Anna O’Flanagan on the Challenges Along the Road to Tokyo.

Sitting on Anna O’Flanagan’s desk are a set of pens that have remained in the packet for almost six years now.

In just under a hundred days, she may finally get around to chucking them out, maybe even burn them. Bought in something of an emotional daze in Valencia, in 2015, the day after Rio qualification was denied by the width of a post, they sit there as a vivid reminder of shattered dreams.

“They will definitely go in the bin once I set foot on the pitch in Tokyo!” the Green Army’s all-time top goal-scorer says of that pen set.

“There’s a long way to go and I need to hopefully stay fit and well and play to the best of my ability over the next while to get on that pitch. Maybe I can burn them then!”

For many of her team-mates, the stationary is an odd keepsake but is something O’Flanagan uses to find something of an emotional catharsis in good times and bad.

“I have lots of notebooks and do get slagged over it!” she laughs. “I find it interesting to write about how I am feeling. You can have so many thoughts going around your head, worries or concerns, thinking about what might happen.

“When you write it down, your rational brain kicks in and the act of writing means you can rationalise it a bit better and wonder ‘why was I thinking about it like that?’ When you put pen to paper, it can look a bit ridiculous. It helps get a sense of reality!”

It is something which helped her through the tough lockdown times when she struggled for a sense of purpose. O’Flanagan has put her career on hold to, first, pursue and succeed in the run-up to 2018 World Cup silver, and then again for this Olympic push after a stint with Deloitte in the Netherlands.

But when Tokyo was put on hiatus, it had her questioning what next as the limbo of whether or not the Games would go ahead was played out.

“There was so much uncertainty for everyone in the world. For us, as athletes, we thrive off certainty and being planned. What gets me through training and those tough days is really visualising being at that next major tournament, being at the Olympics, competing and winning games.

“I went through a period when I just couldn’t see it, I couldn’t feel it. The world seemed so upside down that the thought of being able to travel to an Olympics seemed so far away.

“That was when I struggled the most. The last couple of months, there’s been such positive communication coming from Tokyo and also seeing other sports teams and events happen.

“Now, I can see it unfold. It will be weird and different for sure but being able to visualise it makes it seem more real, more tangible. We have to stay focused and assume it is happening, but I am not as anxious now that it will be binned at any second.

“That was so hard when we were training and trying to do your best, doing it with that in the back of your mind. I don’t have that worry anymore.”

The nature of the current world, though, means the road remains a bumpy one with plenty of twists and turns. The most recent example, last week’s proposed trip to Malaysia being called off at the last minute.

“Malaysia was a disappointment, but we are still able to train and play and this just gives us a perspective on how sport is cruel and your whole sporting career can change overnight. You have to treasure each day.”

A feature of the Green Army story, though, is how they roll with the punches and while other countries may be new to such slings and arrows of fortune, O’Flanagan says there will be few better outfits capable of coping.

“We know if there is any team that knows how to deal with adversity, it is us. If there is any team that has come together before and succeeded, it is us.

“We always say we are used to playing in front of no supporters. An empty stadium in Japan is no different to training in Abbotstown every week. Those little things add up.

“We saw from the GB win that what we are doing here has been going well and the year probably has stood to us as a group. If anything, we enjoy doing it when our backs are against the wall.”

 

Keep Walking Keep Well club funding

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COVID-19 Update March 31st

Hockey Ireland notes confirmation from ROI Government that underage hockey can return to non-contact training from April 26th, the first step on a phased return for hockey at all levels of the game.

The following changes have been made to the Hockey Ireland Covid-19 guidelines given the latest announcement on Covid-19 restrictions made by the Irish (ROI) Government:

  • From April 26th, socially distant non-contact training in pods of 15 (inclusive of the coach) is permitted at all players/teams under 18 in both clubs and schools.  The return of senior hockey training remains under review pending future Government announcements. The exemptions to this are Elite sports*.
  • Elite sports are permitted to continue behind closed doors. For Hockey this has been defined as the National Senior Men’s and Women’s Programmes. They are permitted to train and play behind closed doors.

*Please note: This category has been defined by the ‘Return to Sport Expert Group’ which has been established by the ROI government to provide guidance to Ireland’s sporting bodies to prepare for the phased return to sporting activity.

The following is to be noted in relation to Hockey in Northern Ireland:

From 1st April 2021 the regulations will change to permit 10 people from two households to undertake outdoor sporting activities as defined in the regulations. This allows sports such as golf and tennis to resume from this date in small groups of individuals from two households, however club houses and sport facilities including changing rooms, showers, kitchens, meeting rooms must remain closed apart from essential toilet facilities.  Therefore, hockey training and competition at all levels (with the exemption of elite level training) will not be permitted.

The Executive also agreed an indicative date of 12th April 2021 for “Allowing for sports training to resume by sports clubs affiliated with recognised Governing Bodies, in small groups of up to 15 people but with all indoor spaces closed except for essential toilet facilities.”  These relaxations planned for April 12 will be subject to Executive ratification in the week after the Easter weekend.

Ulster Hockey awaits the publication of the regulations and will advise clubs of the requirements for a return to hockey – if permitted on the 12th of April – as soon as it is in a position to do so.

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Match Report. Ireland v Great Britain in Match 1 of SoftCo Series.

13 March 2021

Ireland 1 (Upton), Great Britain 2 (Owsley, Roberston).

It’s been 497 days since the Irish women’s squad played their last international match on home soil, but on a cold and blustery day in Queen’s University, Belfast, the team returned to the pitch in excellent form.

Anna O’Flanagan brought a strong attacking energy from the get-go, creating several chances for Ireland in the opening quarter. A penalty corner to GB early in the first quarter was the only real opportunity to present itself for GB with Ireland the dominant team for the first half of the match. A deflection from Unsworth to Ansley was defended, with the rebound shot hitting the back board after an umpire whistle had gone keeping the sides nil all.

Upton put Ireland in the lead shortly after when a penalty stroke was award for a tackle on O’Flanagan in the circle. Grace O’Flanagan was strong in goal through the first half, with a shot from Roberston saved well. Michelle Carey and Sarah McAuley made their presence well known throughout the first quarter. GB’s Jones managed a lone run towards the Irish goal, however McAuley was on hand to push her back out in the last chance of the quarter for GB. Torrans and Carey continued to press at the opposite end of the pitch until the end of quarter buzzer.

Anna O’Flanagan was on fire again as the second quarter got underway, defending a GB attack on the Irish circle in the opening minute. Jones made another attempt to get a clear shot on the Ireland goal, however Hannah McLoughlin was on hand to keep her at bay. Lizzie Colvin provided Naomi Carroll the chance to take a reverse shot on the GB goal, which went just wide of the mark. A penalty Corner to Ireland saw a Barr deflection and Upton flick saved by Hinch. GB’s Owlsey was denied a chance as McLoughlin expertly stepped in to keep Ireland in the lead. Owsley returned again shortly after, this time managing to take a shot on the goal, and this time Carey prevented GB from getting on the score board.

The opening of the second half saw GB hit the post with a penalty stroke. It wasn’t long before GB were back along the left wing, shooting across the square with the equaliser secured from Ansley. Ireland were back attacking shortly after, with Malseed taking a reverse shot at the goal which went wide of the target.

GB were awarded a penalty corner 10minutes in to the second half, with Liz Murphy this time showing off her skill with an impressive save on the line. Malseed secured another opportunity for herself getting inside the GB circle shortly afterwards, but was defended off the goal. Upton continued to press but was forced out also.

A penalty corner to Ireland saw Carroll deflect to Matthews for a shot. The shot was saved, however the rebound resulted in a scuffle for the ball with Evans getting the ball across the goal to be tapped in although the umpire’s whistle had already gone.

Robertson secured the final goal of the game in the opening minute of the final quarter, giving GB the lead. GB became the more dominant of the two teams as the final quarter unfolded, creating more and more opportunities for themselves. Despite this, Ireland remained strong with O’Flanagan, Carey, and Hawkshaw all continuing to create chances near the GB circle.

Speaking after the match, Captain Katie Mullan said “It’s always a tight game [with GB], and we’ve come away a number of times thinking we should have won, and today would maybe be one of those days, where split second decisions where we’ve switched off and they’ve punished us. That’s what they do so well, and you just can’t afford to give them those opportunities in international hockey, so we’ve got to go back to the drawing board and learn from those tomorrow.”

The second match of the series takes place tomorrow at 17:00. Coverage starts from 16:30 on RTE2, and 16:50 on BBC Sport NI.

Ireland: G O’Flanagan; S McCay; S McAuley; H Matthews; K Mullan; R Upton; S Hawkshaw; L Colvin; N Evans; A O’Flanagan; N Carroll; L Murphy; H McLoughlin; B Barr; M Frazer; M Carey; Z Malseed; S Torrans.

GB: J Hunter, S Jones; S Robertson; S Evans; I Petter; S McCallin; S Townsend; L Owsley; L Unsworth; F Crackles; L Wilkinson; G Balsdon; G Ansley; H Pearne-Webb; A Toman; M Hinch.

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Fundamentals of Umpiring Module 1 Q&A session 10th March 2021

We are pleased to announce the first online Q&A session as part of the Fundamentals of Umpiring Module 1 will take place on Wednesday 10th March 2021 at 7.00pm. To take part in this online Q&A session you must have fully completed your Fundamentals of Umpiring Module 1 through our eLearning Hub https://hockeyirelandhub.ie/

To book onto this online Q&A session please email linda.monaghan@hockey.ie by Monday 8th March.

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President’s Newsletter February 2021

It is just over two months since the postponed 2020 Hockey Ireland Annual General Meeting which took place on 26th November 2020 and  I officially took over the honour of being President of Hockey Ireland. This was the first time in the history of Hockey Ireland that an AGM was held as a teleconference and it had a record number of over ninety voting and non-voting online attendees. New Board Directors, Aisling Keogh, Rosita Wolfe, Iain Kelly, Billy Pollock and Edward Simpson were appointed and welcomed and the retiring Directors, Imelda Brennan, Fiona Hanaphy, Frank Byrne, Peter Conway and Stuart MacDonald were thanked for their hard work and service over the years. Pamela Bastable was also welcomed as the new Secretary to the Board.

At this meeting two new Honorary Life Members of Hockey Ireland were announced and we congratulate Joan Morgan and Arlene Boyles for this accolade in acknowledgement of their exceptional, long-service and outstanding contributions to Hockey Ireland, especially at national level.

Our thanks go to Martin Canniffe for his dedication, service and enthusiasm in his 4 and a half years in office – 2 as Vice-President and 2 and a half years as President. Surely he will go down on record as being the longest serving Hockey Ireland President? Personally I have appreciated the help and advice he has given me and I have thoroughly enjoyed supporting him as Vice President. Martin was the Irish Hockey Association/Hockey Ireland’s 10th President since 2000, following Joan McCloy, John Smyth, Grace Redmond, Dixon Rose, Doreen Howe, the late Herbie Sharman, Daphne Hall, Richard Kendrick and Ivy Dennis. To follow on from Martin and these hockey legends is daunting but is a huge privilege. I look forward to my role and to John Dennis’s expertise and support as Vice President.

As we all are fully aware there has been no competitive hockey in all the provinces for several months with the gloomy prospect of games not returning in the immediate future. At the time of writing this, the EY Hockey Leagues have been abandoned for this season, as have all Ireland Schools’ competitions. Hockey Ireland and the provinces will keep monitoring the situation and subject to government guidelines in the ROI and NI, may be able to offer some form of competitions, to give players the opportunity to play at a later date. It is encouraging to read on social media how clubs are keeping up fitness programmes for individuals with step and charity drives.

Our best wishes go to the Women’s and Men’s squads which are able to keep up their training schedules at elite level. The Women are back from their five match build up in Spain and the organisers of the Olympic Games are hopeful that the Games will go ahead in July. We are all behind the team, coaches and support staff in their preparations for Tokyo.

Sadly, I end this newsletter with the news of the death of John McDonough on 27th January 2021. John was a widely respected and great supporter of hockey in Ireland and was a former Director of Hockey Ireland. Our thoughts are with his wife Margaret, son Andrew, daughter Jenny and their families at this time.

I hope that I shall be able to record some hockey action in my next newsletter. We are all hoping that life and hockey will be able to return to normal, soon. Many families have been affected in some way by this dreadful pandemic and our thoughts are with you all.

Stay safe.

Ann Rosa

President, Hockey Ireland

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Safeguarding 2 Club Children’s Officer Course

Date: Monday 01/03/2021

Time: 6.30pm to 9.30pm

Venue: Zoom Online

Cost: €20

Recommendations from Sport Ireland are that every club involved with children and young people should appoint a Club Children’s Officer. This person should be child centred in focus and should have as their primary aim the establishment of a child centered ethos within the club. They are the link between the children and the adults in the club and also take responsibility for monitoring and reporting to the Club Management Committee on how club policy etc. impacts on children and their Sports Leaders.

The Club Children’s Officer should have the following functions:

  • To promote awareness of the Code of Ethics and Good Practice for Children’s Sport in Ireland within the club and particularly among the children and their parents/guardians. This could be achieved by the production of information leaflets, the establishment of children’s/age-group specific notice boards and by regular information meetings for the children and their parents/guardians.
  • To influence policy and practice within the club in order to prioritise children’s needs.
  • To provide an accessible resource to children through the creation of forums.

It is essential that those who wish to attend the Safeguarding 2 Club Children’s Officer (CCO) Training have attended the Safeguarding 1 Awareness/Child Protection Training workshop.

It is recommended to have at least one Club Children’s Officer per club or if there is a large number of both boys and girls in the club, to have two Club Children’s Officers – one male and one female.

Cost:The cost for this course is €20 per person.

How to book: Please email nationalchildrensofficer@hockey..

*A laptop/ipad/smart phone along with a good internet connection is required for this course. 

As demand for places is high, please make every effort to give enough notice of cancellation. Please note that there are no refunds if you fail to attend on the night. 

 

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RIP John McDonough

Hockey Ireland is very saddened to learn of the sudden passing yesterday of John McDonough. John served as a Board Director of Hockey Ireland until as recently as 2020, and was widely respected for his love and work for hockey in Ulster and across Ireland.

Described as “a stalwart of the local game with many friends in the Ulster Hockey family”, John was a member of the Queen’s University Men’s HC Irish Senior Cup winning team in 1972 and then played for the Belfast YMCA/Holywood 87 Men’s Club and afterwards coached at the Harlequins Ladies Club.

We send our sincere condolences to John’s wife Margaret, daughter Jenny (Harlequins Ladies HC), and son Andrew, together with the larger family circle, at this most difficult time.