Finbarr Kelleer (Munster Branch Pres.), Ivy Dennis (Pres. Hockey Ireland), Anita Manning, Cllr. Des Cahill (Lord Mayor of Cork), 2017

Anita Manning

Anita Manning, is well known in Irish hockey circles, she has been described as one of the best known Administrators of the Irish Ladies Hockey Union during the first century of its existence.

A woman who has dedicated over 20 years to the administration of Women’s Hockey and another lifetime playing the game, Anita was honoured by Lord Mayor, Cllr. Des Cahill at a gathering at Cork City Hall in 2017. For Anita, it was a reminder of times past and an opportunity to meet her many hockey friends.

Anita began playing hockey while at school at St. Angela’s at the age of 10. She held the position of goal-keeper for the full duration of her hockey career. In 1960 Anita joined Old Ursulines Hockey Club who won many Munster Senior Cups and Leagues. She played in four consecutive Irish Senior Cup Finals from 1962 to 1966 but unfortunately never succeeded in winning a final. Having retired from the game in 1970 Anita spent the next few years concentrating on her family.

In 1979 Anita returned as a Munster Intermediate Selector and 1981 saw Anita become Honorary Secretary of the Munster Branch of the I.L.H.U. a position she held for three years. In 1983 Anita took up the position of Honorary Secretary of the Irish Ladies Hockey Union and was to be the first person in this position to hail from outside Leinster. Anita remained in this post until 1994. During her time as Hon. Secretary she also combined the position of Manager of the Irish Senior Hockey Team. She remembers in Lille at the first European Cup in 1984, Ian Steepe, the coach had to return home due to a family illness and Moya Gibson, team manager was promoted to coach while Anita became team manager ! At that time there were very limited funds available and so all the work was conducted from her home which became the official office ! In her position as Secretary and Manager Anita travelled extensively throughout the world. “I really was so lucky, with hockey it opened the world to me.” 1984 saw Ireland in the First European Cup in Lille, France; 1986 was the World Cup in Amsterdam; there was an Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Edinburgh, Scotland in 1987; the Intercontinental Cup and Indira Gandhi Gold Cup in India in 1989 which was a very exciting time, Ireland winning the Indira Gandhi Gold Cup.

“India was a big eye opener, the terrible poverty outside the stadium, it was a sad time but it made you really appreciate what you had.” 1991 was the Olympic Qualifying Tournament in New Zealand and in between all these were many other tournaments in Europe in preparation for the larger events.

In 1986 Anita received the Cospoir/Irish Mutual Building Society Women in Sport Award in the Administration Category for her work with the Irish Ladies Hockey Union. Also in 1986 Anita became the first Irish woman to hold office in the European Hockey Federation taking over as Secretary of the European Cup Competitions Committee. She remained a member of the restructured European Outdoors Competitions Committee which was responsible for the governing of all International and Club Competitions in Europe.

Anita was one of the longest serving Honorary Secretaries of the Irish Ladies Hockey Union serving for a period of 12 years. She was then appointed President of the Union for a further two years.

From the post of President of the Irish Ladies Hockey Union Anita went on to further honours when she became Vice President of the Council of the International Hockey Federation in 1996. This is the governing body of hockey worldwide.

In 1988 the members of the I.L.H.U. made the biggest decision in the history of the Union, the decision to apply to host the 8th Women’s Hockey World Cup in Dublin. On the 31st March, 1990 Anita and three other Officers of the Union travelled to Brussels for the International Hockey Federation Meeting. Anita presented the Proposal, it was well accepted and after many anxious days and weeks confirmation was received by letter dated 25th July, 1990. This was a momentous occasion for the ILHU and thus began four long years of preparations during which time Anita and the World Cup Committee oversaw the development of a new Hockey Stadium in U.C.D. Belfield which continues to be used to this day. The 1994 Women’s Hockey World Cup sponsored by Waterford Crystal and Mary Robinson as patron, was an enormous success and was recognised worldwide as such. The stadium was a sell out each day for the whole tournament and the event was lauded as the best Hockey World Cup to date. 1994 was also the centenary of the Irish Ladies Hockey Union which was the oldest Women’s Hockey Union in the World so celebrations continued for this also.

Anita also made her mark on the technical side of the game, having been appointed to many major Tournaments as a Judge and also as a Technical Delegate to a number of International Tournaments. The ultimate honour for Anita was when she was invited to become a Member of the Appeals Board for hockey at the Olympic Games in Sydney in 2000. Anita was the first ever Irish hockey woman to be appointed to an Olympic Games. While this in itself was a huge honour it was a clear reflection of the high regard Anita was held in throughout the hockey world. This was also a very fitting finale to a great career in the sport which she so loved.

Anita decided to retire from her duties around the time the two associations joined forces. She had given 100% to hockey administration for over 20 years and knew it was the right time for her to retire.

Anita was asked about getting good volunteers and administrators in today’s world and she advised “It is more difficult now, women are working, some are married with small kids but if you have played the game take the opportunity to give back if you can.”

Anita’s memories and friendships from hockey remain with her. She attended a Masters Interpros in Garryduff Sports Centre. “I thought it was brilliant. When we got all-weather pitches we thought we were made but with astro-turf pitches the game is now so fast. Joanne O’Grady who was on an Irish team I once managed was playing and in the middle of the match she saw me and had a big wave, that is what it is all about.”

“Being chosen to judge at the Olympics was my finest hour until the other night in the City Hall, to be honoured in your home town and meeting all my old friends was fantastic.”

Anita loved every minute of her time playing hockey and giving back. She worked hard but talking to her, it sounds like she might love to do it all over again !

Source: 2017