Nicci Daly has announced her retirement from international hockey following 200 caps and playing a dynamic role in the Green Army’s golden period since making her debut in 2010.

It included that famous 2018 World Cup silver medal, five European Championships and this summer’s Olympic Games in Tokyo while her goal against South Africa in 2015 in Valencia will be forever remembered as one of the greatest ever in an Irish outfit.

It is a career that the now 33-year-old scarcely envisaged during her school days. Introduced to the sport at The High School in Rathgar, her earliest years were spent more around the track at Mondello with her father Vivion and uncle Derek who were among Irish motorsport’s leading lights.

Indeed, she only had a fleeting engagement with club hockey at Diocesan while she also involved in ladies Gaelic football to a high level, playing with the Dublin senior panel.

But Graham Shaw suggested she had far more potential than she ever realised and nudged her in the direction of Glenanne – scoring on her Leinster Division One debut – and then on to Loreto where she was soon tearing it up with her raw pace and stick-speed.

That unique threat brought her to the attention of national coach Gene Muller, making her debut in 2010.

“I was awful; I really don’t think I touched the ball once – not with my stick anyway,” she remembers of the time and her first beginnings in the team.

“It was important though because at that time, I thought how am I ever going to be able to make this team? Now I can look back and know that it was the start of a really exciting journey and that it takes time to get where you want to go.

“The first big high for me with the team I feel was 2014. It was the Champions Challenge in Glasgow in 2014, we were the second lowest ranked team and we finished second – a bit like the World Cup”

“The year before, we had been relegated from the A division Europeans and didn’t even make the second round of the World Cup qualifier so this really was a turning point for the Green Army. It was all down to the coaching of Darren Smith when we started to play some really good hockey.”

Wins against higher ranked South Africa and Korea were formative moments and they carried that belief into the 2016 Olympic qualifiers where they would initially top their group.

In that run, Daly’s breathtaking goal against South Africa typified that new-found swagger.

“That goal was so important for me, not just because it was a good goal but because of the deeper meaning of it. I struggled with confidence as a player and had struggled to unlock my potential in games.

“Leading into the Rio Olympic qualifier, it was my uncle Derek who helped me. I knew I was better than I was showing.

“Derek gave me a book called ‘Performance Thinking: Mental Skills for the Competitive World’. It was about understanding and training your mind for better performances and it helped me so much. That goal felt like the moment it all clicked for me and gave me the confidence and reassurance I needed to believe I was good enough.”

From that pinnacle, though, came the crash as the width of a post put the Olympic dream abruptly on hold.

“Then came the rock bottom low when we didn’t qualify for Rio. It was devastating because we were making the most progress we had seen and we achieved things that had never been achieved before.. It felt like it was our time and to lose out the way we did was just heart-breaking.

“I remember feeling like I gave everything I had and another cycle seemed impossible. I struggled with it and took the opportunity to go to the States to explore my other passion, motorsport. It was definitely the break I needed.”

It helped Daly rejuvenate, recalibrate and play an ever-present role in the Green Army’s groundbreaking 2018 run to World Cup silver on those hazy summer days in London.

“London was a fairytale. Second lowest ranked team and in the World Cup final. It’s dreamland stuff but we went in knowing we could cause an upset (maybe just not quite as big as the one we did). It was great to put hockey on the map back home and inspire a whole generation at the same time, that’s been our legacy I feel, showing the youngsters that anything is possible and that if they can see it they can be it”

She did entertain the notion of stepping back at that stage, finishing on an incredible high, but there was still one ambition very much still to be fulfilled.

“The dream was always the Olympics, ever since the first training camp I went to, when Gene Muller told me hockey was in the Olympics. I didn’t even know that it was an Olympic sport at that stage [in 2009], but hearing my name and the Olympics in the same sentence was the only thing I remember from that conversation.

“Scoring a goal in the shootout against Canada during the Tokyo Olympic qualifier was another important moment for me, not just because of what it meant for the team. It gave me a feeling that I could still offer something, and gave me a boost when I really needed it the most.”

With qualification achieved, the Covid year was a rough one. While her inspiring skills videos were blowing up on social media, managing a niggling knee injury and the time stuck up the Dublin mountains was another big test to get right for a huge 2021.

Daly celebrates a goal against Belgium during her first international season in 2010. Pic: Adrian Boehm

“It’s been a battle for the last few years. This year was one of the hardest between the injuries and the level of competition within the squad.

“It’s at that point you think – I can either choose to make excuses here or I can continue to take on the challenge and do everything I can to put myself in contention.

“I have so much respect for every player in the squad who took on the same challenges and made that choice to give it absolutely everything and, whatever the outcome, at least we know we gave it everything. Being selected for Tokyo really was the dream come true.”

Her 200th cap came in the final game against Great Britain in the closing fixture of the group stages, the closing chapter to her international career.

In the time since then, it has given plenty of pause for thought about what it meant to be part of the Green Army.

“When I reflect on my career, there were definitely an even share of highs and lows both personally and collectively with the team.

“There are so many things I could talk about over the 12 years but I think one of the most important things I can take away is how much sport can teach you about yourself. It forces you to discover who you really are.

“You learn to understand how you behave when you’re challenged, how you deal with your emotions under pressure and how you choose to approach those challenges.

“You have to be honest with yourself; you have to be willing to have a growth mindset so that you’re always learning and always growing not just as a player but as a person.

“That’s one of the biggest takeaways I can take from my career. How it forced me to discover who I really am and why I was doing it.

“It wouldn’t have been the journey it was without the group and the team of players around me. The different coaches provided something different and I either learned something about myself or my hockey from each of them.

“I have made some of the best friends over the 12 years and I couldn’t have kept going without them pushing me and supporting me along the way.

“My family and very close friends have been the backbone of my support system. I could not have done it without them, especially my mother who shows me what resilience really is.

“I like to think I get my drive from my dad and my strength and resilience from my Mum. My uncle Derek was hugely influential, having had a career at the top level himself, I trusted him and looked up to him. He helped transform the mental side of my game and I am so grateful for his support. A special mention to my nana, an unrelenting energy and inspiration.

“A massive thanks to all our sponsors and individual sponsors who supported and continue to support me.

“It has been a special journey and I feel so lucky to have been part of such a great team for as long as I have. I won’t miss the sore body and aching joints but I will miss the team and the feeling of walking out to represent my country. 200 appearances and every single time I got butterflies when the national anthem played.

“It’s been special, it’s been emotional and it’s been a dream come true.

“Thank you 💚”

The men’s EY Hockey League is set for its last pre-Christmas twist with four of the top five meeting each other on week ten of the competition.

Third hosts first as Lisnagarvey welcome Glenanne to Comber Road with the latter returning to the top last weekend courtesy of Shane O’Donoghue’s 15th goal of the campaign on the buzzer against Annadale. Remarkably, he has scored their last five goals across league and Irish Senior Cup.

Garvey left St Andrew’s empty-handed on the opening day of the season as David Lawless produced a fine debut between the posts and they had a goal ruled out. The Glens used that result to kickstart a run of five successive wins and while they had a stumble, they have ground out three wins in succession by a single goal.

The Ulster side, meanwhile, took out their scoring touch on Newry in midweek in the Kirk Cup with hat tricks for Ben Nelson and Troy Chambers in an 11-0 success. Ollie Kidd is in Portugal for the U-21 Euro indoors.

Banbridge host Monkstown in a contest between fifth and fourth. Louis and Charlie Rowe both picked up the McCullough Cup this week with Banbridge Academy to add to their impressive seasons to date with their club on a good run of 10 points from the last 12 on offer.

On day one, Town grabbed a late equaliser through Geoff Cole’s cracking goal to make it 1-1. The south Dublin side have only lost once this season on the national stage but four draws has kept them just off the top three thus far.

At Serpentine Avenue, Pembroke meet YMCA having won two of their last three games. While the Dublin 4 side remain in the relegation zone on goal difference, they are back in the frame and a win here would lift them level on points with sixth-placed Annadale. Player-coach Alan Sothern is still under assessment over an injury which will keep him out of this one.

YM won the first meeting 5-3 as they regularly found the highest forward in behind the back; they had to wait until last weekend for the second win of the campaign. Ross Henderson was a key influence that day and he returned last week after a month out. The Y will be without Harry McCarthy and Ben O’Grady on Irish Under-21 indoor duty.

Three Rock Rovers meet UCD for a third time this season in a meeting between the top scorers and the highest conceders with the former scoring 13 times in the previous two ties across the Mills Cup and EYHL. They will, however, be without the emerging Ben Ryder while Mark Samuel and Ben Johnson are injury concerns.

Annadale’s match against Corinthian has been pushed back to late January.

There is also a series of Irish Hockey Challenge fixtures with Galway hosting Limerick in Group 1, Midleton face Naas and Waterford against Wicklow in Group 2 and Saintfield playing Armagh in Group 3.

On the women’s side, Cork Harlequins and Muckross face off in the one EYHL game on the agenda, a huge battle with both sides needing to get their first win on the board if they are to have a chance at bridging the gap to the safety of eighth place.

Harlequins welcomed back Cliodhna Sargent for their tie against Pembroke to the fold last Saturday and she brings a wealth of experience to their young side.

The two sides drew on day one of the season with both sides scoring near identical goals from penalty corners from the injection area, Michelle Barry and Laura Hanlon hitting the net.

Since then, Muckross have had the tighter defence but both sides have found the going tough in front of goal, scoring five goals between them since that contest.

It is the last 16 phase of the women’s Irish Hockey Challenge from nine different counties aiming to make it through to the final eight line-up.

Saturday 11th December 2021
EYHL Division 1:
Banbridge v Monkstown, Havelock Park, 4pm; Lisnagarvey v Glenanne, Comber Road, 2.30pm; Pembroke v YMCA, Serpentine Avenue, 4pm; Three Rock Rovers v UCD, Grange Road, 1pm

Irish Hockey Challenge
Group 1:
Galway v Limerick, Dangan Sports Ground
Group 2: Midleton v Naas, Midleton College, 3.30pm; Waterford v Wicklow, Newtown, 2pm
Group 3: Saintfield v Armagh, Saintfield Cricket Club, 2.30pm

EYHL Division 1:
Cork Harlequins v Muckross, Farmers’ Cross, 12.45pm

Irish Hockey Challenge – Round 2: Athlone v Weston, Athlone RC, 1pm; Blackrock v Wicklow, Blackrock 2.30pm; Clonakilty v Gorey, Clonakilty, 2.30pm; Enniscorthy v Cork Wanderers, Astro Active, 12.30pm; Greenfields 2 v Bangor, Dangan, 2.15pm; NICS v Mullingar, Stormont, 1pm; NUIG v Portrane, Dangan; Wexford v Kilkenny, Loreto Wexford, 2pm

** For more information on the Irish Under-21 men’s indoor squad, click here

When Ireland’s Under-21 men line out on Friday at the EuroHockey Indoor Championships II in Porto, it will be another significant milestone in the regeneration of the shortened version of the sport.

They face a six-team group, starting off against Ukraine on Friday morning, with an Irish team entering at this grade for the very first time. For all concerned, it will be an emotional moment in green but, for skipper Ben O’Grady, the December 10th tip-off date is particularly significant. 

It will mark exactly a year to the day since he was diagnosed with Burkitt’s lymphoma, a rare blood cancer which presented in his stomach which, if unchecked, could have proven far more harrowing than the 84 days he spent in hospital.

“It all happened very quickly,” the YMCA man said of the initial haze. “It’s one of the fastest growing cancers and can double in size in a day. I was having difficulty stomaching food and I knew pretty quickly something was up. 

“On the 2nd of December, I knew I had cancer, but not sure exactly which one. I had another biopsy, was diagnosed on the 10th and then treatment started on the 11th. It was as quick as possible, thankfully.”

Despite the seriousness of the situation, there was inspiration close to hand in the hockey community, not just to recover but to reach the top level. Just this summer, Ian Stewart – who is also a graduate of Wesley College – made his senior international debut having overcome non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 2016. 

Grace O’Flanagan discovered a sarcoma in her neck before playing a crucial role in the Irish women’s World Cup qualification and run to silver.

“It was very tough news to hear but I was confident knowing there is a high survival rate. I know Ian well; he also had a similar type of cancer. Seeing guys like Ian and Chris [Pelow – another Irish international who survived a synovial sarcoma] get through something like this with such a positive outlook and recovery, it gave me a big boost to stay in the moment and take each day, each step at a time.

“Throughout my stay in hospital, I was fortunate to have the support of a huge number of different groups, the hockey community for one all around me is something I am hugely grateful for.” 

“A group of school friends setup a page called Costa del Ireland, setting a fundraising challenge to virtually run, walk or cycle around the coast of Ireland. They covered the perimeter of Ireland twice over – I was able to partake while in hospital, doing a bit of walking when I could towards the end of my treatment when I was a bit more mobile.”

Indeed, he jokes that while there is no particularly good time to get cancer, this one worked out reasonably ok as his recovery coincided with a locked down hockey season and he was able to push UCD physiotherapy exams back to the summer.

And he was keen to get back to the sport when he could having previously played outdoors for Ireland at Under-16 and 21 level.

Ben O’Grady in club action for YMCA. Picture: Sinead Hingston

As soon as possible, he linked back up with his club for five-a-side through the summer, building up his energy reserves, describing himself as the “anti-Lance Armstrong” with his haemoglobin levels half where they should be when he started out.

But he was surprised at how quickly he was able to build up his strength and when delayed Under-21 trials got the green-light in the autumn from government restrictions on indoor sport, he jumped at the chance.

O’Grady had developed a passion for the format at Under-14 level via Portrane Hockey Club’s progressive initiative, the Tommy O’Sullivan Cup. The yearly competition, held over a series of weeks in January, has introduced a large cohort to the code over the last decade or so, filling a hole during a usually barren period for youth hockey.

Many of Ireland’s team this week cut their teeth in the six-a-side format there or at its Ulster Hockey Under-15 equivalent held at the Antrim Forum. It has fed into these new teams and the reintroduction of senior Irish international teams for the first time since the 1980s. The forum will host a series against Scotland on December 28 and 29 for men and women.

“Indoor hockey is in its early stages in Ireland but the potential to grow is huge,” O’Grady said. “Almost every school has a sports hall of sorts; all that’s needed is an investment in boards and the sport can grow which would be great to see, especially secondary schools potentially introducing a league.”

As for the task at hand, it is a complete journey into the unknown. Video of opponents from Ukraine, Portugal, Belarus, Croatia and Denmark is fleeting at best and so a significant part of the tactical planning will take place on the fly.

“In an outdoor tournament, we would know roughly what to expect from say, the English or the Belgians. We’ll be playing nations we wouldn’t typically associate with outdoor hockey; but with pitches freezing earlier in the season for these mainland European countries they play a lot of indoor hockey so I’m sure the tournament will be highly competitive. 

“It is a unique position, not knowing what to expect from a tournament we’ve never played in. It’s all very new and we don’t have a huge idea of what to expect from the teams so we take every game as it comes. It’s a hugely exciting prospect. 

“Whatever happens, it’s been a remarkable year, a lot of ups and downs, and I feel very fortunate to be part of this group. We have a very talented group of players and coaches and we’re all really looking forward to pulling on a green jersey and representing Ireland in the indoor Under-21 championships.”


EuroHockey U21 Men Indoor Championship II, Parades, Portugal , December 10-12 2021

  1. Ben O’Grady (Captain, YMCA)
  2. Jack Haycock (vice-captain, Cookstown)
  3. Traoloch Butler (Pembroke Wanderers)
  4. Ollie Kidd (Lisnagarvey)
  5. Craig Mackay (Corinthian)
  6. Harry McCarthy (YMCA)
  7. Louis Murphy (Railway Union)
  8. Jamie Orr (North Down)
  9. Jake Pillow (Railway Union)
  10. Ben Ryder (Three Rock Rovers)
  11. Eoin Brennan  (Goalkeeper, Railway Union)
  12. Ian O’Keeffe (GK, HC Oranje Rood (NED))

Manager: Neil Mackay

Head Coach: Kenny Carroll

Coach / Analyst: Ross Willis

Physio: Huw Rees

Fixture schedule (all times local)

Friday 10th December: Ireland v Ukraine, 11am; Ireland v Croatia, 6pm

Saturday 11th December: Ireland v Portugal , 1.30pm; Ireland v Belarus, 5.15pm

Sunday 12th December: Ireland v Denmark, 11.30am



Men’s EYHL Division Two round-up
Cork C of I came back from 2-0 in the closing quarter to land what could be a vital draw against Instonians in the hotly contested Pool A of the men’s EY Hockey League Division 2.

For a long time, they tailed to Ben Palmer’s second quarter drag-flick and they were in further trouble when the experienced Chris Kirk popped up with a second in the fourth quarter for a 2-0 Inst lead.

But Ian Balding and Jonny Bruton nabbed late goals to make it 2-2 and add it to their 5-0 opening day win over Rathgar to sit on seven points at the head of the group.

Inst are on seven as well with Railway Union one point worse off on six thanks to their 4-1 success against Rathgar at Park Avenue. All four goals came from the stick of Mark English, bringing his tally in all competitions so far this season to 39 goals.

Pool B is shaping up to be an incredibly tight one with Kilkeel entering the fray with a 0-0 draw against Cork Harlequins. Quins had drawn with Clontarf on the first day of this three-team pool to leave the win column blank for everyone so far.

The Mourne men survived a couple of early corners before going on to have a trio of their own before half-time, one of which hit the post. Into the second half, neither side were able to nail one of their set pieces and so the laurels were shared.

In Pool C, Bandon and Cookstown have two wins from two but both were pushed all the way by Mossley and Portrane, respectively.

In west Cork, Bandon eventually shook off the Newtownabbey side’s challenge 5-3. Captain Fionn O’Leary had them two to the good at half-time only for Simon Todd and Jordan Robinson to level the game by the end of Q3.

Ian Perrott added a pair for Bandon to keep their noses in front but a second from Todd kept the game up for grabs at 4-3 with time running out. Bandon, though, got the vital clinching goal from Ethan Hamilton Foott in the last three minutes to lift them to 10 points.

At Portrane, Ryan Millar got the only goal for Cookstown in the final throes of the third quarter for a 1-0 success for the Co Tyrone side. Portrane take a losing bonus point for their efforts.

Men’ s EYHL Division 2 results
Pool A:
Cork C of I 2 (I Balding, J Bruton) Instonians 2 (B Palmer, C Kirk); Railway Union 4 (M English 4) Rathgar 1 (S Madeley)
Pool B: Kilkeel 0 Cork Harlequins 0
Pool C: Bandon 5 (F O’Leary 2, I Perrott 2, E Hamilton-Foott) Mossley 3 (S Todd 2, J Robinson); Portrane 0 Cookstown 1 (R Millar)

Men’s EY Hockey League – day nine round-up
Three Rock Rovers 1 (R Canning) Monkstown 1 (G Sarratt)

For a third time this season, a Monkstown performance has knocked the current first placed side off top as they drew 1-1 with Three Rock Rovers at Grange Road.

It followed wins over Lisnagarvey and Glenanne and they were within a couple of minutes of repeating the trick only for Ross Canning’s corner deflection to level it in the 67th minute. On the flip side, James Walker almost won the day when he clipped the underside of the bar moments later but a draw was probably a fair result.

Both sides were understrength with Town missing David Nolan, Jazze Henry, Nick Dee and Andrew Fogarty for the tie while Ben Johnson was missing for Rovers with Ben Ryder and Mark Samuel not lasting the half due to injuries.

Rovers had the best of the first half hour with Dave Fitzgerald producing a fine performance, the pick of the early interventions a scramble away a chance from Evan Jennings who also shot inches wide.

Town survived 12 minutes of suspensions before returning to 11 players with devastating effect just before half-time with a pitch-length move, starting with a turnover in their own defensive left corner which was transferred out to Rory Nichols charging at pace. His cross found Guy Sarratt on the left of the D and he shot home.

The Rathdown club carried that upper hand into the third quarter with a couple of near misses from Sarratt and Jeremy Duncan. Rovers, though, threw everything forward in the last 10 minutes with Fitzgerald producing the pick of his saves from Ali Haughton before Canning equalised with a touch to Jody Hosking’s corner power-slap to share the spoils.

Monkstown’s Dave FItzgerald makes a key block. Pic: Adrian Boehm

UCD 2 (J Menelaou, S Byrne) Pembroke 3 (J Dale 2, G Chambers)
Pembroke picked up a vital 3-2 win over UCD in their tussle with UCD at the bottom of the table. They built a healthy 3-0 lead and while the Belfielders fought back with two goals in the last 10 minutes, the result gives Pembroke a six-point buffer between them and bottom place but they remain in the relegation places on goal difference.

The Ballsbridge club were in control in the first half with Matthew O’Brien Holohan needing to be sharp to deny Harry Spain’s drag-flick. The goalkeeper was unfortunate to be beaten from the third phase of one attack as he blocked Julian Dale’s deflection and a Cillian Hynes follow-up shot but Greg Chambers picked off the third attack.

Dale dragged in Pembroke’s third corner in the minutes before half-time for a deserved 2-0 lead. He drew a brilliant glove save from O’Brien Holohan who also denied Chambers a second with a low-down block.

The third came from a peach of a strike from Dale after Scott Sullivan’s show and go opened up the chance. UCD struggled to create much prior to that phase but they finished strong. Peter Lynch deflected a crash ball into the path of Jay Menelaou and the former Avoca man controlled it perfectly to evade the last defender and goalkeeper. Sam Byrne then batted in a corner rebound in the last minute but Pembroke had done enough and closed the gap significantly to the sides above them.

Annadale 2 (T Cross, A McAllister) Glenanne 3 (S O’Donoghue 3)
Shane O’Donoghue’s final second goal saw Glenanne return to the top of the table, completing his hat trick to make it 3-2 with the very last play of the contest.

Dale have proven a strong competitor this season and they had the half-time lead when Tim Cross banged in a straight hit from a penalty corner. O’Donoghue levelled from the penalty spot and his drag-flick made it 2-1 going into the final quarter.

Adam McAllister equalised with time running out but a last-ditch corner was nailed once more by O’Donoghue for a seventh win from the first half of the season.

Lisnagarvey 2 (B Nelson, O Kidd) Banbridge 2 (C Curry, L Rowe)
Lisnagarvey and Banbridge drew in a high octane, late afternoon tussle at Comber Road which sees Garvey drop to third place with Bann consolidate their fifth place a little bit more.

It was a tie brought forward by an hour to allow the game to go ahead as six Covid cases in the top umpire panel’s ranks along with an injury meant a number of hastily rearranged appointments. It is a testament to the ingenuity of the Irish Hockey Umpires Association to rejig their placments along with the agreement of the teams to allow the change at short notice to allow the game to go ahead.

On the field, Garvey went in front in the first quarter from the first clear-cut opportunity which fell the way of Ben Nelson. He spun well and found a perfect angle to shoot past Luke Roleston.

Banbridge, though, enjoyed a strong portion of the play of a tight first half to suggest they could cause problems after the break with Philip Brown a regular feature. Bann were level with six minutes remaining in the third quarter via Chris Curry and he went close to putting his side in front soon after.

The pendulum swung back the hosts way for a brief spell with Troy Chambers turning on the after-burners but Banbridge went in front on the counter as the action heated up, Louis Rowe scoring the breakaway goal.

Garvey pressed on and were back on terms at 2-2 with 10 minutes to go when Ollie Kidd fired across goal and his action took a defensive stick to rebound into the backboard. Daniel Nelson and Chambers went extremely close to winning it but they had to settle for a point which sees them drop two points behind new leaders Glenanne at the halfway stage.

YMCA 1 (G Glutz) Corinthian 0
YMCA picked up their first win since the opening day of the season as they won their derby date with Corinthian courtesy of Grant Glutz’s single goal. It lifts them to seventh place in the table and remain two points above the relegation places.

Early on, reds’ player-coach Peter Caruth went close to breaking the deadlock but his volley was sent over the clubhouse by goalkeeper Jakim Bernsden while his side also ran up a series of penalty corners but to no avail in the first half.

YM, meanwhile, started the second half on the up with Harry McCarthy setting up Glutz and he powered home an upright reverse-stick shot for what proved the only goal of the day.

Ross Henderson fizzed a reverse just over as the Y stepped things up significantly before Corinthian replied with a couple of big chances going incomplete. They won further corners in the closing quarter but they were repelled too and YM had a crucial three points to their name.

Ards saw off Trinity 4-0 in their final EYHL2 game of 2021 at Londonderry Park, making it 12 points from a possible 15 to head the Pool A table after week three of the competition. Frankie Brown opened the scoreline early on for Ards with youngster Erin McKinley making it 2-0 before the end of the first half.

Trinity looked stronger in the second half, finding some success with aerials from their defensive line and winning a series of short corners, but the Trinity strikers were unable to get anything past the Ards goalkeeper Naomi McKnight.

In the final quarter, after missing a stroke, Brown got her second of the game after showing off some nice 3D skills along the byline and managing to get the final touch on a rebound in front of goal.

The final Ards goal came from Ellen Robinson who deflected a shot from Ards midfielder Amy Benson, over the Trinity goalkeeper to make the score 4-0 in favour of the Oranges.

Elsewhere in the group, UCC landed an important 3-0 win over debutantes Galway in front of a healthy crowd at Dangan. Abi O’Mahony put the Cork side in front in the 20th minute from play before Emma O’Sullivan added another on the half-hour.

Caoimhe Perdue stretched out the lead to three to lift UCC to seven points and second spot going into the winter pause.

In Pool B, Monkstown are very much proving the team to beat as they came back from a goal down to beat Queen’s 4-1 at Rathdown with Anna O’Flanagan adding another double to her tally for the season with Emily Kealy in outstanding form.

After waves of Town attacks, they were caught cold when Alyssa Jebb intercepted a free in her own half and set Jessica McMaster off on a run. She fed the ball back to Jebb who had time to wind up a shot as the ball crossed the circle line and then smacked into the bottom corner.

Despite plenty of chaos in the Queen’s circle and a plethora of chances for Monkstown, it remained that way to half-time. Chloe Watkins then saw a corner chance tipped off the line while Rebecca Spence made an amazing block from Anna O’Flanagan.

Queen’s were denied a potential stroke for a back-stick at the far end and, within a minute, Town were level with an incredible goal when O’Flanagan put Emily Kealy through on the right. She flipped it onto her reverse and cracked home a tomahawk.

Claire O’Reilly batted in O’Flanagan’s looping shot for 2-1 as Monkstown finally made their pressure pay. Kealy had played an integreal role in that build-up and she did so again for 3-1 in the fourth quarter, dancing through a series of tackles before crossing for O’Flanagan a couple of feet out of goal to turn home.

O’Flanagan then poached another from close range as she showed the most determination to scramble home amid a pile-on on the Queen’s goal line. With five points for a win, the result has Monkstown 10 points clear of second placed Queen’s in the group.

Lurgan, meanwhile, are on two draws from two outings after they were held to a 0-0 draw by a stubborn NUIG who could not be broken down in the second half. It has them in third place on four points with Cork C of I and NUIG on two points.

Women’s EYHL Division 2
Pool 1:
Ards 4 (F Brown 2, E McKinley, E Robinson) Trinity 0; Galway 0 UCC 3 (A O’Mahony, E O’Sullivan, C Perdue)
Pool 2: Lurgan 0 NUIG 0; Monkstown 4 (A O’Flanagan 2, E Kealy, C O’Reilly) Queens University 1 (A Jebb)

Action from Galway versus UCC in the women’s EYHL2. Picture: Thomas Hughes

Women’s EY Hockey League round-up
Pembroke 7 (A Griffin 2, G Pinder, E Horan, R O’Brien, O Macken, C Moroney) Cork Harlequins 0

Pembroke will take a seven-point lead into the new year to put themselves very much in the driving seat for a maiden EY Hockey League title.

Gillian Pinder broke the deadlock in the 11th minute following a composed attack, Ellen Curran dodging into space and then picking a super pass to the high forward behind the last defender who a simple finish. Ciara Moroney made it 2-0 in the second quarter from Pinder’s assist, a smart backhand strike.

Cliodhna Sargent blocked a heavily deflected Orla Macken corner shot off the line but just before half-time, Ali Griffin thumped in from the right of the D from a long corner move.

Eanna Horan cracked in the fourth from a rebound in the third quarter and Rachel O’Brien got the next in the closing period from close range. Macken got her goal from Martha McCready’s cross following a smart run by O’Brien and the tally was complete when Griffin cleaned up a corner rebound.

Belfast Harlequins 2 Muckross 1
Belfast Harlequins edged clearer of the EYHYL relegation zone with this hard-fought win over fellow strugglers Muckross at a bitterly cold Deramore. The hosts were 2-0 up in the second half but the Dubliners set up a grandstand finish after pulling a goal back with 20 minutes to go.

The result ended a six-game losing streak for Quins and, more importantly, saw them open up a five-point gap over their opponents. The Ulster side have six points from 10 matches, Muckross have one as do basement side Cork Harlequins, with the bottom two having played a game less.

However, with several top-line players due to return after the Christmas break and that cushion, the south Belfast side will be confident of avoiding the drop. Irish international twins Beth and Serena Barr will be back in action after suffering cruciate ligament injuries while Julie Dennison is due to return after maternity leave.

In this season’s new signing, Jane Kirkpatrick, Harlequins have compensated for the loss of those key players and the newly-capped Irish international stole the show on Saturday.
Although a defender in name, the former Lisnagarvey and Ards player made a rich contribution all over the pitch.

She set up numerous attacks with her accurate passing causing Muckross problems at the back. Kirkpatrick had a shot blocked in the 25th minute which was the only real chance of a cagey first half.

Quins broke the deadlock three minutes after the break, Katherine Welshman firing home from a penalty corner. Five minutes later, it was 2-0, Jenna Watt scoring from a narrow angle after Kirkpatrick had seen her shot blocked.

In the 50th minute, Muckross pulled one back when Leila O’Byrne finished clinically from mid-circle. Play swung from end to end after that with Quins holding on for a crucial three points.

The Irish Under-21 women’s team will see action in December in the end with a quickly arranged Four Nations tournament getting under way in Valencia from Wednesday, December 8 to Sunday, December 12.

The side was initially due to take part in the now postponed Junior World Cup in South Africa. That event was put on hold on the eve of departure due to the discovery of the Omicron coronavirus variant.

While not the same level of glamour as the World Cup, this tournament will offer a top class development opportunity with Ireland set to face Spain, the Netherlands and England – all sides who were also due to be in Potchefstroom.

Coach David Passmore can call upon almost all of the World Cup panel with only one change. Ulster Elks’ Gemma Ferguson comes in for Ellie McLoughlin to allow the UCD goalkeeper to make a full recovery from injury.

“Obviously the Junior World Cup being put on hold was a massive disappointment for the players who had worked so hard and were looking forward to representing Ireland at such a prestigious event,” Passmore said.

“While this tournament will not replace the JWC, it does allow us a great opportunity to build on the hard work and development over the previous few months and test ourselves against some of the world’s best teams”

Ireland start their tournament next Wednesday against their Spanish hosts before meeting the Dutch a day later. On Saturday, December 11 they will meet England before playing in either the final or a third/fourth place playoff game.

Under-21 Four Nations (Valencia, Spain; December 8-12, 2021)

Holly Micklem (GK, Old Alex / Trinity College)
Gemma Ferguson (Ulster Elks / UUJ)
KJ Marshall (UCD / University College Dublin)
Caitlin Sherin (Loreto / Dublin City University) Co-Captain
Emma Paul (UCD / University College Dublin)
Sarah McAuley (UCD / University College Dublin)
Ellen Reid (Loughborough Students, Eng / University of Loughborough)
Caoimhe Perdue (UCC / University College Cork), Co-Captain
Anna Horan (Catholic Institute / Mary Immaculate College)
Siofra Murdoch (Harvard, USA / Harvard University)
Christina Hamill (Loreto / Technical University Dublin)
Amy Elliott (UCD / University College Dublin)
Lisa Mulcahy (Loreto / University College Dublin)
Sophia Cole (UCD / University College Dublin)
Charlotte Beggs (Ulster Elks / University of Ulster Jordanstown)
Siofra O’Brien (Loreto / Technical University Dublin)
Nadia Benallal (Beeston, Eng / Nottingham Trent University)
Rachel Kelly  (UCD / University College Dublin)
Yasmin Pratt (Loreto / IT Carlow)
Aoife Taaffe (Loreto / University College Dublin)


Match schedule (all at Valencia, Spain; times local)
Wednesday, December 8: Netherlands v England, 4pm; Spain v Ireland, 6pm
Thursday, December 9: Netherlands v Ireland, 4pm; Spain v England, 6pm
Saturday, December 11: England v Ireland, 11am; Spain v Netherlands, 1pm
Sunday, December 12: Classification matches

The men’s EY Hockey league reaches the halfway stage this weekend with any one of Three Rock Rovers, Glenanne and Lisnagarvey in the mix to be Christmas number one while there is also a huge showdown at the bottom between UCD and Pembroke.

Rovers currently lead the way with 19 points but face Monkstown who have knocked both the Glens (1-0) and Garvey (4-3) off top spot in the past month with impressive wins in south Dublin.

The Grange Road side have been in flying form, scoring at least four goals in each of their last six games – and 30 times in the league in total – to show their attacking intent with Ali Empey, Evan Jennings and Ben Johnson filling their boots.

For Town, their strength has been in defence, conceding just 12 in eight games with Lee Cole marshalling the defence while goalkeeper Dave Fitzgerald’s return to action has been a big boon.

Taking a keen interest on those proceedings will be Lisnagarvey who play in the Ulster classico against Banbridge under Saturday night lights with a 6pm start at Comber Road as they anticipate a healthy crowd.

Garvey’s six game winning streak in the league came to an end last time out when they were undone by Monkstown 4-3 and they will be keen to get back on the horse.

Bann, for their part, are on a three-game streak of their own which has helped them rise to fifth place after a slow start.

Glenanne, meanwhile, have a tricky trip to Annadale who have been one of the break-out stars of the season to date, landing their first top flight wins for a number of years to look reasonably comfortable in mid-table and challenging for a playoff place.

The Glens are boosted by the return of Rowland Rixon-Fuller after eight weeks on the sidelines but Shannon Boucher has been missing in recent times. David Lawless has recorded back-to-back clean sheets with Shane O’Donoghue providing the winning goal in a pair of 1-0 wins.

At the bottom, meanwhile, tenth hosts ninth at Belfield with UCD up against Pembroke in a vital tie to their respective chances to avoid the automatic relegation place.

The students have just one point on the board and a loss would cut them at least five points adrift going into the winter break. Win, however, and they would draw level with Pembroke. Both sides have conceded 33 times this term, averaging over four per game.

Just above them, eighth placed YMCA are up against seventh ranked Corinthian with both sides needing to get a boost away from the relegation places. Neither side have won in the EYHL since the early days of October so this will be vital for their respective ambitions.

Both did reach the Mills Cup semi-finals in recent times, though, with Corinthian winning a cracker 8-5 against Railway Union while YM beat Glenanne.

Muckross and Cork Harlequins are both looking to land a key result on Saturday. Pic: Adrian Boehm

Elsewhere, there is a full boat of the men’s EYHL2 fixtures with the Pool A clash between Cork C of I and Instonians a tasty looking one. Both sides won on their opening day of action and Inst have been able to call on Mikie Watt and Mark Gleghorne this season to good effect.

Railway Union will hope to reprise their 5-1 Leinster league win when they face Rathgar for the second time this season in the group’s other game.

In-form Kilkeel make their tournament bow in Pool B when they host Cork Harlequins. The Mourne men beat Inst last time out and also drew with Cookstown to show their strength. Both clubs are aiming to be the first time to win in this three-team group after Quins tied with Clontarf two weeks ago.

In Pool C, Bandon will look to build on an opening day win when they host Mossley while Cookstown will be confident of a second successive success in Dublin when they go to Portrane, seven days on from eliminating Pembroke from the Irish Senior Cup.

In the women’s EY Hockey League, it’s a slightly shorter line-up with only two games on the agenda with games initially postponed due to the Junior World Cup in South Africa, an event now on the backburner. Pembroke can extend their lead to seven points if they see off bottom side Cork Harlequins.

Belfast Harlequins and Muckross, meanwhile, face a huge encounter at Deramore Park. The hosts have the edge on three points with the Dubliners on just one but they have proven robust in defence via Aoife Glennon and Caroline Mathews and this could be a huge part of the contest.

At the far end has been the problem with just three goals in eight matches while Quins have seven, suggesting this could be a tight, low-scoring match-up.

EYHL2 has its third round of action with some early contenders beginning to mark themselves out. In Pool A, Ards have a five-point lead already and if they can get one over Trinity, they will have a healthy buffer going into the winter break.

Both Galway – in their first game of the campaign – and UCC will be going for the first win when they face off at Dangan on Saturday to build their playoff hopes.

Likewise, in Pool B, Lurgan and NUIG are looking to get a first W on the board. The big guns in this group already look set to be Monkstown and Queen’s and both put their 100% records on the line when they meet at Rathdown.

Sunday has a big interpro tie on the agenda with Leinster meeting Ulster in the Under-21 championship. It is Leinster’s first outing of the season while Ulster are hoping to bounce back after a 3-0 loss to Munster on day one.

Saturday 4th December 2021
EYHL Division 1:
Annadale v Glenanne, Lagan College, 2.30pm; Lisnagarvey v Banbridge, Comber Road, 6pm; Three Rock Rovers v Monkstown, Grange Road, 1pm; UCD v Pembroke Wanderers, Belfield, 2pm; YMCA v Corinthian, Wesley College, 3.50pm

EYHL Division 2
Pool A:
Cork C of I v Instonians, Garryduff, 1pm; Railway Union v Rathgar, Railway Union HC, 1pm
Pool B: Kilkeel v Cork Harlequins, Kilkeel HS, 2.30pm
Pool C: Bandon v Mossley, Bandon GS, 2pm; Portrane v Cookstown, Donabate Leisure Centre, 2pm

EYHL Division 1:
Belfast Harlequins v Muckross, Belfast Harlequins HC, 2.30pm; Pembroke Wanderers v Cork Harlequins, Serpentine Avenue, 2.30pm
EYHL Division 2
Pool 1:
Ards v Trinity, Londonderry Park, 2.30pm; Galway v UCC, Dangan, 1pm
Pool 2: Lurgan v NUIG, Lurgan JHS, 1pm; Monkstown v Queens University, Rathdown, 2.15pm

Sunday 5th December 2021
Under 21 Inter Provincials:
Leinster v Ulster, Comber Road, 2pm

Ireland’s Under-21 men’s indoor side will make their international debut next week when they take on the EuroHockey Championship II in Paredes, Portugal from December 10th to 12th.

They will compete in a seven-team round-robin tournament with Croatia, Ukraine, Belarus, Denmark, Wales and hosts Portugal with two potential promotion places on offer.

It is part of Ireland’s continued return to international indoor action following the senior men and women coming back in late 2019 with the men and women coming on stream this winter.

For coach Kenny Carroll and his support team of Ross Willis, Neil Mackay and Huw Rees, it has been a tricky preparation period with indoor sports only getting the government green light to return in the autumn after the guts of 18 months.

Nonetheless, Carroll – who has lots of European club experience with Railway Union – is thrilled at the prospect of entering this new realm.

“The European Under-21 men’s indoor championships have been held since 1982 and this is the first time Ireland has entered it,” the head coach said.

“It goes without saying that preparation has been challenging but that is what International sport is all about, and the teams and players who adapt and learn the quickest do well.

“We have a good mix of players with different skills and experiences up to now in the squad which is important for Indoor hockey. There are a lot of talented and exciting young hockey players across Ireland and the players selected have an opportunity to see how high a level of performance we can reach together at a competitive European Championship.

“I would like to commend all players involved since the start of the programme on their commitment so far. The six other competing nations will all provide a very stern test, something which we are all really looking forward to.”

The side is captained by Ben O’Grady who brings big physical strength, a powerful ball carry and good communication to the defensive line.

He will be supported on the leadership front by Cookstown’s Jack Haycock who has helped his club reach the final four of the Irish Senior Cup. He has trained with the Ulster-based Irish regional training squad and will likely be the deepest player and distributor.

Outfield, Ben Ryder and Craig Mackay were all part of the Irish Under-19 boys outdoor side that impressed during their summer four nations tournament.

Ollie Kidd – a nephew of ex-international Peter Richardson – is another who has been training with the senior Irish setup and his excellent stickwork allows his to be a key player in the middle of the dice.

Jamie Orr will become North Down’s first current player to line out for Ireland since Peter McKibbin for the Irish Under-16s; an intelligent performer, he is likely to be primarily deployed up front.

Harry McCarthy is another exciting prospect, quick on the ball and excellent in one-on-one elimination spaces. He was an All-Ireland schools and Irish Hockey Trophy winner during his Newtown/Waterford days before moving up to Dublin with YMCA.

Pembroke’s Traolach Butler brings an explosivity to the side and was recently part of the TU Dublin team that won the Mauritius Cup for the first time.

Attack-minded Jake Pillow will make his first appearance in green having played for Leinster underage outdoor teams. He is one of three Railway Union players along with ex-St Kilian’s Deutsche Schule students Louis Murphy and Eoin Brennan.

Murphy is a specialist in the turnover while Brennan is very mobile in goal. He has a very different style to the other netminder, ex-Kilkenny man Ian O’Keeffe who is now plying his trade with HC Oranje-Rood in the Netherlands. He brings a big presence to the circle.

They get their campaign underway on Friday, December 10 with games against Croatia and Ukraine before meeting Belarus and Portugal a day later. Games five and six are on December 12th against Denmark and Wales.

EuroHockey U21 Men Indoor Championship II, Parades, Portugal , December 10-12 2021

  1. Ben O’Grady (Captain, YMCA)
  2. Jack Haycock (vice-captain, Cookstown)
  3. Traoloch Butler (Pembroke Wanderers)
  4. Ollie Kidd (Lisnagarvey)
  5. Craig Mackay (Corinthian)
  6. Harry McCarthy (YMCA)
  7. Louis Murphy (Railway Union)
  8. Jamie Orr (North Down)
  9. Jake Pillow (Railway Union)
  10. Ben Ryder (Three Rock Rovers)
  11. Eoin Brennan  (Goalkeeper, Railway Union)
  12. Ian O’Keeffe (GK, HC Oranje Rood (NED))

Manager: Neil Mackay
Head Coach: Kenny Carroll
Coach / Analyst: Ross Willis
Physio: Huw Rees

Fixture schedule (all times local)
Friday 10th December: Ireland v Croatia: 12.15pm; Ireland v Ukraine: 5pm
Saturday 11th December: Ireland v Belarus : 12.30pm; Ireland v Portugal : 6.30pm
Sunday 12th December: Ireland v Denmark : 8.45am; Ireland v Wales : 2pm