It is great that hockey is going again and restrictions have eased. Schools and Clubs are back in action, the EYHL matches are underway and leagues in the provinces have commenced.
After watching exciting games, during the Olympics in July, we are proud of what the girls achieved as great sporting ambassadors for hockey in Ireland. They had tough matches against South Africa, the Netherlands, Germany and Great Britain and were unlucky against the surprise team, India. However, they can draw on their experience and prepare for their world qualifying tournament in Pisa from 21st to 24th October. Our best wishes go to Sean Dancer and his squad of players.
I enjoyed watching the build-up games for the Men’s Senior team when they played a Great Britain Development team in 4 games at Lisnagarvey from 4th to 8th August. Mark Tumilty played a young squad as part of the preparation for the European Division B tournament in Gniezno, Poland and finished the series with four very sound wins. The tournament in Poland was live-streamed and we were able to see the men reach the semi-finals and qualify for the World Qualifying Tournament in Cardiff, where they will fae Russia in their first game on 21st October.
In super sunny weather, the Celtic Cup Masters Tournament was played at Civil Service Sports Association pitches at Stormont from 27th to 29th August. Unfortunately, the French teams were unable to travel, but teams from NICS, Instonians and Ulster Over 55s played instead of them in friendly games. I must congratulate all the players for their incredible levels of fitness – playing three 75-minute matches in three days in hot temperatures; very well played everyone! The winners of the Over 60s age-group were Scotland, with Wales as runners-up. Ireland won the Over 65s, with Scotland runners-up and Wales came out winners of the Over 70s, with Scotland as runners-up.
On 1st September I chaired the IHUA Annual General Meeting online. My thanks go to the Committee and IHUA Chair, Rob Argent for all the background work and reports that had been circulated prior to the meeting. This made chairing the AGM a much easier task for me.
The Four Provinces Advisory Committee has been meeting since 27th June. After an introductory meeting, Kevin Keane gave a presentation to the Provincial representatives and past President, Martin Canniffe, on understanding the function of the Provincial entity versus the function of the National entity. Kevin then gave the same talk to Board Directors on Sunday 26th September.
Our first face to face Board Meeting, for many months, was held in the Clayton Hotel, Liffey Valley on Sunday 5th September. It was good to meet new and standing Board Members in person as many of us felt that we were ‘zoomed out’ with online meetings. Board Chairman, Trevor Watkins, is aiming for every other meeting to be held in person.
The European Hockey Federation Congress was planned to take place in Prague on 20th August; I had been asked to represent Ireland and give a talk on how the Irish Women’s World Cup silver medal and Olympic qualification had inspired the nation, but it had to be postponed due to the latest Czech Government’s travel regulations. However, I was the voting delegate for Ireland when the Congress was held online on Saturday 18th September and we were delighted when Inez Cooper was elected Female Vice-President of the Executive Board of the EHF.
A weekend of celebrations took place on 17th & 18th September for Bangor Hockey Club’s centenary. I was invited to the book launch in the North Down Museum and to the dinner in the Clandeboye Lodge Hotel the following evening. Bangor Hockey Club’s President George Millar presented a plaque and the centenary book to Hockey Ireland. There is a close link between Monkstown Hockey Club and Bangor with several Monkstown members attending the dinner. Gordon Watkins made a presentation to the Bangor from Monkstown.
On Saturday 25th September I watched the EYHL game with Lisnagarvey playing Corinthian. The result was a 3-1 win for the home team.
On Friday 1st October the traditional lunch for Hockey Ireland’s Honorary Life Members took place. This special occasion was started by Ivy Dennis and continued by Martin Canniffe when they were H.I. Presidents. Unfortunately, due to the pandemic, it didn’t take place last year. A very good meal was enjoyed in the Talbot Hotel, Stillorgan and I was delighted to present new Honorary Life Members, Arlene Boyles and Martin Canniffe with their pins.
It was great to talk to Joan Priestman (née Horne) at the event. The photograph below shows Joan wearing a blazer that she had for the 1965 Great Britain and Ireland team (called the BGITTs) that played against the USA. She will travel to Wales this month for a reunion.
The tour was approved by the Women’s British & Irish Hockey Boards but was self-financed by the players. The squad comprised of 15 players: four from England, Scotland and Wales and three from Ireland, plus a manager Mrs Hopkins, the mother of the Ulster representative Thelma Hopkins. They had no coach, physio or other support staff.
On 5th & 6th October, I supported the Ireland men in their matches against Malaysia at Lisnagarvey Hockey Club. The Malaysian men are the currently ranked 11th in the world and gave 14th-ranked Ireland strong opponents in the lead-up to their important World Cup qualifier event. The ‘Speedy tigers were on a European Tour, playing games against France and Wales and English Clubs. Ireland came out on top 3-1 in the first game but Malaysia were clear winners in the second game 4-2. Apparently, the visitors have really enjoyed their Irish visit and look forward to coming back.
After so little hockey match activity last season, I am looking forward to watching many more games in the next few months.
President, Hockey Ireland