t progress further but I definitely believe that there’s a hunger and desire in the team to push as far as they can go. Its a really exciting stage for the green army and I can’t wait to see the girls put their stamp on the upcoming tournaments.”

“I think we’re in safe hands. So yeah, I’m just really sad it’s over for me and I don’t get to do it again.”

She jokes it is back to “normal life” with her husband Matthew and her parents, Peter and Rosie who she is forever grateful too – along with her employers, DWF solicitors – for their patience and understanding as she pursued her dreams.

“I could not have played hockey as long as I have without the support of my family, friends and my husband, Matt. I can never thank him enough for all the sacrifices he has had to make for me. Now that I’ve retired, we’ve never spent this much time together but I’m excited for the next chapter in our lives, whatever that will be!”

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Thrilling men’s cup ties bring 96 goals across 16 fixtures

Saturday’s 16 men’s national cup fixtures produced a remarkable 96 goals with thrills and spills a plenty across the Irish Senior Cup and Irish Hockey Trophy.

Cork C of I won a Munster thriller against Bandon to reach the final eight of the Senior Cup, eventually prevailing after a shoot-out following a 3-3 draw in normal time.

The west Cork outifit had led 2-1 at half-time as they eyed a famous win and it was still in the balance when the tie went to shoot-out with Bandon leading at 2-1, 3-2 and 4-3 but C of I kept pace and slotted their winner.

Cookstown will continue to fly the Ulster Premier Division flag into the quarter-final as they raided Railway Union to land a quarter-final spot via a shoot-out.

Cookstown’s Ryan Millar under pressure from Rob Abbott. Picture: Max Fulham (click image for full gallery)

It was a big battle with Cookstown taking the lead via Jack Haycock’s corner only for Jeremy McKeever and Rob Abbott to turn things around. But Max Anderson snagged an equaliser while Railway were down to 10 players in the closing five minutes and they took the momentum into the shoot-out to win 2-1.

It was one of three wins on the road as Pembroke finally found form to defeat Annadale 5-1; their first success of the campaign. They did trail early on to a Callum Robson strike in the seventh minute but a stroke and a corner goal from Alan Sothern swapped the lead by half-time.

Julian Dale made it 3-1 just before half-time and both of their star strikers scored again in the second half for a handsome win.

Monkstown got the best of Banbridge at Havelock Park 3-2. It was very tight in the first half but goals from Guy Sarratt and Jazze Henry saw the Dubliners move out of range despite a late Bann riposte.

In another nailbiter, Ben Campbell’s single goal in the second quarter saw YMCA prevail against 2020 finalists UCD. An early stroke was repelled by the students before the Y went ahead via a great team goal and they survived through to the end, enduring a disallowed goal in the fourth quarter to add to the tension.

Elsewhere, there were comfortable wins for Glenanne, Three Rock Rovers and Lisnagarvey. Shannon Boucher’s hat trick helped the Glens beat Cork Harlequins 4-0; he got the only goal of the first three quarters as the visitors defended brilliantly but the Glens ran up three more in the end.

Rovers got over a slow start to beat Corinthian 5-1 as Ben Johnson’s corner goal settled nerves before Ryan Spencer (two), Evan Jennings and Ali Empey netted.

TRR’s Ryan Spencer makes it 2-0 against Corinthian, celebrating with Andy Keane Pic: Adrian Boehm (click image for full gallery)

Garvey were the big winners, showing a clean set of heels to Leinster league side Rathgar with eight different scorers in a 10-0 win.

In the Irish Hockey Trophy, there were over 50 goals scored across eight ties. Ulster sides dominated with Portadown, Bangor, Belfast Harlequins, Queen’s, South Antrim and North Down all going through.

Dublin North are the sole Leinster side left after their win over Bray, Shane Dempsey scoring a double. Catholic Institute hold up the Munster side of things with Chris Ryan’s four goals underpinning their 5-2 success at Ballynahinch.

Men
Irish Senior Cup – Round 2:
Annadale 1 (C Robson) Pembroke 5 (A Sothern 3, J Dale 2); Banbridge 2 (L Rowe, S Farson) Monkstown 3 (M Gibbons, G Sarratt, J Henry); Cork C of I 3 (A Moffett, P Sweetnam, S Wolfe) Bandon 3 (I Perrott, R Smyth, D Jennings), C of I win shoot-out 5-4; Glenanne 4 (S Boucher 3, G Shaw) Cork Harlequins 0; Lisnagarvey 10 (J Lorimer 2, A Edgar 2, T Chambers, C Chambers, O Kidd, B Nelson, D Nelson, R Getty) Rathgar 0; Railway Union 2 (J McKeever, R Abbott) Cookstown 2 (J Haycock, M Anderson), Cookstown win shoot-out 2-1; Three Rock Rovers 5 (R Spencer 2, B Johnson, E Jennings, A Empey) Corinthian 1 (C Futcher); YMCA 1 (B Campbell) UCD 0

Irish Hockey Trophy – Round 1: Ashton 2 (J Sweetnam 2) Portadown 5; Avoca 1 (A Tutty) South Antrim 4 (J Kamalarajah, C Henry, B Clarke, M Taylor); Ballynahinch 2 (J Campbell 2) Catholic Institute 5 (C Ryan 4, T Gaffney); Bangor 5 (R Burgess 2, Z McKee 2, M Sanchez) Kilkenny 3 (D McClure 2, E Dore); Belfast Harlequins 6 (M Patterson 2, C Lemon 2, C Wilson, N Anderson) UCC 2 (C McCormack, L Hennigan); Dublin North 2 (A Dempsey 2) Bray 1 (G Evans); NICS 2 Queens University 8 (C Irwin 3, H Scott 2, S McCabe 2, J Taggart); North Down 4 (H Templeton, P Templeton, J Spratt, G Bailie) Newry 2 (K McWilliams, J Taylor)

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Shoot-outs galore in women’s Irish Senior Cup and Trophy

** Queen’s celebrate in their shoot-out against UCC (click here for Billy Pollock’s full gallery)
Shoot-out drama abounded in the women’s Irish Senior Cup and Irish Hockey Trophy as Railway Union, Queen’s and Muckross all prevailed via that method on a thrilling day of action with 32 clubs battling it out in the respective competitions.

There was precious little between Railway and Loreto in the EY Hockey League in September and so it proved once again when they met on Saturday in the cup with normal time ending scoreless.

The Park Avenue outfit produced a flawless shoot-out with Sarah Patton and Orla Fox converting while Riona Norton kept out three efforts, setting the stage for Lily Lloyd to clinch the contest 3-0.

Queen’s, meanwhile, got a pre-Intervarsities pick-me-up as they came from a goal down to draw with UCC and then go through in another shoot-out.

The Cork side looked well set at 2-1 thanks to Nikki Barry and Emma O’Sullivan goals but Jessica McMaster salvaged the draw in normal time. Rebecca Quinn then did the business to send Queen’s through to the last eight.

Ulster Premier side Lisnagarvey came closest to a shock but they were denied in a shoot-out 3-2 by EY Hockey League side Muckross.

They were left to rue Laura Murray hitting the post and Zahra Lowry shooting just wide from another big chance as normal time ended scoreless and the Donnybrook club prevailed 3-2 with Sophie Barnwell, Becky McMullen and Julia Balcerzak scoring their efforts.

Lucy Mackey’s double propelled Banbridge’s women to the quarter-finals for a second successive campaign as they won 3-1 at Glenanne.

Railway Union celebrate their shoot-out win. Pic: Max Fulham (click image for full gallery)

UCD won a top quality contest against Old Alex 2-1. After a tight first half, Katherine Egan broke the deadlock in the third quarter and Sophia Cole’s penalty stroke put the students two up. Deirdre Duke got one back in the closing minutes but they could not nick a draw.

Elsewhere, there were relatively comfortable wins for Pegasus, Pembroke and Catholic Institute. Lucy McKee’s double helped Pegs see off a stubborn Ulster Elks 3-0. Róisín Upton set the ball rolling for Insta with her corner followed up by goals from Laura Foley, Naomi Carroll, Leah Clery and Christine O’Shea as they were too strong for Corinthian.

Pembroke, meanwhile, got the best of Cork Harlequins 5-0 at Farmers’ Cross with Sally Campbell scoring twice. They were 2-0 up in the first quarter and never looked back.

In the Irish Hockey Trophy, home comforts were not in full effect with five clubs winning on the road. Raphoe were the biggest winners as the Donegal side scored six in Bray with Arlyne Kilpatrick on the double.

2020 finalists North Kildare are through to the last eight thanks to Isabel Angel’s single goal in their 1-0 victory over North Down.

Ashton came out on top in an Irish Hockey Trophy shoot-out against Three Rock. Picture: Adrian Boehm (click for more images)

Munster sides prevailed as Bandon won 2-1 in Galway against Greenfields while Emily O’Leary, Ailse Holland and Kate Harvey all netted in a shoot-out win for Ashton at Three Rock Rovers.

Clontarf were winners against Rathgar; Armagh won 2-1 in Kilkenny; Mossley won by the same scoreline away to Portadown and YMCA edged out Galway 2-1.

Women
Irish Senior Cup – Round 2:
Catholic Institute 5 (R Upton, L Foley, N Carroll, L Clery, C O’Shea) Corinthian 0; Cork Harlequins 0 Pembroke 5 (S Campbell 2, R O’Brien, S Loughran, C Foley); Glenanne 1 (A Westlake) Banbridge 3 (L Mackey 2, R Kerr); Lisnagarvey 0 Muckross 0, Muckross win shoot-out 3-2; Pegasus 3 (L McKee 2, A Speers) Ulster Elks 0; Queens University 2 (O Gibson, J McMaster) UCC 2 (N Barry, E O’Sullivan), Queen’s win shoot-out 4-1; Railway Union 0 Loreto 0, Railway win shoot-out 3-0; UCD 2 (K Egan, S Cole) Old Alex 1 (D Duke)

Irish Hockey Trophy – Round 1: Bray 0 Raphoe 6 (A Kilpatrick 2, R Wauchope, A Wauchope, L Patterson, S Barrett); Clontarf 3 (E Kernan, N Taylor, A Bailey) Rathgar 1 (R Harrison); Greenfields 1 (R Hutchinson) Bandon 2 (A Moloney, S Brady); Kilkenny 1 (L Walshe) Armagh 2 (J van Lathem, A Doyle); North Kildare 1 (I Angel) North Down 0; Portadown 1 (A Black) Mossley 2 (A Glassey, E Downey); Three Rock Rovers 0 Ashton 0, Ashton won shoot-out 3-0; YMCA 2 (M Adams, Kennedy) Galway 1

Clontarf v Rathgar Irish Hockey Trophy Rd 1 16-10-21