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International indoor set for return to Ireland after 30-year break

International indoor hockey is set for a thrilling return to Ireland for the first time since the late 1980s with the Antrim Forum hosting a men’s and women’s triple-header against Scotland on December 28 and 29.

Over the course of the two days, both the men and women’s teams will play three times each with up to 120 tickets fans in attendance for each game  in compliance with local Covid-19 regulations, selling out within seven hours of launch.

It is also a return of international hockey to the venue. The last time Antrim hosted international hockey was the meeting between Ireland and Pakistan in 1991 for the opening of the outdoor sand-based pitch.

In recent times, it has become the home of indoor hockey in Ulster, hosting the province’s ever-expanding series of youth tournaments with Bangor’s Under-15 boys and Coleraine’s Under-18 girls winning the most recent events last weekend. The venue also hosted the 2019 National Indoor Championships.

It will be great to see international hockey back in Antrim after 30 years,” Ulster Hockey development officer and Antrim HC member Johnny McMeekin said of the exciting series.

“A lot of hard work around the development of the indoor game has taken place over the last number of years, and this event is another step in the right direction.

This event comes during a special celebratory period as Antrim Hockey Club and Ulster Hockey are celebrating over 125 years of hockey in Ulster.

“We look forward an exciting International Indoor Series between Ireland and Scotland and, to welcoming all the Players, Officials and Spectators to Antrim Forum on December 28th and 29th, 2021.”

Hockey Ireland indoor coach Kenny Carroll added: “It is really important that we showcase International indoor hockey in Ireland once again. 

“It is a brilliant spectacle and great we have the opportunity to play at the Antrim Forum. I would like to thank everyone who has helped put this dual series together and to thank Scotland for taking us up on the opportunity to travel across at this time. 

“It is brilliant our International Men and Women teams can  play back to back matches. Finally I would like to wish all participants well during the series and look forward to Indoor Hockey further growing  over the coming the years which will undoubtedly assist with the further development of hockey in general in Ireland.”

The Irish women’s side features seven of the side who played in the 2019 series in South Africa and the European Championships in early 2020 before the pandemic hit.

Millie Regan is the youngest of the trio of goalkeepers but also the most experienced in terms of caps. She is currently playing with Old Georgians outdoors but is back in Dublin with Railway Union for the Leinster indoor campaign.

She is joined in the pads by outdoor international Emma Buckley and Cork C of I’s Becky Maye who won an Irish Senior Cup title with Harlequins.

Outfield, reigning Irish champions Railway also provide five players – Patton sisters Orla and Sarah; Lily Lloyd, Holly Jenkinson and captain Orla Fox.

The side also features a trio of players who were due to be part of the Under-21 side to play in the Euros in Croatia this week before it was cancelled. 

16-year-old Mikayla Power has enjoyed a break-out season with Old Alex, scoring some glorious goals; Hannah Kelly was a reserve for the Junior World Cup while the well-travelled Laura Graham is an exciting addition.

Born in Norway with a Dutch mother and father from Northern Ireland, she grew up playing with HGC in Wassenaar before moving to England where she won national indoor medals at Under-18 level for club and school.

She is currently on a year abroad with her studies, playing in Germany with Limburger HC before switching to Spain in the new year.

Chloe Brown and Amy Benson have lots of experience with Ards on the European club stage and will be key players along with Sophie Barnwell who was an almost-ever present in 2019/20.

Barnwell’s Muckross club mate Rebecca McMullen, Pembroke’s Sally Campbell and Alex’s Emilie Ryan Doyle – whose sister Eleanor is a senior football international – are set to make their international debuts.

For the men’s squad, seven of the 2020 Euros panel is back in action. Railway Union goalkeeper Stephen O’Keeffe is joined in the pads by YMCA’s Jakim Bernsden who can make his debut in this series.

There is a volume of senior outdoor internationals involved including Olympian John Jackson, an expert in the code from his time in England, reaching several super sixes finals weekends.

Neal Glassey, Callum Robson and Jason Lynch are all also dual indoor and outdoor internationals as is Ross Canning has been Three Rock Rovers’ driving force for the guts of a decade with his father Liam providing a link to the indoor scene of the 80s.

Rowland Rixon-Fuller also holds that dual accolade having played outdoors for Zimbabwe before qualifying to play indoor for Ireland in 2020. 

Jody Hosking is following that route; he played for South Africa a handful of times several years ago but has been based in Ireland for most of the past decade to qualify for Ireland. 

Monkstown’s Jeremy Duncan – a member of the 2018 World Cup squad – and his tight stick skills is an exciting prospect, too. 

Oliver Kidd – with 11 goals – and Jack Haycock were the key players for the Under-21s last weekend and they move up to the senior setup. 

Rory Patterson, who plays outdoors with Antwerp in Belgium; Cookstown’s Mark Crooks, Corinthian’s Davy Howard and Glenanne’s Richard Couse are all looking forward to senior debuts in this exciting series.

 

International Indoor series (all at Antrim Forum)

Men

Tuesday, December 28: Ireland v Scotland, 6.30pm

Wednesday, December 29: Ireland v Scotland, 10am; Ireland v Scotland, 2pm

Women

Tuesday, December 28: Ireland v Scotland, 8pm

Wednesday, December 29: Ireland v Scotland, 11.30am; Ireland v Scotland, 3.30pm

 

Ticket sales links – both dates currently sold out

 

Women’s squad Club Caps
Millie Regan (GK) Old Georgians/Railway Union 10
Emma Buckley (GK) Pembroke 0
Becky Maye (GK) Cork C of I 0
Orla Fox Railway Union 12
Orla Patton Railway Union 12
Sarah Patton Railway Union 6
Lily Lloyd Railway Union 0
Holly Jenkinson Railway Union 0
Sophie Barnwell Muckross 11
Amy Benson Ards 11
Emilie Ryan Doyle Old Alex 0
Chloe Brown East Grinstead 11
Sally Campbell Pembroke 0
Hannah Kelly Catholic Institute 0
Mikayla Power Old Alex 0
Rebecca McMullen Muckross 0
Laura Graham Limburger HC 0
Men’s squad Club Caps
John Jackson Bath Buccaneers 5
Rowland Rixon-Fuller Glenanne 5
David Howard Corinthian 0
Jack Haycock Cookstown 0
Mark Crooks Cookstown 0
Ross Canning Three Rock Rovers 5
Oliver Kidd Lisnagarvey 0
Callum Robson Annadale 5
Neal Glassey Mossley/Crefelder HTC 5
Jason Lynch Cork C of I 2
Stephen O’Keeffe (GK) Railway Union 5
Richard Couse Glenanne 0
Jody Hosking Three Rock Rovers 0
Jeremy Duncan Monkstown 0
Jakim Bernsden (GK) YMCA 0
Rory Patterson Antwerp 0
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Muckross land big three points before Christmas

Women’s EY Hockey League
Cork Harlequins 0 Muckross 3 (J O’Brien, S McFarland, R McMullen)

Muckross landed a big win to boost their hopes of getting out of the women’s EY Hockey League relegation places in the new year as they saw off Cork Harlequins 3-0 at Farmers’ Cross on Saturday.

The result leaves them two points off eighth place Belfast Harlequins with Cork now five points off safety with eight fixtures to be played in 2022.

In the driving wind and rain, the Dubliners got off to a perfect start when Emma Mathews nicked possession on the Quins’ 23 and fired the perfect pass to Jane O’Brien in the danger zone and she calmly slotted in a second minute opening goal.

Muckross thought they had a second when Laura Hanlon volleyed in from close range but a corner for an earlier infringement was called instead. No matter, Julia Balcerzak’s hit was never fully cleared and Sarah McFarland scooped in her side’s second from the third rebound for 2-0.

The hosts’ main chances in the first half came from a couple of corners while goalkeeper Katie O’Donnell was alert to block both Beatrice O’Hare and Rachel O’Shea. For the most part, Muckross held sway in that first half and they built on that advantage in the 38th minute when Rebecca McMullen scored an excellent individual effort.

She dribbled right to draw in a couple of tacklers before turning behind her back, broke a tackle and then slipped in for 3-0.

From there, Harlequins threw everything forward but could not get on the scoreboard. Cliodhna Sargent’s cross from the left got no attacking touch before ending in the goal while Katie Moore and Michelle Barry both tested O’Donnell with strikes from the edge.

On the counter, Katie Fitzgerald was denied by Lorna Bateman while the home goalkeeper did well to hold up Kim Baker when through one-on-one. No further goals, though, meant Muckross had a vital win and a strong outlook for what they can do in 2022.

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Under-18 and 16 girls invited for Irish assessment sessions

The following players have been invited for assessment for girls’ national Under-18 and 16 sessions on Sunday, December 19th  following the most recent round of Interprovincial matches.

  • U18 Girls session will be held in Abbotstown from 130pm-500pm
  • U16 Girls session will be held in Loreto Foxrock from 1030am – 130pm

Team managers will be in touch with players regarding details of the sessions.

Ireland Under-18

  NAME  SURNAME  PROVINCE  Goalkeeper
1  ELLA   PASLEY  LEINSTER   
2  AVA   MALEADY  LEINSTER   
3  GEORGIE  FOTTERELL  LEINSTER   
4  ALEX  GALLAGHER  LEINSTER   
5  ROISIN  SEXTON   LEINSTER   
6  SALLY  TRAYNOR  LEINSTER   
7  MIKAYLA  POWER  LEINSTER   
8  SARAH  MCFARLAND  LEINSTER   
9  REBECCA  CARTHY  LEINSTER   
10  CHARLOTTE  O’NEILL  LEINSTER   
11  JESSICA  MCCONN WALSH  LEINSTER   
12  CAOIMHE  SEYMOUR  LEINSTER  GK 
13  ZOE  HANDCOCK  LEINSTER SOUTH    
14  ISOBEL  COLLINS  LEINSTER SOUTH    
15  ERIN  LLOYD  LEINSTER SOUTH   GK 
16  DOIREANN  MCCURDY  LEINSTER SOUTH   GK 
17  CAOIMHE  CLEARY  CONNACHT   
18  LARA   SWANN  CONNACHT   
19  LAUREN  O’DONNELL  CONNACHT   
20  KATIE   MOORE  MUNSTER   
21  RUBY  WALSH  MUNSTER   
22  JENNY  MCLAUGHLIN   MUNSTER   
23  KATE  RYAN  MUNSTER   
24  SARAH   FITZGERALD  MUNSTER   
25  ROBYN  MURPHY  MUNSTER   
26  AOIBHEANN  COLLINS  MUNSTER   
27  OLIVIA   BEATTIE  ULSTER    
28  ALEX  BYRNE  ULSTER    
29  ANNA  PIM  ULSTER    
30  EVA   GASTON  ULSTER    
31  DARCY   MCGALL  ULSTER    
32  KAIA  MOORE  ULSTER    
33  GABRIELLA  SCOTT  ULSTER    
34  JODIE   SIMMONS  ULSTER    
35  ELLA   BROWN  ULSTER    
36  SARAH   KIRGAN  ULSTER    
37  EMMA  UPRICHARD  ULSTER    
38  AOIFE  DOYLE  ULSTER   GK 

 

 

Ireland Under-16 

  NAME  SURNAME  PROVINCE  NOTE 
1  LUCY  MCGOLDRICK  LEINSTER  GK 
2  MILLIE  JERMAN  LEINSTER   
3  ORLA   YOUNG HUGHES  LEINSTER   
4  MILLA   FULTON  LEINSTER   
5  ISOBEL   FIELD  LEINSTER   
6  ALIYA   DAVIS  LEINSTER   
7  AOIFE  O’MEARA  LEINSTER   
8  SARAH  BYRNE  LEINSTER   
9  EMILIE  O’BRIEN  LEINSTER   
10  SOPHIE  KENNEDY  LEINSTER   
11  RUBY  MULLEN  LEINSTER   
12  SOPHIE   ENGLISH  LEINSTER   
13  AMY  HANDCOCK  LEINSTER SOUTH    
14  ISABELLE  LEDSEME  LEINSTER SOUTH    
15  EMMA  SIMMONS  LEINSTER SOUTH    
16  MOLLY  FINLEY  LEINSTER SOUTH    
17  CAMILLE  MADDEN  LEINSTER SOUTH    
18  GRAINNE  MOLLOY  LEINSTER SOUTH   GK 
19  ROBIN  CAREN  MUNSTER  GK 
20  ANNA  CAMPBELL  MUNSTER   
21  AMY   NOONAN  MUNSTER   
22  ROISIN  O’BRIEN  MUNSTER   
23  CAOIMHE  GAFFNEY  MUNSTER   
24  ROISIN  HEANEY  CONNACHT   
25  MEABH   MCLOUGHLIN  CONNACHT   
26  CHLOE  PATTON  ULSTER    
27  SCARLETT  TAYLOR  ULSTER    
28  EMILY  CRAWFORD  ULSTER    
29  JONI  CUNNINGHAM  ULSTER    
30  RACHEL  LENNON  ULSTER    
31  REBEKAH  LENNON  ULSTER    
32  ANNIE  CUNNINGHAM  ULSTER    
33  DARCY  SHIELDS  ULSTER    
34  KIA   MCCARTNEY  ULSTER    
35  KATIE   HERRON  ULSTER    
36  KATE  SPILLANE  ULSTER   
37  CHARLIE  BOWMAN  ULSTER  GK 
38  LOLA  HENDERSON  ULSTER  GK 

 

 

 

 

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Bell formally steps back following his “magical era” with the Green Machine

Jonny Bell has retired from international hockey having played an in crucial role for the Green Machine from his debut in 2012, encompassing 181 caps – 29 as captain – the 2016 Olympic Games, the 2018 World Cup and three European Championship A division events.

The fearless defender from Lisnagarvey says it is a natural time for him to step away following a superb career with his last formal cap coming in 2019 at the Olympic qualifiers in Vancouver against Canada.

“I can look back at all the great things we did between 2012 and 2019, it really was a magical era to be part of and I am very lucky my career coincided with that period for Irish men’s hockey,” the 34-year-old Bell said with typical modesty when reflecting on his time in green.

“There have been better players than me down the years who didn’t get that so I am very grateful. For me, it is the friendships I have taken away, getting to play with so many guys who are lifelong friends which is something I really cherish.

“There are endless coaches to thank from my early days up to the likes of Craig Fulton to Paul Revington and numerous club coaches but also the support staff – the likes of Lisa Costley, Niamh Maguire who kept my body going so long and the people in the office like Joan Morgan and Adam Grainger who booked flights and got programs organised. They don’t often get a lot of thanks but they really make an impact.

“To my own club mates who have provided that competitive edge at club training to keep me sharp over the years, Erroll Lutton who has been a source of good advice and mentorship. And, of course, to my own family, mum and dad who always helped me maintain a useful sense of perspective, and my girlfriend Ashley – who is now my wife – for her support and encouragement!”

Bell was something of a late bloomer when it came to international hockey, making his debut at the age of 24 having never played Irish underage teams.

Indeed, his early ambitions mainly zoned in on playing for the Garvey first team where he cut his teeth in the game and remains to this day. His two older sisters played at the club as juniors and future team mate Brian Waring’s mother introduced him to the sport in P5 at Friends School, giving him a strong connection from day one.

He would get a strong tutelage from the “school of hard knocks” on his way up, progressing to a second eleven team packed with legends like Alan Dowd, Dan Clarke, Jimmy Kirkwood, Julian Stevenson and Pakenham Pim, all coached by Hockey Ireland Hall of Famer Terry Gregg.

Given the nature of the team, he was often used in peripheral roles and he missed out on the Ulster-16s, partly due to his size. The provincial coach at that juncture was Drew Campbell who made that decision but he would go on to make the “masterstroke” when he took on the reins at Garvey, switching him from right-back to the centre. It proved a key moment in his development.

“He redeemed himself in my view when he had that masterstroke which really helped my career!” Bell laughs of the time.

“Growing up, playing for Lisnagarvey was always my priority. Leaving school but staying at home, a large part of it was that. I always looked up to the guys playing for the first eleven and that was my only focus.

“I never really thought too seriously about playing internationally until I got that first call-up from Paul Revington for a training session. The first few trainings were certainly a shock to the system!”

His formal debut came in the lead-up to the 2012 Olympic qualifiers with games against the Czech Republic after several test fixtures. With that cycle coming to a conclusion, Bell became a more regular feature from 2013 onwards, playing in the World League Round One in Wales before featuring in that summer’s World League Round Three in Rotterdam and the European Championships in Boom.

While that summer was hit and miss from a results’ perspective, it formed a necessary phase in building the golden era, particularly when Craig Fulton came on board as head coach in 2014.

“I played against him and knew he was a real fighter and a warrior with that South African mentality and that aligned with my own mentality. I learned a lot from him.

“His era benefited technically from the huge grounding put in place by Revington and he was able to galvanise us as a team, instilling a mentality and a way of playing that we all subscribed to.

“You could feel a real unity in the team, that we were united around a common purpose and cause with real belief building. It was off the back of the failure to qualify in 2012 that really galvanised the team. We started to have a DNA based around really solid gritty defence, providing the platform to play from.”

Bell embodied that DNA, a defender with a natural instinct for putting personal safety to one side to block that last ball, typified in the 2015 run to Olympic qualification and that famous 1-0 win over Pakistan.

He says those interventions became second nature to the team.

“It’s a hard thing to train or develop but there is that competitive spirit and if you are passionate around a cause, that will to win and succeed – that’s when it comes out.

“Everyone was making that joint sacrifice – job promotions or whatever, that stuff can wait. You have a short window in your life where you have the opportunity and privilege to do something really special.

“It was about grasping that opportunity, knowing that you had won your preparation, doing everything within your power to do the best you could, and ultimately walking away with no regrets ”

He carried a groin injury through that qualifier series which ruled him out of the European bronze run in London. The break allowed him to be ready for 2016 and Rio – “a year like no other”.

“There was a real fervour and clamour of interest along with media interest for Irish hockey. It was uncharted waters, exciting but nerve-wracking to be part of. It was certainly a magical year and one I look back on with fond memories.

“It was a challenge to keep everyone playing for the team, because ultimately everyone just wants to be on that plane. Selection plays into the mix and made it a challenge for the unique chemistry we made within the group. You didn’t want to lose that.”

Ultimately, he made the plane to the five-ringed showpiece. On reflection, the margins were fine – Ireland were a couple of inches from a draw against India; they went into the final group game with Argentina needing a win to advance and eliminate the eventual champions into the bargain.

It was right in the mix with nine minutes to go, level at 2-2, before Gonzalo Peillat dashed that dream.

“At the time, you think about the results and could you have done better, punched more above our weight like we were used to. When time moves on, you look back with more leniency: ‘we made it to the Olympics, we are Olympians, we brought Irish hockey to the top table.”

They were back on the winning trail in 2017, reaching the World Cup with a first ever win over New Zealand to get there in trademark style, a 1-0 guts and glory effort in Johannesburg.

“It was incredible to follow up with another qualification, coming down to a game against ​higher ranked New Zealand and another heroic effort to get over the line”.

“Going to a second major tournament in three years, we hoped to make more of an impact. The team was evolving with a nice blend of youth and experience but it didn’t work out for us on the pitch. With a new coach embedding a new philosophy and way of playing, taking its time to adjust. That changeover of it, the timing wasn’t ideal. We were fortunate to have a coach of Alexander Cox’s quality but it didn’t work out for us on the pitch.”

That evolution carried through to the 2019 Tokyo qualifiers with Mark Tumilty taking the reins and the brink of a second successive Olympic spot. That went up in smoke in the most heart-breaking fashion, a controversial last second stroke and a subsequent shoot-out defeat.

It proved to be his final cap: “As a player, you want a fairytale ending. You always want more, especially when you have played at those big tournaments and it becomes a drug – not that I have taken any! “It is an addictive thing and you want to feel that buzz again. Vancouver wasn’t that and then the Covid break, along with my age, it was that natural break. When I look back, I won’t look back at isolated moments like Vancouver but the bigger picture.

“I am very proud of all the achievements we had. Getting to captain the team was an incredible privilege, something I never thought would happen.

“I remember being given the armband for the first time in Bisham Abbey and being surrounded by guys in that room who I looked up to for years and I saw as being legends of the game. It was a surreal moment. I will always cherish that.

“I’ve taken a good bit of time away and over the summer I came to the conclusion it was definitely time to retire. Qualify or not for the 2023 World Cup, my decision was already made.

“If we had qualified, it would have made it even easier, knowing we were in a good place and back at that top table. Besides, the result in Cardiff, I am delighted to see a crop of young players taking up the reigns and I wish Tum and the team every success in the future.

“For me it’s time to focus on other things in my life. Work, married life, club hockey and, down the line, I wouldn’t mind getting involved in coaching and giving back to the sport in Ireland because I got an awful lot out of it and feel I can make a contribution which I am keen to do.”

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Ulster impress on bumper day of interprovincial action

Seven interpro matches were played out across three venues – Cookstown, Rosbrien and Grange Road – as the new format of underage interprovincial championships enjoyed its busiest day of action to date.

In the Under-16 girls competition, Ulster and Leinster South played out a highly competitive battle at Grange Road. Scarlett Taylor scored a thumping penalty corner shot to put Ulster ahead in the third quarter before Molly Finley equalised for 1-1 at the final whistle.

South earned a bonus point when they won the shoot-out; it adds to their opening day draw with Munster while Ulster remain unbeaten in normal time following a success against Connacht last time out.

Munster were too strong for Connacht with a 6-0 success with Anna Campbell scoring twice. Ulster and Leinster lead the way with two wins out of two thus far.

At Under-18 girls level, Ulster came from a goal down to beat Leinster South and make it two wins from two. Isobel Collins’ superb pick-up and strike put South in front at half-time but Ulster made their move in Q3 with Emma Uprichard and Gabriella Scott netting and Darcy McGall put them out of sight to make it two from two.

Munster were 3-0 winners against Connacht. Rachel O’Shea grabbed an early goal at Rosbrien; Katie Moore put more distance between the sides and Sarah Fitzgerald completed the scoring.

It continues their strong record in the competition, adding to an earlier win over Leinster and a bonus point draw against Leinster South.

Fiona Kelly’s fourth quarter goal saw Connacht win 1-0 over Munster in the Under-21 championship to finish second overall in this three-team competition. Leinster had won against both of the other sides earlier in the season.

On the boys side, Ulster made it two big wins from two in the Under-16s with a 4-1 win at Cookstown against Leinster to back up November’s success against Munster.

The northern province are also two from two in the Under-18 boys competition courtesy of a 5-1 success against Leinster in the second game of the day at the Co Tyrone venue.

The competition continues with the return fixtures starting on January 30 with Munster against Leinster.

Men
Under-16:
Leinster 1 (Hugo Faulkner) Ulster 4 (George Palmer, Robbie Brown, Lukas Moles, Tom Archbold)
Under-18: Leinster 1 (Mark Smyth) Ulster 5 (Daniel Murray 2, Ben Pollock, Ewan Cruickshank, Louis Rowe)

Women
Under-16:
Connacht 0 Munster 6 (Anna Campbell 2, Caoimhe Gaffney, Maya Dullea, Miah Bourke, Aoife Kavanagh); Ulster 1 (Scarlett Taylor) Leinster South 1 (Molly Finley), Leinster South win shoot-out
Under-18: Connacht 0 Munster 3 (Rachel O’Shea, Katie Moore, Sarah Fitzgerald); Ulster 3 (Emma Uprichard, Gabriella Scott, Darcy McGall) Leinster South 1 (Isobel Collins)
Under-21: Connacht 1 (Fiona Kelly) Munster 0

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Comebacks galore for Garvey, Bann and YM as TRR go back to top

Men’s EY Hockey League – day 10 round-up
Lisnagarvey 3 (B Nelson, P McKibbin, J Lorimer) Glenanne 2 (C Kennedy, G Gibney)

Lisnagarvey got back to winning ways at Comber Road after their draw with Banbridge a week earlier as a two-goal second half salvo earned them a narrow win over Glenanne.

Garvey twice had to come from behind to seal a hard-fought victory which saw them go into the EYHL’s winter break in second place in the standings.

The Hillsborough side trail leaders Three Rock Rovers by a single point after the latter’s win over basement side UCD.

In a ding-dong battle Glenanne matched Garvey in every sector with both goalkeepers excelling with some outstanding saves and even the most fervent home fans would admit the Dublin side deserved something from the game.

James Milliken won his personal battle with Ireland’s all-time leading scorer Shane O’Donoghue, keeping the Glens’ hotshot scoreless after he had hit a hat-trick in last weekend’s win over Annadale.

As early as the second minute, Milliken came to the rescue when he denied O’Donoghue from a penalty corner.

At the other end, David Lawless brilliantly kept out Andy Edgar’s effort from a set-piece in the 17th minute. Glenanne broke away immediately after a clearance off Lawless’s pads and Clive Kennedy gave them the lead from a rebound after Milliken had saved from Adam Clayton.

Two minutes later, Garvey levelled when James Lorimer rifled in a corner after playing a neat one-two with the visitors’ defence perhaps expecting a straight shot.

In the 23rd minute, Glenanne went ahead again when Gavin Gibney scored a fine opportunist effort, knocking in a left-wing cross from an acute angle.

Garvey then hit a purple patch, Peter McKibbin netting from the penalty spot in the 50th minute after ‘feet’ on the line after Matthew Nelson had won the award.

Barely 60 seconds later, Ben Nelson grabbed the winner from close range, denying the Glens the point they deserved on the balance of play after a pulsating contest which was a credit to both teams.

Banbridge 3 (C Curry, O Magee, J McKee) Monkstown 2 (D Carson, J Duncan)
Banbridge nabbed a last-minute winner to jump into the top four for the first time this season as Jonny McKee finished off an outstanding move to complete a famous comeback against Monkstown.

Town had looked in great shape as Davy Carson finished past Luke Roleston low to the goalkeeper’s left in the opening phases. And they were two to the good in the second quarter when Jeremy Duncan’s deflected shot found its way in and they held that advantage until deep into the third quarter.

Bann got their foothold in the tie when McKee stole possession and fed Chris Curry who finished off. They still trailed going into the last six minutes of the contest but Owen Magee struck the sweetest of reverse-stick finishes to tie things up and they won it with one of the last plays of the game.

It was brilliantly created, a high interception from Charlie Rowe to set the move going at full tilt, working it down the right wing where it was returned to the middle for McKee to finish off.

Pembroke 2 (C Hynes, J Dale) YMCA 3 (A Walker, S Hyland, R Henderson)
YMCA produced a brilliant second half comeback to leap into the top six playoff positions at the expense of Pembroke who would have done likewise had they held on to an earlier 2-0 advantage. As it is, the Dublin 4 side remain in the relegation zone on goal difference behind Corinthian who have a game in hand against Annadale in January.

The hosts looked good when Cillian Hynes got the only goal of the first half and Julian Dale extended the gap from a penalty corner in the third quarter.

But Adam Walker’s set-piece finish put YM back in the hunt and it was level at 2-2 a couple of minutes into the closing quarter with Sam Hyland on the mark. Ross Henderson got a hat trick against Pembroke on the opening day of the season and he was their tormentor once more, getting the last minute winner for the Y, making it two wins on the spin for them going into Christmas.

Three Rock Rovers 6 (R Canning 2, A Empey 2, E Jennings, A Keane) UCD 0
Three Rock Rovers returned to the top of the men’s EY Hockey League table for Christmas as five second half goals saw them ease by the challenge of UCD.

The students – powered by the excellent Kevin O’Dea and Sam Walker – made life difficult for Rovers in the first half at Grange Road but the hosts did go ahead when Ali Empey’s cross got a beautiful touch at the near post from Evan Jennings into the roof of the net.

Into the second half, the lead was doubled when Ross Canning was put through one on one and he calmly slotted home. Empey got his first of the day when he go to the left baseline, protected the ball well before dodging back and slipping into the goal. The forward was tripped for a stroke which Canning converted for 4-0 in the fourth quarter.

Andy Keane deflected in a penalty corner move for another one and Empey rounded out the win with his second goal, an absolute rocket hit from the right edge of the circle.

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Big learning curve for Irish Under-21 men’s indoor side

The Irish Under-21 men’s indoor side had a steep learning curve on day one of their EuroHockey Junior Championship II in Porto as they made their debut in two high-scoring affairs.

Against Ukraine in game one, they got an idea of the challenge ahead as they went 5-0 by half-time. They fought back in the second half to share it 3-3 with Oliver Kidd netting a hat trick – a corner, one from play and a stroke – for a final score of 8-3.

Game two proved a frustrating one. Ireland got off to a flying start with Kidd getting his second hat trick of the day inside the first four minutes for a 3-0 lead with Jack Haycock to the fore. Kidd got his fourth before half-time but that advantage was cut back to 4-3 at the big break.

Kenny Carroll’s side bounced back to build a 6-3 lead once more by the 25th minute with Harry McCarthy and Traolach Butler on the mark; Butler’s second of the game meant they led 7-5 going into the final quarter.

But the Croats produced an excellent final spell to swap things around and win out 9-7 with the boys in green disappointed to miss a stroke which would have made it 8-8 with two minutes remaining.

“A bit of rollercoaster,” said coach Carroll. “We actually started well and should have been a couple of goals up but, obviously, 5-0 at half-time, there was a bit of naivety. The game was over then so the second half was about trying to win that and we were happy with how we finished that game.

“For Croatia, we thought we had a good plan and the game started really well. A few of the things we worked on actually happened and we got goals from them. As a neutral, it was probably a great one to watch from an excitement point of view but it became unstructured, pressing high, making for a lot of space and counter-attacks and we came out on the wrong side of it in the last quarter.

“We want to improve from game to game and we are still very much in it to get a couple of results before the end of the weekend.”

Ireland start their Saturday games at 1.30pm Irish time against Portugal before facing tournament favourites Belarus at 5.15pm.

Men’s EuroHockey Indoor Championship II (Paredes, Portugal)
Friday results:
Ireland 3 (O Kidd 3) Ukraine 8 (Y Dzemukh 3, V Mynchuk 2, O Popov, O Boiko, V Zhmereniuk); Ireland 7 (O Kidd 4, T Butler 2, H McCarthy) Croatia 9 (M Ilnovic 3, M Dananic 2, T Dabic 2, L Wehr, L Mesaric)
Saturday: Ireland v Portugal, 1.30pm; Ireland v Belarus, 5.15pm

Standings: 1. Belarus 6pt (+9) 2. Ukraine 6pts (+7) 3. Denmark 3pts (-1) 4. Croatia 3pts (-2) 5. Portugal 0pts (-6) 6. Ireland 0pts (-7)

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Olympian Daly bows out following spectacular career with Green Army

Nicci Daly has announced her retirement from international hockey following 200 caps and playing a dynamic role in the Green Army’s golden period since making her debut in 2010.

It included that famous 2018 World Cup silver medal, five European Championships and this summer’s Olympic Games in Tokyo while her goal against South Africa in 2015 in Valencia will be forever remembered as one of the greatest ever in an Irish outfit.

It is a career that the now 33-year-old scarcely envisaged during her school days. Introduced to the sport at The High School in Rathgar, her earliest years were spent more around the track at Mondello with her father Vivion and uncle Derek who were among Irish motorsport’s leading lights.

Indeed, she only had a fleeting engagement with club hockey at Diocesan while she also involved in ladies Gaelic football to a high level, playing with the Dublin senior panel.

But Graham Shaw suggested she had far more potential than she ever realised and nudged her in the direction of Glenanne – scoring on her Leinster Division One debut – and then on to Loreto where she was soon tearing it up with her raw pace and stick-speed.

That unique threat brought her to the attention of national coach Gene Muller, making her debut in 2010.

“I was awful; I really don’t think I touched the ball once – not with my stick anyway,” she remembers of the time and her first beginnings in the team.

“It was important though because at that time, I thought how am I ever going to be able to make this team? Now I can look back and know that it was the start of a really exciting journey and that it takes time to get where you want to go.

“The first big high for me with the team I feel was 2014. It was the Champions Challenge in Glasgow in 2014, we were the second lowest ranked team and we finished second – a bit like the World Cup”

“The year before, we had been relegated from the A division Europeans and didn’t even make the second round of the World Cup qualifier so this really was a turning point for the Green Army. It was all down to the coaching of Darren Smith when we started to play some really good hockey.”

Wins against higher ranked South Africa and Korea were formative moments and they carried that belief into the 2016 Olympic qualifiers where they would initially top their group.

In that run, Daly’s breathtaking goal against South Africa typified that new-found swagger.

“That goal was so important for me, not just because it was a good goal but because of the deeper meaning of it. I struggled with confidence as a player and had struggled to unlock my potential in games.

“Leading into the Rio Olympic qualifier, it was my uncle Derek who helped me. I knew I was better than I was showing.

“Derek gave me a book called ‘Performance Thinking: Mental Skills for the Competitive World’. It was about understanding and training your mind for better performances and it helped me so much. That goal felt like the moment it all clicked for me and gave me the confidence and reassurance I needed to believe I was good enough.”

From that pinnacle, though, came the crash as the width of a post put the Olympic dream abruptly on hold.

“Then came the rock bottom low when we didn’t qualify for Rio. It was devastating because we were making the most progress we had seen and we achieved things that had never been achieved before.. It felt like it was our time and to lose out the way we did was just heart-breaking.

“I remember feeling like I gave everything I had and another cycle seemed impossible. I struggled with it and took the opportunity to go to the States to explore my other passion, motorsport. It was definitely the break I needed.”

It helped Daly rejuvenate, recalibrate and play an ever-present role in the Green Army’s groundbreaking 2018 run to World Cup silver on those hazy summer days in London.

“London was a fairytale. Second lowest ranked team and in the World Cup final. It’s dreamland stuff but we went in knowing we could cause an upset (maybe just not quite as big as the one we did). It was great to put hockey on the map back home and inspire a whole generation at the same time, that’s been our legacy I feel, showing the youngsters that anything is possible and that if they can see it they can be it”

She did entertain the notion of stepping back at that stage, finishing on an incredible high, but there was still one ambition very much still to be fulfilled.

“The dream was always the Olympics, ever since the first training camp I went to, when Gene Muller told me hockey was in the Olympics. I didn’t even know that it was an Olympic sport at that stage [in 2009], but hearing my name and the Olympics in the same sentence was the only thing I remember from that conversation.

“Scoring a goal in the shootout against Canada during the Tokyo Olympic qualifier was another important moment for me, not just because of what it meant for the team. It gave me a feeling that I could still offer something, and gave me a boost when I really needed it the most.”

With qualification achieved, the Covid year was a rough one. While her inspiring skills videos were blowing up on social media, managing a niggling knee injury and the time stuck up the Dublin mountains was another big test to get right for a huge 2021.

Daly celebrates a goal against Belgium during her first international season in 2010. Pic: Adrian Boehm

“It’s been a battle for the last few years. This year was one of the hardest between the injuries and the level of competition within the squad.

“It’s at that point you think – I can either choose to make excuses here or I can continue to take on the challenge and do everything I can to put myself in contention.

“I have so much respect for every player in the squad who took on the same challenges and made that choice to give it absolutely everything and, whatever the outcome, at least we know we gave it everything. Being selected for Tokyo really was the dream come true.”

Her 200th cap came in the final game against Great Britain in the closing fixture of the group stages, the closing chapter to her international career.

In the time since then, it has given plenty of pause for thought about what it meant to be part of the Green Army.

“When I reflect on my career, there were definitely an even share of highs and lows both personally and collectively with the team.

“There are so many things I could talk about over the 12 years but I think one of the most important things I can take away is how much sport can teach you about yourself. It forces you to discover who you really are.

“You learn to understand how you behave when you’re challenged, how you deal with your emotions under pressure and how you choose to approach those challenges.

“You have to be honest with yourself; you have to be willing to have a growth mindset so that you’re always learning and always growing not just as a player but as a person.

“That’s one of the biggest takeaways I can take from my career. How it forced me to discover who I really am and why I was doing it.

“It wouldn’t have been the journey it was without the group and the team of players around me. The different coaches provided something different and I either learned something about myself or my hockey from each of them.

“I have made some of the best friends over the 12 years and I couldn’t have kept going without them pushing me and supporting me along the way.

“My family and very close friends have been the backbone of my support system. I could not have done it without them, especially my mother who shows me what resilience really is.

“I like to think I get my drive from my dad and my strength and resilience from my Mum. My uncle Derek was hugely influential, having had a career at the top level himself, I trusted him and looked up to him. He helped transform the mental side of my game and I am so grateful for his support. A special mention to my nana, an unrelenting energy and inspiration.

“A massive thanks to all our sponsors and individual sponsors who supported and continue to support me.

“It has been a special journey and I feel so lucky to have been part of such a great team for as long as I have. I won’t miss the sore body and aching joints but I will miss the team and the feeling of walking out to represent my country. 200 appearances and every single time I got butterflies when the national anthem played.

“It’s been special, it’s been emotional and it’s been a dream come true.

“Thank you 💚”

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Men’s EYHL set for final pre-Christmas twist

The men’s EY Hockey League is set for its last pre-Christmas twist with four of the top five meeting each other on week ten of the competition.

Third hosts first as Lisnagarvey welcome Glenanne to Comber Road with the latter returning to the top last weekend courtesy of Shane O’Donoghue’s 15th goal of the campaign on the buzzer against Annadale. Remarkably, he has scored their last five goals across league and Irish Senior Cup.

Garvey left St Andrew’s empty-handed on the opening day of the season as David Lawless produced a fine debut between the posts and they had a goal ruled out. The Glens used that result to kickstart a run of five successive wins and while they had a stumble, they have ground out three wins in succession by a single goal.

The Ulster side, meanwhile, took out their scoring touch on Newry in midweek in the Kirk Cup with hat tricks for Ben Nelson and Troy Chambers in an 11-0 success. Ollie Kidd is in Portugal for the U-21 Euro indoors.

Banbridge host Monkstown in a contest between fifth and fourth. Louis and Charlie Rowe both picked up the McCullough Cup this week with Banbridge Academy to add to their impressive seasons to date with their club on a good run of 10 points from the last 12 on offer.

On day one, Town grabbed a late equaliser through Geoff Cole’s cracking goal to make it 1-1. The south Dublin side have only lost once this season on the national stage but four draws has kept them just off the top three thus far.

At Serpentine Avenue, Pembroke meet YMCA having won two of their last three games. While the Dublin 4 side remain in the relegation zone on goal difference, they are back in the frame and a win here would lift them level on points with sixth-placed Annadale. Player-coach Alan Sothern is still under assessment over an injury which will keep him out of this one.

YM won the first meeting 5-3 as they regularly found the highest forward in behind the back; they had to wait until last weekend for the second win of the campaign. Ross Henderson was a key influence that day and he returned last week after a month out. The Y will be without Harry McCarthy and Ben O’Grady on Irish Under-21 indoor duty.

Three Rock Rovers meet UCD for a third time this season in a meeting between the top scorers and the highest conceders with the former scoring 13 times in the previous two ties across the Mills Cup and EYHL. They will, however, be without the emerging Ben Ryder while Mark Samuel and Ben Johnson are injury concerns.

Annadale’s match against Corinthian has been pushed back to late January.

There is also a series of Irish Hockey Challenge fixtures with Galway hosting Limerick in Group 1, Midleton face Naas and Waterford against Wicklow in Group 2 and Saintfield playing Armagh in Group 3.

On the women’s side, Cork Harlequins and Muckross face off in the one EYHL game on the agenda, a huge battle with both sides needing to get their first win on the board if they are to have a chance at bridging the gap to the safety of eighth place.

Harlequins welcomed back Cliodhna Sargent for their tie against Pembroke to the fold last Saturday and she brings a wealth of experience to their young side.

The two sides drew on day one of the season with both sides scoring near identical goals from penalty corners from the injection area, Michelle Barry and Laura Hanlon hitting the net.

Since then, Muckross have had the tighter defence but both sides have found the going tough in front of goal, scoring five goals between them since that contest.

It is the last 16 phase of the women’s Irish Hockey Challenge from nine different counties aiming to make it through to the final eight line-up.

Saturday 11th December 2021
Men
EYHL Division 1:
Banbridge v Monkstown, Havelock Park, 4pm; Lisnagarvey v Glenanne, Comber Road, 2.30pm; Pembroke v YMCA, Serpentine Avenue, 4pm; Three Rock Rovers v UCD, Grange Road, 1pm

Irish Hockey Challenge
Group 1:
Galway v Limerick, Dangan Sports Ground
Group 2: Midleton v Naas, Midleton College, 3.30pm; Waterford v Wicklow, Newtown, 2pm
Group 3: Saintfield v Armagh, Saintfield Cricket Club, 2.30pm

Women
EYHL Division 1:
Cork Harlequins v Muckross, Farmers’ Cross, 12.45pm

Irish Hockey Challenge – Round 2: Athlone v Weston, Athlone RC, 1pm; Blackrock v Wicklow, Blackrock 2.30pm; Clonakilty v Gorey, Clonakilty, 2.30pm; Enniscorthy v Cork Wanderers, Astro Active, 12.30pm; Greenfields 2 v Bangor, Dangan, 2.15pm; NICS v Mullingar, Stormont, 1pm; NUIG v Portrane, Dangan; Wexford v Kilkenny, Loreto Wexford, 2pm

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O’Grady relishes Euro debut a year to the day since cancer diagnosis

** For more information on the Irish Under-21 men’s indoor squad, click here

When Ireland’s Under-21 men line out on Friday at the EuroHockey Indoor Championships II in Porto, it will be another significant milestone in the regeneration of the shortened version of the sport.

They face a six-team group, starting off against Ukraine on Friday morning, with an Irish team entering at this grade for the very first time. For all concerned, it will be an emotional moment in green but, for skipper Ben O’Grady, the December 10th tip-off date is particularly significant. 

It will mark exactly a year to the day since he was diagnosed with Burkitt’s lymphoma, a rare blood cancer which presented in his stomach which, if unchecked, could have proven far more harrowing than the 84 days he spent in hospital.

“It all happened very quickly,” the YMCA man said of the initial haze. “It’s one of the fastest growing cancers and can double in size in a day. I was having difficulty stomaching food and I knew pretty quickly something was up. 

“On the 2nd of December, I knew I had cancer, but not sure exactly which one. I had another biopsy, was diagnosed on the 10th and then treatment started on the 11th. It was as quick as possible, thankfully.”

Despite the seriousness of the situation, there was inspiration close to hand in the hockey community, not just to recover but to reach the top level. Just this summer, Ian Stewart – who is also a graduate of Wesley College – made his senior international debut having overcome non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 2016. 

Grace O’Flanagan discovered a sarcoma in her neck before playing a crucial role in the Irish women’s World Cup qualification and run to silver.

“It was very tough news to hear but I was confident knowing there is a high survival rate. I know Ian well; he also had a similar type of cancer. Seeing guys like Ian and Chris [Pelow – another Irish international who survived a synovial sarcoma] get through something like this with such a positive outlook and recovery, it gave me a big boost to stay in the moment and take each day, each step at a time.

“Throughout my stay in hospital, I was fortunate to have the support of a huge number of different groups, the hockey community for one all around me is something I am hugely grateful for.” 

“A group of school friends setup a page called Costa del Ireland, setting a fundraising challenge to virtually run, walk or cycle around the coast of Ireland. They covered the perimeter of Ireland twice over – I was able to partake while in hospital, doing a bit of walking when I could towards the end of my treatment when I was a bit more mobile.”

Indeed, he jokes that while there is no particularly good time to get cancer, this one worked out reasonably ok as his recovery coincided with a locked down hockey season and he was able to push UCD physiotherapy exams back to the summer.

And he was keen to get back to the sport when he could having previously played outdoors for Ireland at Under-16 and 21 level.

Ben O’Grady in club action for YMCA. Picture: Sinead Hingston

As soon as possible, he linked back up with his club for five-a-side through the summer, building up his energy reserves, describing himself as the “anti-Lance Armstrong” with his haemoglobin levels half where they should be when he started out.

But he was surprised at how quickly he was able to build up his strength and when delayed Under-21 trials got the green-light in the autumn from government restrictions on indoor sport, he jumped at the chance.

O’Grady had developed a passion for the format at Under-14 level via Portrane Hockey Club’s progressive initiative, the Tommy O’Sullivan Cup. The yearly competition, held over a series of weeks in January, has introduced a large cohort to the code over the last decade or so, filling a hole during a usually barren period for youth hockey.

Many of Ireland’s team this week cut their teeth in the six-a-side format there or at its Ulster Hockey Under-15 equivalent held at the Antrim Forum. It has fed into these new teams and the reintroduction of senior Irish international teams for the first time since the 1980s. The forum will host a series against Scotland on December 28 and 29 for men and women.

“Indoor hockey is in its early stages in Ireland but the potential to grow is huge,” O’Grady said. “Almost every school has a sports hall of sorts; all that’s needed is an investment in boards and the sport can grow which would be great to see, especially secondary schools potentially introducing a league.”

As for the task at hand, it is a complete journey into the unknown. Video of opponents from Ukraine, Portugal, Belarus, Croatia and Denmark is fleeting at best and so a significant part of the tactical planning will take place on the fly.

“In an outdoor tournament, we would know roughly what to expect from say, the English or the Belgians. We’ll be playing nations we wouldn’t typically associate with outdoor hockey; but with pitches freezing earlier in the season for these mainland European countries they play a lot of indoor hockey so I’m sure the tournament will be highly competitive. 

“It is a unique position, not knowing what to expect from a tournament we’ve never played in. It’s all very new and we don’t have a huge idea of what to expect from the teams so we take every game as it comes. It’s a hugely exciting prospect. 

“Whatever happens, it’s been a remarkable year, a lot of ups and downs, and I feel very fortunate to be part of this group. We have a very talented group of players and coaches and we’re all really looking forward to pulling on a green jersey and representing Ireland in the indoor Under-21 championships.”

 

EuroHockey U21 Men Indoor Championship II, Parades, Portugal , December 10-12 2021

  1. Ben O’Grady (Captain, YMCA)
  2. Jack Haycock (vice-captain, Cookstown)
  3. Traoloch Butler (Pembroke Wanderers)
  4. Ollie Kidd (Lisnagarvey)
  5. Craig Mackay (Corinthian)
  6. Harry McCarthy (YMCA)
  7. Louis Murphy (Railway Union)
  8. Jamie Orr (North Down)
  9. Jake Pillow (Railway Union)
  10. Ben Ryder (Three Rock Rovers)
  11. Eoin Brennan  (Goalkeeper, Railway Union)
  12. Ian O’Keeffe (GK, HC Oranje Rood (NED))

Manager: Neil Mackay

Head Coach: Kenny Carroll

Coach / Analyst: Ross Willis

Physio: Huw Rees

Fixture schedule (all times local)

Friday 10th December: Ireland v Ukraine, 11am; Ireland v Croatia, 6pm

Saturday 11th December: Ireland v Portugal , 1.30pm; Ireland v Belarus, 5.15pm

Sunday 12th December: Ireland v Denmark, 11.30am