FIH Series Finals To Take Place In Banbridge

Hockey Ireland today announced that the women’s FIH Series Finals (June 8th-16th), originally expected to be held in Dublin, will now be held at Banbridge Hockey Club. While work has commenced on two new top-class hockey pitches in Dublin, the National Sports Campus and UCD, neither will be completed in time to accommodate the required pre-tournament training on the match surface by the Green Army. Banbridge Hockey Club have laid a new pitch in recent months and the club grounds offer Hockey Ireland the appropriate amount of space to accommodate all that is required with an international tournament of this calibre.

Speaking about the announcement, Performance Director Adam Grainger said “While our preference was to hold the tournament in Dublin, it was not possible for the pitches to be completed within our time frame. We are confident that both pitches will be worth the wait and will only add to the sport of hockey in the future. It is important we get the pitch correct at the National Sports Campus as it will be our base going forward. Banbridge Hockey Club and the surrounding community have proven themselves to be highly enthusiastic when holding tournaments before and we are looking forward to working with them once again”.

Ticket information will follow in the coming weeks. To view the full match schedule, please click here.

Shaw Departs Hockey Ireland For New Role With Blacksticks

Hockey Ireland has today accepted the resignation of senior women’s head coach Graham Shaw as he takes up the position of head coach of New Zealand’s senior international women. Shaw has long since been a member of the Hockey Ireland family both as a senior international player and as part of the coaching set up since 2010. He was assistant coach to Darren Smith before taking the head coach role in the summer of 2015 prior to the Eurohockey Championships II in Prague.

After nearly 4 years at the helm of the Green Army Graham is moving to New Zealand to take up the role with the world number 6, the Blacksticks offer an exciting challenge as they compete in the Pro League and have their sights firmly set on Tokyo 2020.

Speaking about the move, Shaw said “It was an honour to coach my country and I am very grateful for the opportunity. We have had some incredible times together that I will never forget. I have worked with an outstanding staff over many years; your professionalism, honesty and friendship will stay with me forever.

I would like to thank Hockey Ireland, Sport Ireland, SINI and Sport Northern Ireland for your unwavering support over the past years and long may it continue. I’d also like to recognise the staff of Hockey Ireland for all their work behind the scenes and their friendships over the past several years.

To the players I would like to say a massive thank you. Your drive, dedication and loyalty has been relentless and it has been an absolute pleasure to lead the program over the past 4 years. I would like to wish the squad all the best for the future. I hope you continue on this journey, inspiring the next generation of hockey players in Ireland and I hope to see you in Tokyo”.

The Green Army have gone from 16th to 8th in the world during Shaw’s tenure and qualified for their first World Cup since 2002. The recent 2018 World Cup is perhaps what Shaw will be most recognised for as he led the squad to an historic silver medal and a first ever World Cup final for any Irish team sport.

Jerome Pels, Hockey Ireland CEO, was quick to praise the legacy that Shaw leaves behind “We would like to thank Graham for all he has done for the senior women’s programme over the last several years. Graham has given a huge amount to Irish hockey over the last 2 decades both as a high-performance athlete and a coach. We wish Graham all the very best with this new opportunity with Hockey New Zealand”.

Performance Director Adam Grainger echoed Pels’ sentiment “Graham has undoubtedly left the Green Army programme in a better place and has put the building blocks in place for the squad to continue with this cycle successfully, with the primary goal being Olympic qualification. Graham’s commitment to the programme, both on and off the pitch, is a testament to his character and we wish him every success in the future”.

Green Army captain, Katie Mullan, also hailed Shaw’s influence “On behalf of the Green Army I would like to thank Graham for all that he has given to our team. He led us to a moment none of us will ever forget at the World Cup and the Blacksticks are very lucky to have him, we wish him all the best with this new adventure”.

Positive Trip To Lilleshal for JAG Squads

It was a positive trip for the U16 and U18 girls and boys squads to Lilleshall National Sports Centre to face their English counterparts. Both the U18 girls and boys squads picked up wins over the course of the series while it proved a highly valuable trip for the U16’s squads ahead of a busy 2019.

Match Details

Boys U16

Ireland 2vs5 England Wednesday 20th February– 4:30pm

Ireland 2vs3 England Thursday 21st February – 3:30pm

Ireland 2vs3 England Friday 22nd February – 1:00pm

Boys U18

Ireland 2vs5 England Wednesday 20th February– 4:30pm

Ireland 4vs1 England Thursday 21st February – 3:30pm

Ireland 3vs5 England Friday 22nd February – 1:00pm

Girls U16

Ireland 1vs4 England Wednesday 20th February – 6:45pm

Ireland 0vs3 England Thursday 21st February – 5:45pm

Ireland 0vs1 England Friday 22nd February – 3:15pm

Girls U18

Ireland 1vs2 England Thursday 21st February – 5:45pm

Ireland 2vs1 England Friday 22nd February – 3:15pm

Three Rock through to EuroHockey Indoor Challenge I promo pool

Three Rock Rovers advanced to the EuroHockey Indoor Challenge I promotion pool as group winners in Oslo following an ever-improving set of performances.

Indeed, it could have been a very different complexion to their tournament had they lost their opening tie when they trailed Ukraine’s OKS SHVSM Vinnitsa 5-2 with four minutes to go.

But a quickfire run of three goals changed their whole momentum with Ross Canning scoring on the final hooter for what proved an important draw on Friday morning.

They backed that up with a 3-2 win over Cardiff & Met, pulling clear with two more late goals from Jody Hosking and Canning in the last five minutes.

It left them in second place overnight, facing the other leading side Bologna – both on seven points out of 10 – with a win confirming they would go through.

The first half was tight with the Italians on top but Conor Quinn kept Rovers’ noses in front 2-1 with a brilliant corner save. And then Rovers went on a second half rampage, scoring three times in quick succession after half-time to seal the win before running up another three goals late on for an 8-1 success.

Cardiff’s 2-2 draw with Vinnitsa, meanwhile, meant Rovers go through to the promotion pool along with Bologna, carrying with them the points and goal difference from that thumping win.

Reflecting on the group stages, coach Liam Canning said: “That comeback [against Vinnitsa] was massive. It comes from playing regularly in these tournaments indoors and in the EHL, the experience and belief the lads have to fight back is huge.

“They are developing that calmness and composure in tough situations. Against Bologna, it was tight in the first half with the Italians on top. We changed a few things at half time and played some outstanding stuff.

“Overall, we have a really good squad now and when we make subs, the standard doesn’t drop a level at all really. That makes a big difference. Quinner has made some big saves and Jamie [Carr] came in to keep things calm.”

Three Rock will now represent Ireland at the Euro club Trophy in February 2020. This is the first time since 1996 that Ireland have have had a men’s team at this level.

EuroHockey Indoor Club Challenge I (Oslo, Norway)
Friday: HC OKS SHVSM Vinnitsa 5 Three Rock Rovers 5 (R Canning 2, J Hosking, H Morris, B Walker); Cardiff & Met 2 Three Rock Rovers 3 (E Geyer, J Hosking, R Canning)
Saturday: Hockey Club Bologna 1 Three Rock Rovers 8 (R Canning 2, H Morris 2, J Hosking, J McAllister, D Walsh, H Morris)

Standings: 1. Three Rock Rovers 12pts (+8) 2. Bologna 7pts (-5) 3. OKS SHVSM Vinnitsa 6pts (0) 4. Cardiff & Met 4pts (-3)

By Stephen Findlater, original article appeared here.

Sport Ireland Announce Funding Of Nearly €32m

Sport Ireland today announced an investment of nearly €32 million in National Governing Bodies for Sport, direct athlete support and the Local Sports Partnership Network for 2019.

The funding announced, which represents a significant increase on 2018, includes an investment of €12.845 million in the core activity of National Governing Bodies for Sport (NGBs), €8.46m in NGB High Performance Programmes, €820,000 in high performance funding for the Olympic Federation of Ireland and Paralympics Ireland, and €7.29 million in the work of the Local Sports Partnerships (LSPs).

Sport Ireland also announced €500,000 in targeted funding for projects, to assist with the preparation for key events in 2019, along with a further €1.93 million for the International Carding Scheme.

The funding announcement is a welcome boost for Hockey Ireland following an historic 2018 for Irish hockey and 2019 could well follow in a similar vain with Olympic qualification on the horizon. To support both senior teams campaigns to qualify for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, Sport Ireland will lay a state of the art hockey pitch at the National Sport Campus in April. The new pitch is a welcome addition to the thriving campus and will prove invaluable for all Hockey Ireland national teams.

The first major tournament on the road to Tokyo comes in the form of the FIH Series Finals, Ireland’s men are bound for Le Touqet in France while the women will play host in Dublin. The tournament will mark the first major competition hosted at home for the Green Army since World League 2 in March 2015. It offers the perfect opportunity to see the World Cup silver medallists in action over the course of the 9-day tournament, with plenty of chances for fans to meet members of the Green Army at the dedicated Fan Village.

Both senior teams will enjoy an increased budget this year, attributed to a rise in sponsorship revenue and a notable increase in high performance funding from Sport Ireland. The additional funding has presented both teams with the much-needed opportunity to train more frequently as a team and increase their international fixtures against top opposition in preparation for major tournaments.

In August, Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Shane Ross TD announced that Hockey Ireland would receive €500,000 of €1.5 million that was being invested to assist NGB’s with Olympic and major competition preparation. Hockey Ireland continue to be extremely grateful for this investment and commitment to the sport, and the funding greatly assisted in covering the deficit that arose from two World Cup campaigns in 2018. The funding has also played a role in facilitating the establishment of a carding scheme for the senior international athletes, whereby the senior international athletes receive financial support.

Another positive step in the right direction is a targeted investment in our Junior Age Group programmes as they continue to progress on their journey to senior internationals.

2019 is off to an extremely bright start and is shaping up to be another momentous year for hockey, as echoed by Hockey Ireland CEO Jerome Pels “We are very grateful to Sport Ireland for their increased investment in hockey and their continued support. The new pitch in Abbotstown is a big step for our sport and the establishment of a purpose-built training facility for our international squads will only aid our ambitions to continually compete with the best teams in the world.”.

Head coach Alexander Cox, who has recently signed a contract with Hockey Ireland that will see him lead the Green Machine up to the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, said “We are of course grateful for the funding and support we receive from Sport Ireland. The new pitch at the National Sports Campus along with this increase in funding will prove a vital boost to our training and the amount of camps we can have at home, working towards Olympic Qualification”.

For full details of the Sport Ireland funding announcement, click here

Mitch Darling Retires From International Hockey

Mitch Darling has today announced his retirement from international hockey following more than a decade at the top of the game. Darling earned 183 international caps, the first of which came shortly after his 18th birthday against England in Poland and scored 51 goals for the Green Machine. He has been a Three Rock Rovers man from the start and has been heavily involved in much of the clubs most successful periods. Over the years, Darling has plied his trade amongst the best in the Dutch league with successful stints with clubs such as Rotterdam, Den Bosch and SCHC.

Darling was cognisant to recognise the coaches at all levels who played a role in his successful career “I want to thank the coaches who contributed significantly to my development during the early years from Wesley College and Three Rock Rovers. I’m eternally grateful to the Irish support staff and management, both past and present, who went above and beyond to help us perform on the pitch. As a player I think I really flourished under the tutelage of Paul Revington and Craig Fulton; incredible men and detailed coaches that revolutionised both the game and the players in Ireland”

Mitch Darling has been a constant figure for many of the Green Machine’s most memorable moments over the last several years including a European bronze medal in 2015 and historic Olympics Games and World Cup appearances. “When I got my first cap in 2006 I could never have dreamed reaching the heights we did. I am definitely privileged to have played with some of the best players to ever wear a green shirt. Being involved in such a special era holds some amazing memories and undoubtedly the biggest career defining moment was the Rio Olympics, an experience to be cherished forever”.

Head coach Alexander Cox paid tribute to Darlings’ contribution to the Green Machine “I want to congratulate Mitch on an amazing international career with The Green Machine. He has had an important influence on the successes that the team has enjoyed over the last 10 years. Not only because of his outstanding qualities as a player, but also as a great person in the group, we will miss him. As a new chapter in his life starts, I wish him all the best with his family and professional career”.

Darling concluded by thanking all those who played a role off the pitch “Thanks to everyone who has supported the team over the years, the supporters undoubtedly helped propel the team to where they are today. Thank you to Hockey Ireland and all the sporting bodies who supported us during the years. A huge thank you to my wife Erika, Mum, Dad, my brothers and sister for their unconditional support all along the way.

Finally, I just want to wish both the men’s and women’s teams all the very best for the upcoming qualification for Tokyo 2020”.

Hockey Ireland wants to thank Mitch for all he has done for the Green Machine and wish him every success for the future.

Green Army 0-3 India

Ireland 0

India 3 (N Kaur, R Khokhar, G Kaur)

2 goals in the opening half and a third in the final minute were the undoing of Ireland as India took their chances in another even contest.

Both teams opted for the direct route in the early phases with Anna O’Flanagan sending the ball towards goal but couldn’t find a team mate to get the vital deflection inside the opening minutes. India, proving clinical throughout, got the scoreboard ticking before the end of the opening quarter from a well worked move down the left. Navjot Kaur did well to control the pass across the circle to her before sending a bobbly ball into the goal on the reverse. Nicci Daly and Sinead Loughran were both showcasing their speed and skill to evade the Indian defence but the eventual shot spun just wide of the goal. Katie Mullan was next to cause the India defence some trouble as she evaded her marker to send a crash ball into the circle but again the final touch was missing. Bethany Barr continued to impress following her recent debut in Chile and won the Green Army’s first penalty corner but a mis-trap at the top saw the chance go a begging. India got their second on the edge of half time as Liz Murphy saved the initial penalty corner shot but Reena Khokhar pounced on the loose ball and dispatched the rebound.

The Green Army continued to create chances early in the second half as Nikki Evans linked up smartly with Lizzie Colvin to win a penalty corner but a questionable foul on Lena Tice gave India the chance to clear their lines. Shirley McCay and Mullan were next to test the India resolve with a crash ball across the circle followed by another penalty corner but a good save and clearance kept India’s two goal cushion intact despite the chances building for Ireland. In a move that perhaps unfortunately epitomised Ireland’s day, Evans picked up a pass following great play from Mullan and Daly but saw her shot hit the inside of the post before ricocheting out. The final minute of the tie saw India put the game firmly to bed as Gurjit Kaur sent a powerful drag flick low into the right corner.

Starting: E Murphy, S McCay, L Tice, R Upton, Y O’Byrne, B Barr, K Mullan (captain), L Colvin, A O’Flanagan, S Torrans, N Evans

Subs: E Buckley, H Matthews, H McLoughlin, S Barr, E Beatty, N Daly, S Loughran

Schedule (all times listed are local):

1/2/19 4:30pm Ireland 1vs1 India in Hockey Santomera pitch, Murcia

3/2/19 11am Ireland 0vs3 India in Hockey Santomera pitch, Murcia

4/2/19 6:30pm Ireland vs Spain in Armilla Hockey, Granada

6/2/19 12:30pm Ireland vs Spain in Armilla Hockey, Granada

7/2/19 11am Ireland vs Spain in Armilla Hockey, Granada

Path Laid Out For Green Machine In 2019

The Green Machine path is well laid out for 2019 with FIH Series Finals in Le Touqet in June and Olympic Qualification then firmly coming into focus, there is also the Eurohockey Championships to look forward to in Belgium this August.

Ireland’s men will begin a series of training camps in the coming weeks, utilising a panel of 30 players as they prepare for the FIH Series Finals. While pools for that tournament are yet to be confirmed, they could face Chile, Egypt, France, Korea, Scotland, Singapore and Ukraine. Their first international fixture of the year will take place in Kampong against Japan in April, a side on the rise as they were crowned champions at the Asian Games last year.

Similar to last year, the Green Machine will welcome USA to Dublin in May for 2 competitive fixtures on May 24th and 26th, acting as fitting preparation with the FIH Series Finals the following month. A top two finish in Le Touqet will secure Ireland’s place at the Olympic Qualifiers in October/November (date TBC) but before sights can shift to Olympic qualification, the Eurohockey Championships in Antwerp awaits. There are no easy games at the highly competitive continental championships and Ireland sit in a challenging pool with the Netherlands, Germany and Scotland. Preparation for the Euro’s is likely to come in the form of a 4 Nations tournament in Santander in early August.

Speaking about the year ahead, head coach Alexander Cox said “I am delighted to have committed my future to Hockey Ireland and to continue working with the Green Machine at such an exciting time for hockey in Ireland. We learnt a lot from the World Cup in India and are looking forward to getting back on the pitch together and begin working towards Olympic qualification, which is our main goal for this year.

It will be a great opportunity for Irish fans to see the Green Machine at home in May when we face the USA and we are expecting 2 high quality games from an ever-improving side. We are working as a large panel of 30 at the moment which increases the competition in our selection and will begin our training camps shortly”.

Squad:

1. David Harte

2. David Fitzgerald

3. Mark Ingram

4. Jamie Carr

5. Jonathan Bell

6. Conor Harte

7. Paul Gleghorne

8. Luke Madeley

9. Stuart Loughrey

10. Matthew Bell

11. Lee Cole

12. Stephen Cole

13. Shane O’Donoghue

14. Michael Robson

15. Callum Robson

16. Kirk Shimmins

17. Sean Murray

18. Daragh Walsh

19. Chris Cargo

20. Matthew Nelson

21. Jeremy Duncan

22. Eugene Magee

23. Owen Magee

24. Alan Sothern

25. Ben Walker

26. Johnny McKee

27. Peter Caruth

28. John Jackson

29. Julian Dale

30. Neal Glassey

Upcoming 2019 Fixtures:

24/4/19 Ireland vs Japan in Kampong

24th & 26th May Ireland vs USA in Dublin

15-23 June FIH Series Finals in Le Touqet, France

1/8/19-7/8/19 4 Nations in Santander (TBC)

17/8/19 Ireland vs Netherlands Eurohockey Championships in Antwerp

18/8/19 Ireland vs Scotland Eurohockey Championships in Antwerp

20/8/19 Ireland vs Germany Eurohockey Championships in Antwerp

22-25/8/19 Classification Matches Eurohockey Championships in Antwerp

Green Army 1 vs 1 India

Ireland 1 (Hawkshaw)

India 1 (Kaur)

With only one place in the world rankings between Ireland and India this was always likely to be an evenly contested clash. The Green Army welcomed back Lizzie Colvin and Shirley McCay to the fray for the first time since their historic World Cup final and Colvin was quick to make an impact in mid field; pulling defenders away to create space before releasing passes to the wings. India won an early PC and netted a goal in the opening quarter, but it was rightly disallowed after hitting an India foot. Recently capped Serena Barr was distributing the ball with ease in the Irish midfield while Hannah Matthews was on hand to dispossess the Indian attackers as they opted for the direct route. It was a powerful penalty corner drag flick from Gurjit Kaur that broke the deadlock in the first half.

Katie Mullan led the chase as Ireland searched for an equaliser with a powerful pass across the face of goal, but Aisling Naughton’s deflection went just wide of Rani’s goal. Matthews was pulling the strings in the backline and sent a pinpoint pass to Ali Meeke who calmly found Sarah Hawkshaw in front of goal for the equaliser. The experienced Indian side tested Emma Buckley on several occasions but the Racing keeper frustrated the strikers with several fine saves. Ireland had the opportunity to put the game to bed in the final moments from a penalty corner won by Anna O’Flanagan following a great team move from Sinead Loughran, Hawkshaw and Leah McGuire but the eventual effort was cleared and the sides shared the spoils in an even contest.

Starting: E Buckley, R Upton, C Brown, K Mullan, S Loughran, H McLoughlin, L Colvin, H Matthews, S Hawkshaw, A O’Flanagan, E Curran,

Subs: E Murphy, A Naughton, S McCay, S Barr, D Duke, A Meeke, L McGuire

Schedule (all times listed are local):

1/2/19 4:30pm Ireland 1vs1 India in Hockey Santomera pitch, Murcia

3/2/19 11am Ireland vs India in Hockey Santomera pitch, Murcia

4/2/19 6:30pm Ireland vs Spain in Armilla Hockey, Granada

6/2/19 12:30pm Ireland vs Spain in Armilla Hockey, Granada

7/2/19 11am Ireland vs Spain in Armilla Hockey, Granada

Hockey Wins Big At Belfast Telegraph Awards

Hockey was well represented at the Belfast Telegraph Awards with Eugene Magee, Shirley McCay and Ayeisha McFerran all picking up awards.

Special Recognition Award sponsored by O’Neill’s: Eugene Magee
Banbridge Hockey Club hero Eugene Magee has picked up an astounding 277 caps for Ireland in a stunning career. He realised his boyhood ambition by playing at the Olympic Games in 2016, won European bronze with Ireland and also played at this year’s World Cup finals.At club level, he has helped Banbridge to All Ireland league and cup trophies as well as Ulster success in the Premier League, Anderson Cup and Kirk Cup.”I was a hurling man and it was only going to Banbridge Academy that I discovered a hockey stick. I’m thankful that I did,” said the man who took up the sport at 14.”I’ve got (the 2020 Olympics) in Tokyo in mind now and we’re training hard for it. We’ll see what happens.”This is a brilliant honour.”

Malcolm Brodie Player of the Year (Gold) sponsored by Celerion: Ayeisha McFerran
The winner of the gold award for amateurs is Ireland Hockey goalkeeper Ayeisha McFerran, who was named Goalkeeper of the Tournament, coming through two penalty shoot-outs on her side’s run to the World Cup final. It’s the second piece of recognition for the Ireland girls’ efforts tonight as they became the first Ireland side in any sport to reach the World Cup decider. “Sorry I can’t be there – I’m in Chile with the rest of the Ireland girls,” she said via a pre-recorded video.”It’s a massive honour to be considered among the sporting talents to come out of Northern Ireland. Thank you to everyone who considered me for the award.”

Game Changer Award sponsored by Electric Ireland: Shirley McCay
The winner of this award, to recognise the impact of a woman who has made an outstanding contribution to the local sporting landscape, is Ireland hockey hero Shirley McCay, who helped her side reach the World Cup final and won the Ulster Shield with Pegasus.Also nominated: Kirsty Hegarty, Cathy McAleer, Sinead Reel “Being the underdog, nobody rated us,” she said of Ireland’s run to the World Cup decider. “We were ranked 15 out of 16 and we were a lot more prepared to face the other teams than they were to face us. It never gets tiring watching the success we had. When we look back, it had come after a combination of a few years of failures.”Whatever my decision is (about retirement), I’ll either miss the girls or I’ll be back with them. The friendships you make are for life.” About her goal at the World Cup: “I don’t talk about mine as much as Gerry Armstrong talks about his.”