The new hockey season is now in full swing but let me start this Newsletter by going back to June of this year when the FIH World Series Finals for the Road to Tokyo both for the Women and the Men took place during this month.

The Women’s team were first out of the blocks when the tournament was held at Banbridge Hockey Club from June 8th to June 16th. A very big thank you to Banbridge Hockey Club for hosting this tournament at short notice when there wasn’t a suitable venue available in Dublin. Following a very gruelling schedule of pool matches both Ireland and Korea came top of their groups and came together in the Final on June 16 where Korea got the better of Ireland on a score line of 3-1. Both teams then qualified to go forward to the next phase for the qualifiers to take place in November.

A special mention must go to all the members of Banbridge Hockey Club along with all the other volunteers from the various clubs in Ireland. A special mention must also go to Inez Cooper and Joan Morgan for steering the ship for this event. During the event there was also a reception by the Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon Council which was attended by various dignitaries.

The Men’s team had to travel to Le Touquet, in France for their World Series Tournament which overlapped with the Women’s event in Banbridge. In this event both Ireland and France topped their respective pools and played of for the No 1 spot and this honour went to France on a score of 3-1 in a very tough encounter. However, both France and Ireland advanced to the Olympic Qualifiers to be played in October.

August was the month for the European Championships which were held this year in Antwerp, Belgium which unfortunately due to illness, I was unable to travel to at the last minute. The Women’s team had a very satisfactory tournament finishing a very credible 5th position. However, the same can’t be said of the Men’s side who unfortunately lost their Division 1 status and will be fighting hard over the next number of years to regain this position.

On August 31st I was invited to Mossley Hockey Clubs annual dinner where they were celebrating their 90th year in existence. It was a very special occasion and a very enjoyable evening where the speeches weren’t too long but very entertaining. The dinner was held in the Old Mill and the evening ended with a lot of the guests returning to the Clubhouse to finish off their evening.

September saw both the Boys and Girls Interpros taking place with the Boys competing in Belfast where the Ulster boys were victorious in the U16 competition with Munster taking the honours in the U18 event. In fact, this was the first time that Munster won these Interpros since 2005 where the Harte brothers David & Conor were represented on this team.

The Girls Interpros took place this year in Garryduff, Cork where Ulster had a clean sweep in both the U16 and U18 competitions taking regaining the honours from Leinster who won both in 2018.
On September 7th as President I was invited to chair the AGM of the IHUA which was very well attended this year.

On October 14th I was invited to attend the Cork City & County Youth Awards where the month of September winner was a hockey player. Kevin O’Dea of C of I hockey club and Ashton School was the recipient of this award for captaining the Munster U18 team who brought the trophy back to Munster for the first time in fourteen years. Kevin was also the Captain of the Irish U18 team which competed in the Europeans in 2018 which were held in the Mardyke in Cork.

Later in October the All Ireland Schoolboys Championships took place this year in Dublin where seven venues were used during the three day competition. The weather was magnificent for the first two days but unfortunately on the Friday of the tournament the rain was incessant as both semi finals were played in atrocious conditions, however the four teams put on a magnificent display of hockey despite the weather. The final took place later that afternoon, still in bad conditions, at Columbus College between High School and St Andrews when after a magnificent comeback by High School in the second half they forced the game to a Shootout which they subsequently won on sudden death with a score of 7-6 to take the Tasmanian Shield back to High School for the very first time.

This year also saw the introduction of a Plate Competition for the inaugural Herbie Sharman Shield, which was presented by Kilkenny College. Herbie was a former teacher in the College for 27 years and was also a coach for the school and was manager of many underage Leinster and Irish teams as well as being President of Hockey Ireland from 2010/2012. This competition is played for by the runners up in the 4 pools and this year’s final was between two Cork sides, Ashton and Bandon, with Bandon winning out on this occasion with a score line of 1-0.

November was a big month for Irish Hockey with both the Men’s and Women’s teams playing their respective Olympic Qualifiers for a place in Tokyo 2020. Both teams were drawn against Canadian opposition, with the men playing away in Vancouver and the women playing at home in Energia Park in Donnybrook.

At the end of the second leg in Vancouver, the game finished in controversial circumstances with the Irish team coming out the wrong end of a very unusual umpiring decision. As a result of this the Men’s side will not now, due to this unfortunate incident be going to the Tokyo Olympics next year.

The Ireland Women’s team played Canada on a specially laid an International Hockey pitch to the same standard as the Tokyo Olympic Polytan pitch on a rugby ground in Energia Park in Donnybrook, Dublin. This was achieved with the help of 57 local volunteers with over 350 hours over three sessions to deliver this project. Having drawn the first leg 0-0 in atrocious conditions the stage was set for an intriguing second game. On a much better night for hockey watched by over 6137 people in the stadium and a peak live audience of 397,000 watching on TV. Again, after a nail biting finish, not the best hockey game we’ve seen, it again finished in stalemate at 0-0. So, we went to the dreaded shoot outs. After the first three rounds Ireland were down 1-3….. enter goalkeeper Ayeisha McFerran to once again make two crucial saves (as in last year’s World Cup) while Beth Barr and Chloe Watkins both scored and to set up a sudden death scenario. Roisin Upton stepped up to take the first shoot out and squeezed the ball into the net from a very acute angle while Ayeshia went on to thwart the Canadian player. The Canadian player came forward to take her shoot out but failed to score within the 8 seconds allowed.

And so, the celebrations could begin, the Irish team made history by becoming the first Women’s Hockey team to make an appearance at an Olympic Games in Tokyo in 2020. Many congratulations to Coach Sean Dancer and all the backroom staff on a magnificent achievement.

On Saturday November 9th I, along with my wife Anne were invited guests to the 125th Anniversary Dinner of Monkstown Hockey Club. This event was held at The Pavilion, Leopardstown where 220 guests sat down to an excellent meal which was followed by dancing until the early hours. I spoke on behalf of Hockey Ireland to respond to a toast to Ireland. A very enjoyable night was had in excellent company.

I want to take this opportunity of wishing you all a very Happy Christmas and a healthy and peaceful 2020.

Martin Canniffe, Hockey Ireland President.

Since the start of 2019 events have been moving on at a fast pace. While the EYHL was on a winter break during December and January, the National Indoor finals took place on January 27th at the excellent Antrim Forum facility where the Women’s Trophy was won by Railway Union and the Men’s Trophy by Three Rock Rovers. My thanks to Vice President Ann Rosa who presented the trophies on my behalf while I was laid up following knee surgery. Both Railway Union and Three Rock Rovers will represent Ireland in next years European Indoor Championships.

The All Ireland Schoolboys Championship was won this year by Newtown School, Waterford for the first time in their history. The 2109 Kate Russell was held this year in St Andrews College, Booterstown, Dublin on March 21 & 22 and the trophy was won by Crescent Comprehensive, Limerick. The John Waring was held this year at Friends School, Lisburn on April 10 and here the winners were Banbridge Academy. On the following day the hockey bandwagon moved on to Dangan Sports Facilities NUIG where the 2019 June Smith Competition was held and this was won by Mount Anville, Dublin.

The weekend of April 13 & 14 saw the Finals of various competitions taking place at Pembroke Wanderers and Three Rock Rovers. This year we were unable to play our Finals at UCD as the pitch is being relayed. On Saturday the 13th in the Irish Hockey Challenge the Women of Dromore beat Clonmel by 1-0 in a very closely contested game and in the Men’s Ballynahinch just got the better of Limerick in a high scoring game on a score line of 4-3. In the Irish Hockey Trophy (Women) Cork C of I came from being 2 goals down to Greenfields to rally in the second half and recorded a comprehensive 4-2 win. On Sunday 14th in TRR, Waterford won their first National title since 1922. They beat NICS by 3-1. This victory was made all the sweeter when you take into consideration that the club almost went out of existence 13 years ago. Only for the dedication of some of the older members in the club Waterford would not have been here today, so congratulations to those brave people who persevered. In the Irish Junior Cup (Women) UCD got the better of the holders Railway Union in a very tight game in which they came out on the right side of a 2-1 scoreline. In the Men’s Irish Junior Cup Three Rock Rovers had a comprehensive win over Instonians, winning by 4-1. This trophy has eluded TRR for the past 5 years and in fact is the first time they have won it since 1998.

April 27 & 28 saw the EYHL 2 Playoffs weekend which was held at Corinthians in Whitechurch Park., where there was a festive atmosphere with a BBQ on the go all weekend along with teas, coffee, sandwiches and homemade cakes available for the large numbers of spectators who turned up for the matches. Following two very closely fought Semi Finals on a windy Saturday UCD and Corinthians came through on the Men’s side while on the Women’s side it was also very close with Queens University and Catholic Institute through to the Final on Sunday. First up on Sunday was the Men’s Final where Corinthians came from behind to snatch a 2-2 draw and so went to the dreaded Penalty Shootout where Corinthians won on a score line of 3-2, thereby earning their place in the EYHL next season. Next up were the Women and in yet another very tight game Catholic Institute fought back to 3-3 against Queens University to send the game to another Shootout where Catholic Institute were the victorious team also on a score line of 3-2. So, EYHL for Catholic Institute also next season.

The weekend of May 4 & 5 was the EY Champions Trophy, played at Banbridge Hockey Club and also the 9th place play offs for next seasons league.
On the Women’s side we saw Muckross retain their EYHL spot with a narrow victory over Queens University on Sunday morning in Banbridge in a Shoot- Out. Also on Sunday, this time at Corinthians, Whitechurch Park, UCD got the better of Cork C of I following a high scoring game where it finished at 4-4 and in the ensuing Shoot -Out, UCD came out on top by 3–2 and so earned their spot in the EYHL league for next season.

In the Champions Trophy on Saturday Pegasus overcame Cork Harlequins by two goals to one in the first women’s semi final and Loreto beat UCD also by two goals to one in the second semi final to set up a Sunday Final between Pegasus and Loreto. Both these teams finished first and second in the League and we were sure of a tight battle in the final. As predicted, it was a very closely contested game and was no surprise when we had to go to another Shoot Out after the game finished 1-1 in normal time. Following the Shoot Out Pegasus came out on top on a score of 4-2 and so secured the double.

On the Men’s side Lisnagarvey had a comprehensive 6-0 win over Glenanne on Saturday while Three Rock Rovers also had a comfortable win over Banbridge on a scorline of 4-2. So, just as in the Women’s league the winners of the League, Lisnagarvey were up against second placed Three Rock Rovers in the Final on Sunday. This turned out to be a cracking game with Three Rock Rovers getting the better of Lisnagarvey with a 2-0 victory and so take the EY Champions Trophy for the third season in a row.

On May 11 for the second weekend in a row Lisnagarvey played Three Rock Rovers, this time in the Irish Senior Cup Final. This is the oldest Hockey Cup in the world, dating back to 1894. This game was played this year in Grange Road due to the no availability of UCD and yet again it was a very closely contested affair with TRR winning by the narrowest of margins on a 1-0 scoreline and so retain the trophy. TRR have now won this trophy 12 times in total.

In the Women’s Cup Final Loreto played Cork Harlequins also at Grange Road. Both teams were short some of their regular international players for this game. Loreto were the dominant team in the first half and led by 2-0 but in the second half Harlequins came back strongly to draw level at 2-2 and sent the game to Shoot-Outs. Harlequins won out on the shoot-outs on a scoreline of 2-1. This is only the second time in their history that they have lifted the Irish Senior Cup, the first time being in 2000.

And so on to the final domestic Competition for the 2018/19 season. We headed off to Cork for the Junior Interprovincials on the weekend of 18/19 May. This year the tournament was held in Cork Harlequins, up on the hill near the airport where the weather can be wet, cold and windy even in summer. However, Harlequins were excellent in all arrangements, even to the extent of getting the weather right, it was a beautiful sunny weekend. The hockey as you can imagine was very competitive both in the Women’s and Men’s sides of the tournament with the Munster Ladies coming out on top with a 100% record with 3 wins over the weekend. But in the Men’s side it all came down to the last game of the tournament with Ulster needing to beat Leinster and getting the required number of goals to overhaul Munster. However, they failed to do so and Munster completed the double on goal difference by 1 goal.

Overall, it was a very successful season on the domestic front, so now onto the Internationals until September when the 2019/20 will start again.