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World Cup and Olympic star Holden confirms her international retirement

Lizzie Holden (née Colvin) has confirmed her retirement from international hockey following a history-making 13-year career that brought World Cup silver, an Olympic appearance and 206 caps.

The 31-year-old steps away having made her debut as a teenager, fresh out of Portadown College at a hail-stoning Garryduff at June 2008’s Celtic Cup, finishing off in the searing Tokyo heat this summer.

The effervescent midfielder has run the gamut of emotions from qualifier heartbreakers to those glorious 2018 summer days in London and everything in between, seemingly always bringing out the widest of smiles.

“I always felt the Olympics was going to be my last dance,” she said of her decision to step back. “I had gone back and forth in my head for a long time but I think it is the right time for me to step away”

“We were so intense as a team for so long and we would spend weeks together on tour. Im just sad that I don’t get to see my friends every day now.”

Lizzie Colvin celebrates Olympic qualification with Nicci Daly. Pic: Inpho

“I feel that I have finished my career on a high and having spent the time thinking about this decision, I’ve had an opportunity to reminisce about so many good memories over the years with current and past players and I’ve made life-long friends. I’ve been very lucky to travel around the world and share such unique experiences with a great group of people.”

Her earliest beginnings came at Armagh Hockey Club, playing her part in their incredible rise with several successive promotions to reach the top tier of Ulster and Irish hockey.

From those early years, she played alongside a wealth of future internationals like Alex Speers, Emma and Amy Stewart, Hannah Bowe and Rachel Mulligan with Niall McCool and Mick McKinnon leading the coaching team.

“This announcement is mainly about saying thank you to everyone who has been part of my hockey journey, both on and off the hockey pitch. I want to make a special mention to Armagh Hockey Club, all the parents, coaches and volunteers who helped me through and had such a profound impact on me, particularly the late George Compston – he was my first coach.

“Then when I moved down to Dublin, everyone in Loreto was so kind and supportive of me and allowed my confidence to grow as a player. Then when I moved back up North to play for Belfast Harlequins, they made me feel so welcome and as one of their own. All three of clubs have been such important influences to me at different stages of my career. ”

“At Armagh, we used to train so hard and you’d never question it. I think back on those days; after you’ve done a full hour and a half session on the pitch and you would go straight on to the football pitch and do shuttles back in forth, usually in the rain! I think that’s where i developed my hard work ethic and a really, really gritty determination.”

At the 2019 EuroHockey Championships

It also opened her eyes to a different world. Armagh went on trips to the Netherlands, taking on Den Bosch in their youth, while McKinnon – who was Ireland’s assistant coach in Tokyo – organised for national coach Gene Muller to drop into the club for a session.

“To have that exposure at such a young age, you did not really appreciate it. We were turning up to training and having the craic with all the girls, but actually we had fantastic exposure to some really top quality coaches and players.”

When Muller got in touch, though, it took a long time for him to get an answer to her first international call.

“I was laughing about this with my Dad there the other day. Back in the day, you wouldn’t have email on your phone and I remember just logging in to my emails one night, and there had been this one email sitting in my inbox for a couple of days, Gene Muller asking if I wanted to play in some uncapped games against South Africa in Dublin!

“You’d never sit on that for as long as i did! I remember being terrified going down to Dublin but I was so lucky there were so many of the girls from the Armagh team in the squad. I remember Gene saying to me you’ll be doing well if you trap the ball and a make a pass on your first cap.”

That came at that Celtic Cup a month after she finished school, a 1-0 win against France during a drenched weekend. A picture remains of everyone cramming into the dugout for one rain delay.

College brought her to Dublin at Trinity to study law; she linked up with a Loreto side going through a golden era of sorts with Nikki Symmons, Cathy McKean, Niamh Small, Louisa Healy and Clodagh Grealy taking her under their wing.

Colvin, third from left, takes shelter during her first international weekend at the Celtic Cup. Pic: Adrian Boehm

Internationally, she shone at the Champions Challenge II in Kazan in 2009, scoring in her first two tournament games, but it was that year’s European Championships that stuck in the mind.

“We lost 7-0 to Germany. I really enjoyed the game even though we lost because of the quality of it but I remember vividly one of the german players being interviewed afterwards, saying ‘well, you know, they weren’t very good’.

“I remember thinking that I’d love to beat them some day. It took nearly 10 years to really start to compete against Germany but, we drew against them [in the 2019 Euros] and beat them in Germany. I wanted to compete against the best in the world.”

Like many others of that time, a highlight was the December 2011 tour to Argentina, particularly the tie deep on the country’s interior on the banks of the Parana river.

“I know everyone talks about it, but it really was a stand-out memory; we were playing high quality games against the number two in the world and it was just such a fantastic atmosphere.

With her World Cup silver medal

“They had obtained an old pitch which had been rolled up and transported down to the club we were playing at and the club members laid the pitch. And I remember some the other teams giving off about the quality of the pitch and how the ball skipped.

“But I just remember thinking this is just so cool and special. During the anthems, the PA went off and the Argentian team had to sing acapella and the whole stadium just erupted with singing. You could feel the passion and excitment in that stadium and we certainly thrived on that during the match.”

Her first Olympic cycle ended with a 4-1 final qualifier defeat to Belgium in Beerschot. She took a while to process that situation, taking time out to take stock. Only a few weeks after accepting an invitation back into the panel from Darren Smith, she suffered an ACL injury, putting her back on the sidelines for another year.

Despite the setbacks, with the “incredible” medical supports she received, she returned stronger than ever and, in Smith, had a coach to help elevate her game and the Irish team to be greater contenders.

“Darren really did give me a lot of confidence to accept the type of player that I am and what skill I could bring. He made everyone feel like they had a role.

“He really lifted us and gave us the confidence to have a go and compete against the top teams teams in the world. I think we showed that hunger and desire in Valencia [at the 2016 Olympic qualifiers] and ultimately we played above our ranking and topped the pool. We then had to deal with the heartbreak of the China game. I don’t think I’ve ever watched the back!

“After that, I didn’t know if I would go back to play. I was just heartbroken; I had to finish off my exams and go back to work and I was living away from home and away from my boyfriend and just thought I don’t want to do this.

“But after taking a bit of time off, I knew that I had unfinished business with my hockey career. I was very lucky that the team welcomed me back and gave me the chance to play again. I definitely felt there was a shift in the mindset of the team since the Rio qualifiers and there was a quiet determination to make it to the World Cup.

“We had come along way as team and our style has developed over the years. It was attacking. It was aggressive. And it’s just really fast and really exciting.”

Not that it was not fraught, qualifying for London by “the skin of our teeth”, Holden hitting the winner against India that ultimately got them over the line in a 2-1 win over India.

Having spent a decade to reach the elite stage, she says the pressure was off when they rocked up to London and defied all expectations.

“We were just having the time of our lives. There was a lot of confidence, but also we were all comfortable and relaxed. That really played into it, because we knew that there wasn’t an expectation.

“The weather was amazing; we were staying in a nice hotel in the middle of London. We were enjoying the experience and I think it showed on our faces in that first game against America, winning against a very top quality side. From there, the momentum just kept going and going.”

Following the 2021 European Championships with her long-time team mates

“The standout moment was when we lined up for the anthem and we saw our family and friends that had travelled over, it was a celebration about how far we had come.”

It brought the Olympics into focus like never before, ratcheting up a notch on two more rain-drenched nights in Donnybrook, getting by the challenge of Canada in a shoot-out after two intense 0-0 draws.

The 2020 vision became 2021, pushing back the Tokyo dream 12 months and bringing in doubts about what next?

“I’m not gonna lie; there was a couple of months where it was really difficult because we couldn’t travel abroad and get match practice.”

“That first trip to Spain we went on in January [this year] felt like we were going to the World Cup again because we were so excited. Just to get out to a different country and play; it was really, really good fun.

“I was just so grateful to have that opportunity to keep playing. The preparations for this past summer were extremely tough but I tried to enjoy every moment and savour the experience.”

“Sean [Dancer] gave me the opportunity to represent Ireland at the Olympics and I look back and know that I’ve been part of such a special group of people who have faced so many challenges of the years. There have been so many highs and lows but I ‘ve always tried to give my best, to battle hard and never give up. It has been such a privilege to be part of the green army team and I hope that I’ve left the jersey in a better place.”

As for the Olympic reflections, it is a mixed bag – a once in a lifetime experience but one tinged with frustration as Ireland missed out on the quarter-final spots.

“It took me a couple weeks to process; it’s very hard to realise what you’re going through at the time. There’s a reason why it is the most competitive tournament in the hockey calendar or in any sport in the world; it is just unbelievably tough.

“You have to get everything right at the right time and try not to be overwhelmed by the experience of just being at the Olympics, surrounded by so many incredible athletes. I have a newfound respect for any athlete that is able to get on the podium because it is just so, so tough.

“It was a life long dream for me and I will never forget walking down that street in the Olympic village with all the flags and up to the Olympic rings.

With husband Matthew and her Olympic jersey

“The first night when we played against South Africa, it was hard that there weren’t any fans there but at the same time it was just so emotional for us to say that we have finally arrived after so many years of hard work.

“There is frustration that we didn’t progress further but I definitely believe that there’s a hunger and desire in the team to push as far as they can go. Its a really exciting stage for the green army and I can’t wait to see the girls put their stamp on the upcoming tournaments.”

“I think we’re in safe hands. So yeah, I’m just really sad it’s over for me and I don’t get to do it again.”

She jokes it is back to “normal life” with her husband Matthew and her parents, Peter and Rosie who she is forever grateful too – along with her employers, DWF solicitors – for their patience and understanding as she pursued her dreams.

“I could not have played hockey as long as I have without the support of my family, friends and my husband, Matt. I can never thank him enough for all the sacrifices he has had to make for me. Now that I’ve retired, we’ve never spent this much time together but I’m excited for the next chapter in our lives, whatever that will be!”

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Thrilling men’s cup ties bring 96 goals across 16 fixtures

Saturday’s 16 men’s national cup fixtures produced a remarkable 96 goals with thrills and spills a plenty across the Irish Senior Cup and Irish Hockey Trophy.

Cork C of I won a Munster thriller against Bandon to reach the final eight of the Senior Cup, eventually prevailing after a shoot-out following a 3-3 draw in normal time.

The west Cork outifit had led 2-1 at half-time as they eyed a famous win and it was still in the balance when the tie went to shoot-out with Bandon leading at 2-1, 3-2 and 4-3 but C of I kept pace and slotted their winner.

Cookstown will continue to fly the Ulster Premier Division flag into the quarter-final as they raided Railway Union to land a quarter-final spot via a shoot-out.

Cookstown’s Ryan Millar under pressure from Rob Abbott. Picture: Max Fulham (click image for full gallery)

It was a big battle with Cookstown taking the lead via Jack Haycock’s corner only for Jeremy McKeever and Rob Abbott to turn things around. But Max Anderson snagged an equaliser while Railway were down to 10 players in the closing five minutes and they took the momentum into the shoot-out to win 2-1.

It was one of three wins on the road as Pembroke finally found form to defeat Annadale 5-1; their first success of the campaign. They did trail early on to a Callum Robson strike in the seventh minute but a stroke and a corner goal from Alan Sothern swapped the lead by half-time.

Julian Dale made it 3-1 just before half-time and both of their star strikers scored again in the second half for a handsome win.

Monkstown got the best of Banbridge at Havelock Park 3-2. It was very tight in the first half but goals from Guy Sarratt and Jazze Henry saw the Dubliners move out of range despite a late Bann riposte.

In another nailbiter, Ben Campbell’s single goal in the second quarter saw YMCA prevail against 2020 finalists UCD. An early stroke was repelled by the students before the Y went ahead via a great team goal and they survived through to the end, enduring a disallowed goal in the fourth quarter to add to the tension.

Elsewhere, there were comfortable wins for Glenanne, Three Rock Rovers and Lisnagarvey. Shannon Boucher’s hat trick helped the Glens beat Cork Harlequins 4-0; he got the only goal of the first three quarters as the visitors defended brilliantly but the Glens ran up three more in the end.

Rovers got over a slow start to beat Corinthian 5-1 as Ben Johnson’s corner goal settled nerves before Ryan Spencer (two), Evan Jennings and Ali Empey netted.

TRR’s Ryan Spencer makes it 2-0 against Corinthian, celebrating with Andy Keane Pic: Adrian Boehm (click image for full gallery)

Garvey were the big winners, showing a clean set of heels to Leinster league side Rathgar with eight different scorers in a 10-0 win.

In the Irish Hockey Trophy, there were over 50 goals scored across eight ties. Ulster sides dominated with Portadown, Bangor, Belfast Harlequins, Queen’s, South Antrim and North Down all going through.

Dublin North are the sole Leinster side left after their win over Bray, Shane Dempsey scoring a double. Catholic Institute hold up the Munster side of things with Chris Ryan’s four goals underpinning their 5-2 success at Ballynahinch.

Men
Irish Senior Cup – Round 2:
Annadale 1 (C Robson) Pembroke 5 (A Sothern 3, J Dale 2); Banbridge 2 (L Rowe, S Farson) Monkstown 3 (M Gibbons, G Sarratt, J Henry); Cork C of I 3 (A Moffett, P Sweetnam, S Wolfe) Bandon 3 (I Perrott, R Smyth, D Jennings), C of I win shoot-out 5-4; Glenanne 4 (S Boucher 3, G Shaw) Cork Harlequins 0; Lisnagarvey 10 (J Lorimer 2, A Edgar 2, T Chambers, C Chambers, O Kidd, B Nelson, D Nelson, R Getty) Rathgar 0; Railway Union 2 (J McKeever, R Abbott) Cookstown 2 (J Haycock, M Anderson), Cookstown win shoot-out 2-1; Three Rock Rovers 5 (R Spencer 2, B Johnson, E Jennings, A Empey) Corinthian 1 (C Futcher); YMCA 1 (B Campbell) UCD 0

Irish Hockey Trophy – Round 1: Ashton 2 (J Sweetnam 2) Portadown 5; Avoca 1 (A Tutty) South Antrim 4 (J Kamalarajah, C Henry, B Clarke, M Taylor); Ballynahinch 2 (J Campbell 2) Catholic Institute 5 (C Ryan 4, T Gaffney); Bangor 5 (R Burgess 2, Z McKee 2, M Sanchez) Kilkenny 3 (D McClure 2, E Dore); Belfast Harlequins 6 (M Patterson 2, C Lemon 2, C Wilson, N Anderson) UCC 2 (C McCormack, L Hennigan); Dublin North 2 (A Dempsey 2) Bray 1 (G Evans); NICS 2 Queens University 8 (C Irwin 3, H Scott 2, S McCabe 2, J Taggart); North Down 4 (H Templeton, P Templeton, J Spratt, G Bailie) Newry 2 (K McWilliams, J Taylor)

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Shoot-outs galore in women’s Irish Senior Cup and Trophy

** Queen’s celebrate in their shoot-out against UCC (click here for Billy Pollock’s full gallery)
Shoot-out drama abounded in the women’s Irish Senior Cup and Irish Hockey Trophy as Railway Union, Queen’s and Muckross all prevailed via that method on a thrilling day of action with 32 clubs battling it out in the respective competitions.

There was precious little between Railway and Loreto in the EY Hockey League in September and so it proved once again when they met on Saturday in the cup with normal time ending scoreless.

The Park Avenue outfit produced a flawless shoot-out with Sarah Patton and Orla Fox converting while Riona Norton kept out three efforts, setting the stage for Lily Lloyd to clinch the contest 3-0.

Queen’s, meanwhile, got a pre-Intervarsities pick-me-up as they came from a goal down to draw with UCC and then go through in another shoot-out.

The Cork side looked well set at 2-1 thanks to Nikki Barry and Emma O’Sullivan goals but Jessica McMaster salvaged the draw in normal time. Rebecca Quinn then did the business to send Queen’s through to the last eight.

Ulster Premier side Lisnagarvey came closest to a shock but they were denied in a shoot-out 3-2 by EY Hockey League side Muckross.

They were left to rue Laura Murray hitting the post and Zahra Lowry shooting just wide from another big chance as normal time ended scoreless and the Donnybrook club prevailed 3-2 with Sophie Barnwell, Becky McMullen and Julia Balcerzak scoring their efforts.

Lucy Mackey’s double propelled Banbridge’s women to the quarter-finals for a second successive campaign as they won 3-1 at Glenanne.

Railway Union celebrate their shoot-out win. Pic: Max Fulham (click image for full gallery)

UCD won a top quality contest against Old Alex 2-1. After a tight first half, Katherine Egan broke the deadlock in the third quarter and Sophia Cole’s penalty stroke put the students two up. Deirdre Duke got one back in the closing minutes but they could not nick a draw.

Elsewhere, there were relatively comfortable wins for Pegasus, Pembroke and Catholic Institute. Lucy McKee’s double helped Pegs see off a stubborn Ulster Elks 3-0. Róisín Upton set the ball rolling for Insta with her corner followed up by goals from Laura Foley, Naomi Carroll, Leah Clery and Christine O’Shea as they were too strong for Corinthian.

Pembroke, meanwhile, got the best of Cork Harlequins 5-0 at Farmers’ Cross with Sally Campbell scoring twice. They were 2-0 up in the first quarter and never looked back.

In the Irish Hockey Trophy, home comforts were not in full effect with five clubs winning on the road. Raphoe were the biggest winners as the Donegal side scored six in Bray with Arlyne Kilpatrick on the double.

2020 finalists North Kildare are through to the last eight thanks to Isabel Angel’s single goal in their 1-0 victory over North Down.

Ashton came out on top in an Irish Hockey Trophy shoot-out against Three Rock. Picture: Adrian Boehm (click for more images)

Munster sides prevailed as Bandon won 2-1 in Galway against Greenfields while Emily O’Leary, Ailse Holland and Kate Harvey all netted in a shoot-out win for Ashton at Three Rock Rovers.

Clontarf were winners against Rathgar; Armagh won 2-1 in Kilkenny; Mossley won by the same scoreline away to Portadown and YMCA edged out Galway 2-1.

Women
Irish Senior Cup – Round 2:
Catholic Institute 5 (R Upton, L Foley, N Carroll, L Clery, C O’Shea) Corinthian 0; Cork Harlequins 0 Pembroke 5 (S Campbell 2, R O’Brien, S Loughran, C Foley); Glenanne 1 (A Westlake) Banbridge 3 (L Mackey 2, R Kerr); Lisnagarvey 0 Muckross 0, Muckross win shoot-out 3-2; Pegasus 3 (L McKee 2, A Speers) Ulster Elks 0; Queens University 2 (O Gibson, J McMaster) UCC 2 (N Barry, E O’Sullivan), Queen’s win shoot-out 4-1; Railway Union 0 Loreto 0, Railway win shoot-out 3-0; UCD 2 (K Egan, S Cole) Old Alex 1 (D Duke)

Irish Hockey Trophy – Round 1: Bray 0 Raphoe 6 (A Kilpatrick 2, R Wauchope, A Wauchope, L Patterson, S Barrett); Clontarf 3 (E Kernan, N Taylor, A Bailey) Rathgar 1 (R Harrison); Greenfields 1 (R Hutchinson) Bandon 2 (A Moloney, S Brady); Kilkenny 1 (L Walshe) Armagh 2 (J van Lathem, A Doyle); North Kildare 1 (I Angel) North Down 0; Portadown 1 (A Black) Mossley 2 (A Glassey, E Downey); Three Rock Rovers 0 Ashton 0, Ashton won shoot-out 3-0; YMCA 2 (M Adams, Kennedy) Galway 1

Clontarf v Rathgar Irish Hockey Trophy Rd 1 16-10-21

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Irish Senior Cup and Irish Hockey Trophy takes centre-stage

** Lisnagarvey’s James Corry lifts the 2020 men’s Irish Senior Cup. Picture: Adrian Boehm

In total, 32 national cup ties will take place across the island with the men’s and women’s Irish Senior Cup and Irish Hockey Trophy campaigns playing out on Saturday.

How strong the leading lights in the regional leagues are will be put to the test on Saturday in the men’s Irish Senior Cup as high-flying Cookstown make the trip to Railway Union in round two.

Captained by Greg Thompson, the Co Tyrone head the Ulster Premier table on goal difference, scoring 24 times in the process with Stu Smyth, Mark Crooks and Ryan Millar bringing experience to the table.

Railway, though, have been even more free-flowing having already scored more than 50 goals this term, including six against Mossley in round one of this cup and hitting double-figures twice with Mark English and Rob Abbott running riot.

It is one of two ties in the men’s competition not to feature an EYHL top tier side with Cork C of I against Bandon the other one.

Both have gone unbeaten after four rounds of the Munster top tier with C of I edging things by a point at this early stage with a perfect start to life under the now player-coach Jonny Bruton.

Jonny Spillane has also impressed since his arrival from Midleton while the addition of youth internationals Ian Balding and Rory Treacy from Waterford has given them a large panel to work with.

It is one which looks well equipped to make a charge for promotion back to the top tier of the EY Hockey League despite the departure of Kevin O’Dea to UCD.

For Bandon, the timeless Dave Smith continues to bang in the goals and, despite their young age, Ian Perrott, Karl Smyth and Ethan Hamilton-Foott have amassed lots of experience which they will aim to call on in this showdown.

Harlequins are the third Munster side involved at the last 16 stage but have the toughest draw on offer, travelling to Glenanne who have a perfect record of five wins from five in the top tier.

Quins did win 5-0 at Clontarf in round one but this will be a hard ask against an in-form opposition and they will need top gun Jack O’Meara to fire.

Elsewhere, in a quirk of the fixture list, both Three Rock Rovers will meet Corinthian and YMCA are up against UCD for the second time in a week. Rovers beat the reds in the EY Hockey League last Saturday 4-1 while the students drew with YM 3-3.

Reigning champions Lisnagarvey are huge favourites against Leinster side Rathgar, particularly with home advantage. Garvey were given Copenhagen as their destination for next June’s EuroHockey Challenge I campaign, placed in a group with Turkish, Slovenian and Croatian opposition.

Banbridge and Monkstown’s meeting at Havelock Park is undoubtedly one of the pick of the fixtures but both clubs could be without their international stars due to the upcoming World Cup qualifiers in Cardiff.

Another intriguing contest pits Annadale against Pembroke. The former have drawn four of their five league contests but there has to be a winner on the day with a shoot-out beckoning if it stays level.

But it will be potentially how they manage the free-scoring Pembroke captain Julian Dale which will could be the decisive factor at Lagan College; the Cork man has netted seven times in five games despite playing in a side who have only registered one point in the league.

UCD’s Ellen Curran lifts a socially-distanced Irish Senior Cup in 2020. Pic: Adrian Boehm

In the women’s competition, EYHL table-toppers Pegasus host Ulster Premier side Ulster Elks in a derby contest while, nearby, Queen’s welcome UCC – victors over Monkstown in round one – to the Dub with youth internationals Jessica McMaster and Caoimhe Perdue likely to lock horns.

Defensively, the Cork side have been superb, Perdue marshalling a side that has conceded just three times in five outings while Elva Kerr, Hilary Balding and Rebecca Kingston are also kicking on.

Harlequins will hope to find form against an impressive Pembroke. Eddie Gash’s side have not scored since the opening day of the campaign and will find things difficult against an impressive outfit who are a point off top spot in the EYHL.

Catholic Institute will be favourites when they meet Leinster Division One outfit Corinthian at Rosbrien but their opposition will not be taken lightly having gone unbeaten in Leinster thus far this season.

Indeed, they had already pinned down a promotion playoff spot in 2020 before the pandemic hit, denying them an opportunity to join the highest league.

Lisnagarvey will be eyeing a decent scalp when they face Muckross at Comber Road. Garvey, for their part, have 13 points out of 15 on their card and will relish this challenge against the EYHL side.

Banbridge – quarter-finalists in 2019 – are looking to reach that stage once again; they travel to Glenanne who are a resilient and battling outfit who will not make life easy.

Of the top tier sides in action, reigning champions UCD face Old Alex in a potential classic while Railway Union’s derby date with Loreto is another one to catch the eye, particularly if they can serve up the drama of their 2-2 league draw.

There is also a full series of 16 games across the men’s and women’s Irish Hockey Trophy competitions, making for a busy weekend across the island.

Saturday 16th October 2021
Men
Irish Senior Cup – Round 2:
Annadale v Pembroke Wanderers, Lagan College, 2.30pm; Banbridge v Monkstown, Havelock Park, 3pm; Cork C of I v Bandon, Garryduff, 1pm; Glenanne v Cork Harlequins, St. Andrews, 1.15pm; Lisnagarvey v Rathgar, Comber Road, 3.30pm; Railway Union v Cookstown, Park Avenue, 1.15pm; Three Rock Rovers v Corinthian, Grange Road, 1pm; YMCA v UCD, Wesley College, 4pm

Irish Hockey Trophy – Round 1: Ashton v Portadown, Ashton School, 3pm; Avoca v South Antrim, Newpark, 12.30pm; Ballynahinch v Catholic Institute, St. Colmans HS, 1pm; Bangor v Kilkenny, Bangor Aurora, 2.30pm; Belfast Harlequins v UCC, Deramore Park, 2.30pm; Dublin North v Bray, National Sports Complex, Abbottstown, 1.45pm; NICS v Queens University, Stormont, 2.30pm; North Down v Newry, Londonderry Park, 2.45pm

Women
Irish Senior Cup – Round 2:
Catholic Institute v Corinthian, Rosbrien, 2pm; Cork Harlequins v Pembroke Wanderers, Farmers Cross, 1.30pm; Glenanne v Banbridge, St Andrews 3pm; Lisnagarvey v Muckross, Comber Road, 1.30pm; Pegasus v Ulster Elks, Newforge Country Club, 1.30pm; Queens University v UCC, Malone Playing Fields, 12.45pm; Railway Union v Loreto, Park Avenue, 3.15pm; UCD v Old Alexandra, Belfield, 1pm

Irish Hockey Trophy – Round 1: Bray v Raphoe, Loreto Bray, 1pm; Clontarf v Rathgar, Mount Temple, 1pm; Greenfields v Bandon, Dangan, 2.30pm; Kilkenny v Armagh, Kilkenny, 2pm; North Kildare v North Down, The Maws, 2pm; Portadown v Mossley, Edenvilla, 2.30pm; Three Rock Rovers v Ashton, Grange Road, 3pm; YMCA v Galway, Wesley College, 1.45pm

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Tumilty adds key experience for senior men’s World Cup qualifiers

** Ireland celebrate Sam Hyland’s debut goal against Malaysia. Picture: Billy Pollock

Mark Tumilty reckons experience could be key at the win or bust men’s World Cup qualifiers which get underway next week in Cardiff.

World number 14 ranked Ireland need to win their first two games – starting off against 23rd rated Russia on Thursday, October 21st in the quarter-final – to land a place at the 2023 showpiece event to be played in India.

It has been a quick turnaround time since August’s EuroHockey Championship II campaign in Poland where a fresh-faced Green Machine, featuring eight tournament debutants, took bronze in a first competitive outing in almost two years.

Since then, the vastly experienced Olympian Conor Harte has returned to the fold. Luke Madeley, Jamie Carr and Lee Cole are also available having missed out on playing time at the Euros when they were deemed close contacts in the lead-up to the event.

For Carr and Madeley, it was especially frustrating as they spent 10 days in a Gniezno hotel in quarantine but, all going well, Tumilty feels the extra know-how in big game situations will be invaluable

“There is more experience in this squad and, with the straight knockout format of the tournament, I feel experience will be very important” Tumilty said of selection.

“With Lee Cole and Luke Madeley available along with Tim Cross and Conor Harte, we have plenty of experience in our back four. The other big positive in the squad is that Luke Madeley, Lee Cole, Conor Empey and Conor Harte offer good attacking penalty corner options in addition to Shane O’Donoghue.

“With the Euros, due to Covid and availability, we were lighter in our penalty corner options; it was an important component of my selection decision to ensure we have more penalty corner options on the pitch at all times.”

Of the other changes, Neal Glassey is likely to be deployed in midfield rather than at the back while Sam Hyland and Conor Empey – who both scored on debut last week in a series against Malaysia – have retained their place in the 18-player central panel.

“Neal gives us a more defensive-minded midfielder which I feel is important for this tournament. It is unfortunate for Kevin O’Dea to miss out but he definitely has a great international future ahead of him.

Ireland men’s head coach Mark Tumilty. Pic: Adrian Boehm

“Conor has done well in the Dutch Hoofdklasse, scoring a few goals there and against Malaysia last week. Sam brings something different, too; I like his playing style and he has excellent basics which I feel is very important at the highest level. He also plays a big role in penalty corner attack and defence. They are two guys who have done the hard work and deserve their opportunity next week.”

In total, there are 11 of the Euros panel who saw game time are retained. Carr and Mark Ingram are the goalkeepers named with Harte, Madeley, Cole, Empey and Hyland coming in for Fergus Gibson, Ian Stewart, Ben Nelson, James Milliken while Mark McNellis and O’Dea are the travelling reserves this time out.

The two-game series against Malaysia was an opportune one, winning the first 3-2 before getting a reality check in a 4-2 defeat to the speedy tigers.

The matches came along at short notice with Lisnagarvey able to accommodate the fixtures under Malaysia’s UK visas for a tour which also encompasses England and Wales.

“Lisnagarvey have been fantastic to work with over the past 15 months. They have been very accommodating with regards to hosting Ulster regional sessions, national sessions, the EDP series and most recently the Malaysia games. Gail Geddis and the Lisnagarvey committee deserves a special mention for the work they have put into hosting the Malaysia games.”

And the lessons learned from that second game will be crucial when it comes to the qualifiers.

“We’re playing knock-out hockey in Cardiff and there’s no room for a bad period in the game at any stage as we found out against Malaysia. We conceded 3 goals in a very short space of time in Quarter 1 which proved costly and a good lesson in how a game an go away from you very quickly”.

“That’s one of the reasons to go with experience, so we have the players can deal with that pressure. We need to execute in both circles when it is really needed. I have confidence this group of players can deliver. It will be tough tournament and I would say that any two [of the eight] teams participating have the ability qualify for the World Cup. Our focus is our first game and we will need to produce a very good performance against Russia to progress to the semi-final to have the opportunity to qualify for the World Cup.”

First up are Russia, ranked lower but they did contest a higher level of European competition during the summer in June, scoring plenty of goals despite finishing last.

Tumilty pored over those videos and says they are a good side who play an attacking style of hockey. They have some excellent players with their main strength being in midfield. This was reflected in a strong performance from club side Dinamo Elektrostal in the Euro Hockey League when putting it up to Dutch giant SV Kampong.

“They are definitely a talented side with a goalscoring threat as they proved in the European Championship this summer”

“We go into the tournament well prepared and with a strong squad. It is a matter of whether we can deliver to take that next step and get to a major tournament. It would be massive boost for this senior men’s team to qualify again for a World Cup. It’s a big challenge but is one I certainly believe this group of players have the ability to overcome.”

Should Ireland win that tie, they will face either Wales or Italy on Saturday, October 23 for a place at the World Cup.

Ireland men’s squad for World Cup qualifiers (club/caps)
Jamie Carr (GK, KHC Leuven, 34)
Mark Ingram (GK, Pembroke, 27)
Tom Cross (Annadale, 22)
Luke Madeley (KHC Leuven, 23)
Lee Cole (Monkstown, 90)
Conor Harte (KHC Dragons, 254)
Peter McKibbin (Lisnagarvey, 8)
Kyle Marshall (Old Georgians, 7)
Shane O’Donoghue (Glenanne, 197)
Sean Murray (captain, KHC Leuven, 85)
Neal Glassey (Crefelder HTC, 67)
Daragh Walsh (KHC Leuven, 58)
Michael Robson (Annadale, 120)
Johnny McKee (Banbridge, 49)
Conor Empey (SCHC, 2)
Sam Hyland (YMCA, 2)
Ben Walker (Braxgata, 42)
Jeremy Duncan (Monkstown, 63)

Travelling reserves
Matthew Nelson (Lisnagarvey, 69)
Kevin O’Dea (UCD, 7)

Head Coach: Mark Tumilty
Assistant coach: Jason Klinkradt
Manager: Neil Irwin
Physical trainer: Eoin Cunniffe
Physio: Cameron Steele
Video technician: Ross Willis

 
FIH Men’s World Cup 2023 – European qualifier (Cardiff, October 21-24, 2021)
Thursday, October 21: Ireland v Russia, 4pm
Saturday, October 23: semi-final
Sunday, October 24: final/classification matches

** Full tournament information here: https://tms.fih.ch/competitions/1361

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Sean Dancer names new look Irish women’s side for World Cup qualifiers

Irish women’s coach Sean Dancer has named an 18-player central panel and two travelling reserves ahead next week’s vital World Cup qualifying competition which takes place in Pisa from October 21st to 24th.

The eight-team competition will be played in a knock-out format with only one side earning a place at next summer’s World Cup which will be played at venues in Spain and the Netherlands.

Ireland (12th ranked) meet France (27th) in their first game on October 21st (10.30am, Irish time) with the winner going on to play either Russia (20th) or Belarus (21st). Scotland (19th), Poland (23rd), Italy (17th) and Wales (25th) are on the other side of the draw.

Dancer’s central panel features 15 of the squad that travelled to the Olympic Games July with Niamh Carey, Erin Getty and Ellen Curran coming into the line-up.

“I am excited about the future and the balance within the squad,” coach Dancer said of his selection. “We have retained a lot of experience and have a lot of excitement coming through. It sits really nicely.”

For the players coming in, they have been aided by a comprehensive summer program with the Irish development squad, overseen by David Passmore which has been a fruitful avenue for those making the step up.

UCD’s Niamh Carey joins her twin sister Michelle in the panel and is on course to make her first capped international appearance in the quarter-final against France. She has been part of the panel for most of the past year and lined out against Great Britain in a couple of challenge matches.

New cap Niamh Carey. Picture: Billy Pollock

Queen’s University’s Erin Getty was one of the guiding lights of the summer developmental series to force her way back into senior international reckoning. The Queen’s University player earned eight caps in 2017 and 18 before a number of injuries set back her progress.

Pembroke’s Ellen Curran is another to return to the line-up. With 24 caps to her name, she was involved with the Green Army setup in the early phases of 2020, touring South Africa, prior to the postponement of the Games to 2021.

“Niamh has been in and around the senior group previously and has built on her strength on the ball and is scoring goals. She is very dangerous as an attacking player and we hope she will continue that.

“Erin played for Ireland before but never previously with me due to a long term injury which put her out for a while but, to her credit, she has worked really hard to get back into a position to be in the green shirt again.

“For Ellen, she had issues around her calf and ankle which didn’t make things easy for her but, once again, she took that time to work on areas we wanted her to. Credit to her, she staked her claim for a spot now and looking forward to seeing her use her speed and skill to create some havoc.

Of the Tokyo panel, Shirley McCay, Hannah Matthews, Lizzie Colvin and Nicci Daly have since stepped back from the program as have Nikki Evans and Grace O’Flanagan.

Reflecting on that changing of the guard, coach Dancer said it is “a natural” progression for the side in the wake of the Olympic Games, paying tribute to their immense contributions to the cause.

“It’s amazing how much effort the players have put into not just the last three years but the last eight to ten years to qualify for their first ever Olympics, giving it everything they’ve got,” Dancer said.

“It is natural some will step away and, for others, they needed a good break to refresh and get back to life, work, family and social things. I wanted to make sure everyone got a good break and once all the dust had settled, it certainly great to have a lot of experience in the group.

“Anna O’Flanagan, Chloe, Róisín, Ayeisha, Lena, Katie, Deirdre – we do have a huge amount there from the Olympics and beyond. We have to draw on that first of all and expect those guys to stand up under pressure which I certainly know they will.

“The flip side is the excitement. We have players who have never had a test match before; first ever event and they get to try qualify for a World Cup.”

The tournament also allows for two travelling reserves with Charlotte Beggs and Jane Kilpatrick joining the panel in Pisa.

While first opponents France are the lowest-ranked side in the competition, Dancer is more than wary of what they have to offer. With the Paris Games in mind, they have been working together close to full-time for a number of years and a silver medal at this summer’s EuroHockey Championship II shows they are on thr rise.

“France has been preparing well, not just this year, but with 2024 in their sights and getting there as host nation, they have a lot to play for. They did really well in the European Division 2 tournament. First team to meet, it will not be easy but we have to back our experience and what we have done in the last 18 month to get over the top of them.”

Irish senior women’s panel for World Cup qualifiers (club/caps):
Ayeisha McFerran (SV Kampong, Netherlands, 110)
Lizzie Murphy (Loreto, 13)
Lena Tice (Old Alex, 119)
Róisín Upton (Catholic Institute, 86)
Hannah McLoughlin (UCD, 24)
Sarah McAuley (UCD, 6)
Sarah Hawkshaw (Railway Union, 43)
Michelle Carey (UCD, 7)
Katie Mullan (captain, Ballymoney, 203)
Ellen Curran (Pembroke, 24)
Sarah Torrans (Loreto, 31)
Chloe Watkins (Monkstown, 234)
Zara Malseed (Ards, 4)
Naomi Carroll (Catholic Institute, 119)
Niamh Carey (UCD, 0)
Deirdre Duke (Old Alex, 151)
Anna O’Flanagan (Muckross, 217)
Erin Getty (Queen’s, 8)

Travelling reserves
Charlotte Beggs (Ulster Elks, 0)
Jane Kilpatrick (Belfast Harlequins, 0)

Head coach: Sean Dancer
Assistant coaches: Gareth Grundie, David Fitzgerald
Manager: Lisa Jacob
Physical trainer: Claire Brady
Physio: Stephen Brownlow
Video Technician: Mark Kavanagh

FIH Women’s World Cup 2022 – European Qualifier; Pisa, Italy (October 21 to 24, 2021)
Thursday, October 21: Ireland v France (10.30am, Irish time)
Saturday, October 22: Semi-finals / classification matches
Sunday, October 23: final / classification matches

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Hannah Matthews confirms her retirement from international hockey

Olympian and 2018 World Cup silver medalist Hannah Matthews has confirmed her retirement from international hockey having been a crucial figure in the Green Army’s rise over the past seven years and 157 caps.

Since making her debut in 2014, the Loreto woman has been one of the first names on the team sheet, being an ever-present at each major tournament during that time.

“It’s 150 more caps than I thought I would ever get,” she said in the wake of her decision. “There was a long period where I wasn’t involved but once I got in, it was a case of grabbing the opportunity and I have enjoyed every second of it.

Matthews is something of a rarity as a “one-club” player, lining out for Loreto since she was eight-years-old, combining club life with her successful school days at Loreto Beaufort. With them, she scored the winning goal in the Leinster Schoolgirls Senior Cup final in 2008 in a 2-1 success against Alexandra College. The likes of Mary Barnwell, Paula O’Donoghue and Eimear Campion proved the best of mentors during those years.

In action in 2018 at Belfield against China. Picture: Adrian Boehm

Scoring big goals became a habit in those early years. While still a teenager – under the tutelage of future Irish coach Graham Shaw – she won the inaugural Women’s Irish Hockey League title in 2009 and, a year later, took the Irish Senior Cup final win against Railway Union; Matthews was raised and carried aloft by her team mates when she scored the winning penalty stroke.

They are the kind of early career highlights that often lead to instant Irish call-ups but the now 30-year-old had to bide her time, a difficult situation but one, in hindsight, widened her horizons.

“I don’t know what other people thought but I did have that expectation. I played Under-16, Under-18, Under-21 and I saw other people getting called in and you do start to think ‘this is not going to happen for me’. I worked on what I could work on and when the opportunity came, I was very much ready for it at 23. I had my college years, had a social life and so it worked out pretty well and I was lucky!

“I was playing away with Loreto and that was such a big thing for me, lining out in such a competitive team who wanted to play at a high standard.

“One year, I just sucked it up and worked on my fitness and got a call-up. I almost didn’t go to the trial weekend because it was in the middle of my teaching practice but I went and haven’t looked back since.”

That call came from coach Darren Smith who she reckons wans’t “a huge fan of mine at the start but he kept an open mind and called me in. I owe so much to him”.

From her debut In the idyllic vineyard setting in Mori, she describes it as a “whirlwind” from the devastation of missing out on the Rio Olympics to winning the EuroHockey Championship II a couple of weeks later.

“Darren wanted me to get in there, make my debut, get my cap as quickly as possible. He set a tone of a professional squad. Everyone took it so seriously, it was such a self-driven team which he ran from above. It was a great environment to come into. Obviously, it is everyone’s dream to play in an Olympics so that next summer was really tough to take but it did drive us.”

Making a key tackle in the World League Round 2 final against Canada. Picture: Adrian Boehm

That drive propelled Matthews and the side through the 2018 World Cup qualifying campaign and ultimately becoming part of Irish sporting legend with the silver medal.

“You still look back and think it was almost like a holiday compared to Tokyo! We were having the time of our lives. It was so close to heartbreak all over again when you look back [at the qualifiers in South Africa].

“Grace [O’Flanagan] came off the bench, made that incredible save against India and it was such a game-changer, something we have in the memory bank that whatever happens, we can come through it. The road that got us there was definitely important and I would not change it.”

She became a softly-spoken but powerful voice within the team, notably speaking up about the side’s search for a sponsor in the months before the London madness that summer.

“It is hard to boil it down to money but it makes such a difference. Like if we hadn’t had them, we would have been booted out of our hotel in the World Cup because we overstayed our welcome! Little things like that don’t even cross your mind.

Celebrating a victory in the 2018 World Cup. Picture: Getty/FIH

“SoftCo and Park Developments allowed us go part-time and train professionally. If we are going to compete against the best, we have to have the resources and facilities to do so. We have to players who can commit to it, staff who can commit to it. It was so difficult when we just came together on a Sunday and then training regionally during the week.”

During that time, she was able to jobshare her teaching role at the Holy Trinity National School in Leopardstown. She is forever grateful for the school and her colleagues to allow her to do so, a healthy situation she knows was an option not afforded to a number of her team mates.

She did not think she would be in that position for quite so long, though, once Olympic qualification for Tokyo was in the bank.

“Of all the things you try to envision, you could never forsee a global pandemic. You just start thinking this might not happen for us. Up until Christmas, I kept checking any social media or news to see what was happening.

“It was worth the wait. For me, it certainly put things in perspective. I always knew I was going to retire after the Olympics. It was almost like another bite of the cherry for preparation and I went into the year wanting to enjoy every second of it, whether I got picked or not.

“I wanted to walk off and say I played my best hockey and enjoyed it. That was very freeing and I do think I played some of my best stuff in an Irish jersey compared to the year before.”

Celebrating Olympic qualification. Picture: Inpho

Having given her all in Japan, she is content to step back despite current Irish coach Sean Dancer keeping the door open for a comeback if she is keen

“100% – it was a decision I took a while to make. I didn’t take it lightly and I was honest with Sean. He was brilliant that I could have that honest conversation and it didn’t affect my selection for the Olympics or personal issues.

“It’s lovely to still be wanted but it is the right time in my life. There’s things I have put on hold and people who have put their lives on hold for me so it is time to grow up!

“It certainly hasn’t been easy but we have had great moments and great highlights over the years. Stepping away from it, I am just so grateful for every bit of it – the people I have met along the way, the people who have supported me who have been incredible.

“Now it’s time for teaching and enjoying club hockey! I’m really looking forward to this club season and a nice normal life, maybe slowing down a little bit!”

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Top two face off in women’s EYHL – weekend preview and fixtures

With Saturday rivals Pegasus and Catholic Institute set to face off at Queen’s, the top of the women’s EY Hockey League is set for another shake-up once again.

The two sides share first place on eight points after four rounds with a gaggle of four waiting in the wings a point back on seven as the competition takes on a hugely competitive early form.

For Insta, back-to-back wins over Muckross and Harlequins has the Limerick side flying high, doing so off the back of a miserly defence that has conceded just twice to date with Pam Smithwick notching three clean sheets.

Youngster Leah Clery has provided the ammunition up top, netting half of their six goals in what looks like a break-out season for her.

Pegasus, meanwhile, have played out four similarly close ties with never more than a single goal in the difference. A young gun to watch so far has been Ella Armstrong.

Of the close chasers, Railway Union and Pembroke meet in the Sandymount derby with both aiming to build on productive starts. Orla Macken is the dynamo at the heart of Pembroke’s midfield and comes up against her youth club for whom Kate Lloyd has been a constant threat up to.

Old Alex got back to winning ways last weekend against Pembroke and were bouyed by a first appearance of the campaign from Deirdre Duke after a foot injury. Lena Tice has missed the last few weeks, too, but could come back into the fray soon.

Their next task is a game against Muckross who are looking for a first win. The diminutive Julia Balcerzak has proven an excellent performer since her arrival from Poland and is one to watch.

Cork Harlequins are another side going for a first win with their developing side. Michelle Barry’s return last weekend was a big plus and they will need her and Yvonne O’Byrne on form to keep a talented UCD at bay.

Loreto host Belfast Harlequins at Beaufort in the day’s other contest, the latter bouyed by the form of Jane Kilpatrick in defence who has recently joined the senior Irish women’s training panel.

Sunday sees a healthy selection of interprovincial contests with Connacht facing Leinster in Athlone at Under-21, 18 and 16 level while Leinster South take on Munster in Kilkenny at 18s and 16s.

On the men’s side, Glenanne’s perfect record will be put to the test by Banbridge at St Andrew’s. For Bann, key man Jonny McKee picked up a concerning injury late on Tuesday night for Ireland against Malaysia.

For the Glens, they have already amassed a five-point lead with Shane O’Donoghue’s eight goals in four games putting him top of the goalscoring charts. With David Lawless impressing between the posts and Kevin Venter looking a very handy addition, they are going well at this stage.

The Marlay derby sees Corinthian and Three Rock Rovers face off at Whitechurch Park with both sides on seven points. The reds have enjoyed a super start to the campaign with Chad Futcher an inspired signing with his long aerial bombs and drag-flicking prowess.

For Rovers, they are unbeaten domestically but were given a reality check at the Euro Hockey League last weekend in Belgium, falling to Belarussian and English opposition.

Pembroke will hope to surprise Lisnagarvey at Serpentine Avenue to try and land a first win of the season. Despite their tricky start, new captain Julian Dale has been in inspired form, scoring seven times in four outings but they need to start keeping it tight at the back against one of the most potent attacking forces.

Annadale are another side looking to turn draws into victories as they welcome Monkstown to Lagan College. UCD, meanwhile, have had a rough start to the campaign but will aim to put it up to YMCA who have not won since the opening day of the season.

Elsewhere, there is action in the Irish Hockey Challenge with 10 teams playing on day one of the group phases.

Saturday 9th October 2021
Men
EYHL Division 1:
Annadale v Monkstown, Lagan College, 2.30pm; Corinthian v Three Rock Rovers, Whitechurch Park, 3.15pm; Glenanne v Banbridge, St. Andrews College, 3pm; Pembroke v Lisnagarvey, Serpentine Avenue, 3pm; UCD v YMCA, Belfield, 1pm

Irish Hockey Challenge
Group 1:
Mullingar v Galway, Loreto College Mullingar, 1pm
Group 2: Naas v Waterford, Naas SC, 3.30pm; Wicklow v Midleton, East Glendalough, 1pm
Group 3: Antrim v Saintfield, Antrim Forum LC, 2.30pm; Armagh v Portrush, Ardmore, 1pm

Women
EYHL Division 1:
Cork Harlequins v UCD, Farmers’ Cross, 12.45pm; Loreto v Belfast Harlequins, Beaufort, 2.45pm; Muckross v Old Alexandra, Three Rock Rovers, 1pm; Pegasus v Catholic Institute, Queens University, 2.30pm; Railway Union v Pembroke Wanderers, Park Avenue, 1.30pm

Irish Hockey Challenge – Round 1: Botanic v NUIG 2, Botanic Holy Faith Glasnevin, 12.30pm; Cork Wanderers v Tipperary, 2.45pm; Galway 2 v Athlone, Dangan, 1pm; Wicklow v Limerick, East Glendalough School, 3pm

Sunday 10th October 2021
Women
Under-16 Interpros:
Leinster South v Munster, Loreto Kilkenny, 12pm; Connacht v Leinster, Athlone RC, 1pm
Under-18 Interpros: Leinster South v Munster, Loreto Kilkenny, 2pm; Connacht v Leinster, Athlone Regioal Centre, 3pm
Under-21 interpros: Connacht v Leinster, Athlone Regional Centre, 5pm

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Malaysia bounce back to share series with Irish men

** Picture: Billy Pollock

Men’s senior international
Ireland 2 (J Duncan, L Madeley) Malaysia 4 (R Rahim 2, A K Azrai, N Hassan)

Ireland had to settle for a shared series with world number 11 side Malaysia as a run of four goals in 11 minutes saw the Asian side prevail 4-2 at Lisnagarvey.

Like the game on Tuesday, the Green Machine got off to a fast start with Tim Cross going close in the opening 10 seconds before Jeremy Duncan put Ireland 1-0 up in the third minute from a fast counter-attack.

Malaysia, though, were quick to respond with Razie Rahim scoring twice within a minute from two penalty corners to swap the lead.

Abu Kamal Azrai got the third when neat work on the baseline set him up with his shot just getting over the line before a diving clearance proved centimetres too late. Najib Hassan added a fourth in the 22nd minute to put Malaysia almost out of sight.

Ireland had the best of the second half, winning a string of penalty corners in the third and fourth quarters, but only had a Luke Madeley switched effort to show for their efforts with two minutes to go.

The series has given coach Mark Tumilty food for thought ahead of the World Cup qualifiers which begin on October 21st in Cardiff with a date against Russia.

Ireland: J Carr, T Cross, M Nelson, D Walsh, N Glassey, K Marshall, S O’Donoghue, S Murray, J Duncan, B Walker, C Harte
Subs: L Madeley, K O’Dea, P McKibbin, M Robson, C Empey, S Hyland, M Ingram

Malaysia: H Othman, M Jalil, A Hamsani, S Cholan, F Ashari, S Silverius, R Rahim, F Jali, A Hasan, A K Azrai, N Jazlan
Subs: N Hassan, N Sumantri, F Saari, A Zain, A Rozemi, H Abdul, Z P Mizan

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Empey and Hyland enjoy dream scoring debuts as Ireland beat Malaysia

Conor Empey, right, celebrates his winning goal against Malaysia, October 5 2021, Men’s Hockey International; Comber Road, Lisnagarvey. Picture: Billy Pollock

Men’s senior international
Ireland 3 (C Empey 2, S Hyland) Malaysia 2 (A K Azrai, R Rahim)

Conor Empey and Sam Hyland both enjoyed dream debuts as they scored for the Irish men’s side against Malaysia, the former netting the winner with just three minutes to go at Lisnagarvey.

Incredibly, Hyland had opening the scoring with his first international touch two minutes in before Empey got his first of the night soon after.

Malaysia stormed back with Abu Kamal Azrai and Razie Rahim hitting the net but Empey swooped with time running out for a memorable 3-2 success.

For coach Mark Tumilty, he was delighted to get the win over the 11th ranked Malaysians while also seeing his young guns make an impact.

“It was a very fast game and probably represent quite a bit of what we will face from Russia [in the World Cup qualifiers],” Tumilty said.

“It was good to win against a nation ranked above us so that is a big positive as was coming back after they equalised. Conor and Sam both scoring on their debuts, delighted for them for their hard work and effort.

“We have been trying to grow the number of players and that creates that extra competition for places. It puts a bit of pressure on them to perform but there will be pressure at the World Cup qualifiers so pleased from that point of view

For Hyland’s part, he added: “I don’t think you could have written it any better. First touch, first goal – my first international goal at any age level so very happy!”

As for Empey, he said: “It was a solid start. It feels good to get the win, getting it back at the end. Good fight from the boys to finish off.”

In a whirlwind opening, Hyland scored with his first international touch with under two minutes on the clock from Ireland’s first chance.

After a smart control in the circle, his shot took a deflection off a defender’s foot to deceive goalkeeper Hafizuddin Othman.

And it was 2-0 in the eighth minute, Empey coming off the bench and getting on the mark as a Shane O’Donoghue surge into the circle saw the ball pop and bounce to the forward who slotted home with glee.

After the swift start, Malaysia – coached by former Irish assistant coach Arul Anthoni – settled and had the greater control in the second quarter. Three penalty corners were kept out while James Milliken was in control of Abu Kamal Azrai and Azuan Hasan fired shots his way.

Ireland had the best of the early phases of the third quarter but without truly stretching the visitors’ defence.

And, on the counter, Malaysia used their speed to awesome effect. They contrived to cough up a perfect chance when Azuan Hasan’s cross was turned in by a foot rather than a stick from point blank range.

The goal did come with mere seconds to go of the quarter when Azrai raced clear down the left and applied the perfect reverse-stick shot into the bottom corner.

Malaysia were level in contentious fashion when Razie Rahim’s drag-flick hit the backboard, Ireland arguing the ball had never left the attacking circle from the corner injection.

But Ireland finished the stronger, earning their first corners in the last three minutes. From the second one, Lee Cole’s drag was blocked by Othman but no one moved to clear it. Empey spotted the loose ball and duly spanked it in from close range.

The two sides meet again on Wednesday evening at Lisnagarvey (7.30pm).

Tickets on sale via the Hockey Ireland website: https://hockey.ie/tickets-ireland-vs-malaysia/

Ireland: J Milliken, L Madeley, J McKee, K O’Dea, K Marshall, S O’Donoghue, P McKibbin, M Robson, B Walker, L Cole, S Hyland
Subs: D Walsh, S Murray, M McNellis, J Duncan, C Harte, C Empey, J Carr

Malaysia: H Othman, N Sumantri, M Jalil, A Hamsani, S Cholan, F Ashari, R Rahim, F Jali, A Hasan, A K Azrai, N Jazlan
Subs: N Hassan, Z P Mizan, F Saari, A Zain, A Rozemi, S Saabah, H Abdul