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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

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Tickets – Ireland vs Malaysia

Tickets – Ireland vs Malaysia

Ireland’s men will play Malaysia on October 5 (6.30pm) and October 6 (6.30pm) at Lisnagarvey in the first capped international match to be played in Ireland since 2019. Tickets are available to purchase at the links below.

Tickets: €12 per match (each ticket entitles adult bearer to bring up to four children free of charge)

Under-12s must be accompanied by an adult; it is not possible to enter a quantity for the Under-12s without an adult ticket selected.



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Insta into share of top with six sides covered by just a single point

Women’s EY Hockey League day four round-up
Cork Harlequins 0 Catholic Institute 2 (N Carroll, L Clery)

Catholic Institute prevailed in the all-Munster derby in a tight encounter at Farmer’s Cross, moving them into a share of the lead after four rounds of matches.

Current internationals and Olympians Róisín Upton and Naomi Carroll were joined by former Irish players Pamela Smithwick and the dynamic Rebecca Barry in the Institute side.

Harlequins welcomed back captain Michelle Barry after illness to join the experienced Yvonne O’Byrne in midfield for Cork Harlequins. A scoreless first quarter saw Institute with the majority of chances.

Harlequins began to get a better footing in the game and would have been disappointed to concede a corner just before the end of the second quarter that gave Institute the edge going into half time. A well worked routine saw Naomi Carroll deflect the ball giving Harlequins’ Lorna Bateman no chance in goal.

Catholic Institute doubled their lead in the third quarter when a powerful breakaway was finished at close range by the energetic Leah Clery. Both teams squandered further chances as the game opened up, but Institute maintained their lead to give them a deserved win in this first Munster derby.

Muckross 1 (S Barnwell) Railway Union 2 (L Lloyd, K Fearon)

Railway Union got back to winning ways, emerging with the spoils from Grange Road from a corner battle with all three goals coming from the set piece. The first half saw Railway start on the front foot but Muckross replied in kind with plenty of their own attacks and a corner a piece before half-time.

The scoring began in the second period with Lily Lloyd netting early in the third quarter from a smart double-deflection move, going right before switching it left into her path in front of goal.

And Katie Fearon grabbed the next in the same phase, this time finishing off breaking ball from the injector’s spot from a scrappy corner that was initially blocked.

UCD’s Grace Keane celebrates a goal against Belfast Harlequins. Pic: Adrian Boehm

Sophie Barnwell pulled one on the three-quarter time whistle with a deft touch to Julia Blacerzak’s corner sweep to keep the game very much in the balance going into the last quarter.

Balcerzak did flash a shot across goal while Kim Baker also went close but Railway survived those efforts and then had a series of corners to copper-fasten the tie but 2-1 proved enough.

UCD 5 (G Keane, K Egan, H McLoughlin, S McAuley, S Cole) Belfast Harlequins 0

UCD moved into a share of third place as part of a group of teams on seven points thanks to their second win of the season. They led from the first quarter with Grace Keane applying a lovely finish from open play to get the ball rolling.

It remained that way until half-time before they really cut loose. Katherine Egan double lead and a corner goal from Hannah McLoughlin all but assured the points. Sarah McAuley got in on the act with her first goal since joining the student club and Sophia Cole completed the rout.

Pembroke 0 Old Alex 1 (E Russell)

Emma Russell got the only goal of the game as Old Alex got back to winning ways while Pembroke fell to their first loss of the season.

The early stages saw plenty of action with Mikayla Power’s strong shot drawing the best from Emma Buckley down low and the youngster also won a corner soon after. It was end to end stuff with the main chances coming from the set piece.

Pembroke’s best of the first half saw Emily Beatty pounce on a ball in midfield, slip to Sally Campbell whose long pass to Aisling Naughton ended with the ball flashing wide from a great move.

More corner openings came and went in the third quarter before the sole goal arrived just before the end of the third quarter. Jessica McGirr sent a shot across the face of goal where Russell was in the right place to send it home.

They were hungry for more at that stage with Leah McGuire making vital interventions to keep out Abbie Russell a couple of times. Emma Russell also had a great effort rebound off the frame of the goal before Pembroke came on strong in the closing stages, winning a couple of corners but to no avail.

Loreto 0 Pegasus 0

Pegasus remain in a share of top spot but with a different opponent following a 0-0 draw with Loreto saw them stay in pole position, now alongside Catholic Institute rather than Pembroke.

It was a scrappy, even game with chances at a premium throughout. The first penalty corners took until the final quarter to arrive with Pegs winning the first couple which Loreto snuffed out while Christin Hamill got the first for the Beaufort club in the closing stages but it deflected off a Pegasus stick to bounce out to safety.

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Glenanne move five clear in men’s EY Hockey League

Men’s EY Hockey League – day four round-up
Banbridge 4 (J McKee, L Rowe, S Farson, M Cowan) Pembroke 4 (J Dale 3, I Johnson)

Pembroke picked up their first point of the season as Julian Dale continued his impressive run of form, netting a hat trick. He grabbed the first from a corner flick in the second quarter before Bann fought back went in front with Jonny McKee netting a penalty stroke after his own run was cut short.

Then Louis Rowe tapped in after a fantastic interchange with Peter Brown and McKee. Isaac Johnson, though, ensured it was level at half-time with his first EYHL goal – on the same day his brother Ben got a first EHL goal for Three Rock Rovers.

Bann were in front again when Mark Cowan slotted from mid-circle after some silky skills from Brown but Dale’s second drag of the day tied it for a third time.

Sam Farson put the hosts in front for a third time from a short corner but Dale had the final word when he slapped home.

YMCA 2 (S Hyland, G Glutz) Annadale 2 (R Davidson, A McAllister)
Grant Glutz salvaged a point for YMCA as they eventually made their corner machine work in the closing minutes after Anandale had twice led at Wesley College.

After an even first quarter, Annadale took the lead on the counter following a brilliant inch perfect through ball from Tim Cross who found Samuel Porter-Samuels in the D and he drew the keeper and then squared for Robbie Davidson to slot into an open goal.

For the remainder of the quarter, YM battled back well but saw a series of corners shut out as Annadale held strong. The pattern was similar in Q3 with YM having the majority of possession but were mostly restricted to crash balls into circle while Annadale continued to look dangerous on counter.

Into Q4 and YM equalised after a Glutz short corner was saved but only as far as Sam Hyland who rebounded well. The hosts initially looked the more likely to push on but Dale pounced again with five minutes to go with Adam McCallister finding space in the middle of the circle to score for a second week in a row.

YM immediately pulled keeper but then quickly got a yellow card to negate the man advantage outfield. Nonetheless, they got another corner which Glutz planted low into the backboard.

UCD’s Ewan Ramsay and Glenanne’s Kevin Venter battle for possession. Picture: Adrian Boehm

Monkstown 1 (R Nichols) Corinthian 2 (C Futcher, I Stewart)
Ian Stewart’s brilliant finish with 11 minutes to go earned Corinthian their first win of the season, coming from a goal down to beat Monkstown at Rathdown.

There was precious little between the sides in the first half which ended scoreless. Rory Nichols third goal of the week put Monkstown 1-0 up from a corner six minutes into the second half but it was countered quickly by Chad Futcher who continued his goal a game start to the season.

That set up a lively closing. From a mammoth overhead, Stewart was set free and while he initially seemed to take the ball to a more difficult angle, he applied an excellent upright reverse-stick shot for the crucial goal.

UCD 0 Glenanne 6 (S O’Donoghue 3, R Couse, B Venter, G Shaw)
Glenanne made it four wins in succession to move five points clear at the top of the men’s EY Hockey League with Shane O’Donoghue raising his total to eight goals in four games this term.

It leaves UCD as the last time left without a point from the current campaign but they started well in the first quarter. However, against the run of play, the Glens won a stroke which O’Donoghue converted. He added a corner goal before the end of the first quarter and there was no real doubt where the points were heading after that.

A second stroke in the second quarter extended the lead to 3-0 at half-time. Richard Couse, Brad Venter and Gary Shaw weighed in with further goals in the second half for a handsome win.

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Irish men to face Malaysia in first capped match in Ireland since 2019

Capped international hockey will make its long-awaited return to Ireland for the first time since 2019 with the senior men facing Malaysia next Tuesday, October 5 and Wednesday, October 6 in two matches at Lisnagarvey’s Comber Road venue.

The fixtures will form a key part of Mark Tumilty’s preparation plans for their upcoming World Cup qualifiers in Cardiff from October 21 to 24. Malaysia are the current world number 11 ranked side and offer 14th-ranked Ireland a suitably strong opponent in the lead-up to this crucial event.

The fixtures will be ticketed events with entry €12/£10 per game for over-12s while each adult can take up to four Under-12s in free of charge; a maximum of 500 tickets are currently available.

** TICKETS AVAILABLE HERE

To this end, coach Tumilty has named a 22-player panel since the EuroHockey Championships II in Poland in August with a number of experienced players returning to the line-up.

“I am delighted to have the fixtures against Malaysia as the final part of our preparation for the upcoming World Cup Qualifier,” said coach Tumilty. “We need to produce two high quality performances to give us confidence before we face Russia on October 21st in that vital World Cup qualifier game”.

Conor Harte’s return could potentially add to his 252 caps for the first time in almost two years having made a strong start to the Belgian season with his new club KHC Dragons.

David Fitzgerald also returns, adding to the goalkeeping options. It is a competitive area of the field with Mark Ingram and Jamie Carr will also be in the mix on that front.

Carr, along with Luke Madeley, he missed out on pitch-time in Poland due a Covid-19 close contact protocols which meant both had to spend their week at the tournament in quarantine. As such, they will be itching to make their mark.

Lee Cole and Matthew Nelson will also be vying for place in the World Cup qualifiers spot along with 14 of the panel that played in Poland last month.

There are also potential formal debuts for Sam Hyland – who was a travelling reserve for the Euros – and Conor Empey who has scored twice in the opening weeks of the Dutch Hoofdklasse since linking up with SCHC.

Not included for this series from the European panel are Ian Stewart, Ben Nelson and James Milliken who remain part of the wider training panel.

Malaysia – known as the Speedy Tigers – are coached by former Ireland assistant coach Arul Antoni, also well-known for his roles with Glenanne, Three Rock Rovers and Dublin University.

They are currently on a four-week tour encompassing challenge matches against four English club sides before playing Ireland and then rounding off the trip with games against Wales and France.

Ireland men’s squad to face Malaysia (October 5 and 6; Lisnagarvey Hockey Club):
Jamie Carr (KHC Leuven, Belgium), David Fitzgerald (Monkstown), Lee Cole (Monkstown), Luke Madeley (KHC Leuven), Mark McNellis (Lisnagarvey), Conor Harte (KHC Dragons, Belgium), Peter McKibbin (Lisnagarvey), Kyle Marshall (Old Georgians, England), Shane O’Donoghue (Glenanne), Sean Murray (KHC Leuven), Michael Robson (Annadale), Kevin O’Dea (UCD), Daragh Walsh (KHC Leuven), Johnny McKee (Banbridge), Ben Walker (Braxgata, Belgium), Jeremey Duncan (Monkstown), Conor Empey (SCHC, Netherlands), Sam Hyland (YMCA), Mark Ingram (Pembroke), Tim Cross (Annadale), Neal Glassey (Crefelder HTC, Germany), Matthew Nelson (Lisnagarvey)

Three Rock to fly Irish flag in Europe this week

** Three Rock Rovers celebrate a goal against Banbridge this season. Picture: Max Fulham

Three Rock Rovers will carry the Irish flag in European club action when they take on the men’s EHL Ranking Cup competition at the Dragons’ den in Brasschaat, just north of Antwerp.

The competition is part of the finalisation of the 2020/21 European season which was put on hold in the spring due to the Covid-19 spread across the continent.

Three Rock will take on Belarus’s HC Minsk on Saturday morning and then, depending how they do, face the winner England’s Hampstead & Westminster or Germany’s Mannheimer HC on Sunday morning.

For Rovers, it will be their fifth season in the EHL, the elite level club tournament in which they have reached the KO16 each time they have competed.

Most recently in 2019, they became the first Irish side to win a knock-out fixture before putting it up to German champions Rot-Weiss Köln in a 4-2 battle in Barcelona.

They have their place in the EHL by virtue of being the last side to win the EY Champions Trophy back in 2019 following the abandoned 2019/20 and 2020/21 seasons.

As such, only seven of that vintage are likely to be in a position to reprise that relative EHL success after seven players emigrated in the summer while Mitch Darling retired.

A late summer influx of players, though, from UCD has seen them bolstered and the bedding in process has seen them accrue seven points out of nine in the EY Hockey League to date.

And coach Elun Hack says this tournament will help hasten their ability to gel together.

“Naturally, I think we were all delighted to welcome our TRR boys back to the club from UCD, and a couple other really nice additions in Matteo Romoli and Ryan Spencer,” he said.

“We have not had as much time together as we would have liked but There is huge amounts of talent in this group, and I think their natural ability will make ‘gelling’ somewhat easier, but there is a lot of work to do.

“This is evidenced by our inconsistent performances in the league thus far. EHL is always a great test of the group, and this time round, it will certainly play a major role in team building and helping the squad come together.”

It will be a first Ireland-Belarus meeting in the EHL with Minsk winning their national title during the summer. Video of them in action at club level is sparse but, with eight full internationals who won the European C division in the summer, they have plenty of hockey under their belt.

“They will have a strong indoor influence, so we are expecting a tough 1 v 1 battle, good solid defensive abilities, and high quality basics from them.

“EHL is unique in that it brings together teams that would otherwise never play against each other, and therefore provides the opportunity to test your skills and abilities against different demands.

“However they line up, it will be a great test for us, and one we are really excited about. In 2019, we had a fantastic match against Grange, and then Rot Weiss, we will be hoping for more of the same this time around and prove that Irish teams are well capable of competing against the big teams across Europe.”

Rovers will be the only Irish team in action this weekend. Lisnagarvey were pencilled in to play in the men’s EuroHockey Trophy I in the Czech Republic but withdrew due to Covid-19-related issues.

Similarly, Pegasus were due to play in the women’s EHL Ranking Cup in Hamburg and Loreto scheduled to contest the EuroHockey Club Trophy in Lille.

Exactly how this will impact the allocation of European places for 2022 will be determined in October following the allocation of points gained from Three Rock’s performances and the decision of the European Hockey Federation.

Men’s EHL Ranking Cup (Brasschaat, Belgium – October 2-3 2021)
Saturday:
Three Rock Rovers v HC Minsk, 8.30am (Irish time)
Sunday: Classification matches

** All matches from the EHL Ranking Cup will be live streamed on www.eurohockeytv.org
** Fixtures correct at time of posting but subject to change

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Pembroke and Pegasus on the march in women’s EYHL

Women’s EY Hockey Legaue – day three round-up
UCD 1 (M Carey) Pembroke 2 (A Naughton, O Macken)

Pembroke came back from a goal down in the final quarter to beat UCD and continue their excellent start to the season, leaving them in a share for the lead with Pegasus after three rounds.

It was a tie featuring numerous players who had lined out for the opposing side at different times in their recent past with Pembroke fielding five ex-UCD players while Emma Paul and Katie-Jane Marshall faced their youth club.

It was one of those alumni, Emily Beatty, whose steal almost unlocked the door with the first real chance before UCD had their big first half opportunity with Katherine Egan was impeded while shooting. From the following stroke, though, Egan did not catch her shot fully and Emma Buckley was able to save.

And so it remained scoreless into the third quarter after a couple of corners for each side as Ellen Curran controlled Pembroke’s midfield while Niamh Carey was on song for UCD.

The students went in front when Paul’s swept corner shot was deflected in artfully by Michelle Carey but Pembroke were back on terms in the final quarter. Aisling Naughton profited from a mistake in the UCD defence, reacting in a flash to make it 1-1.

Sally Campbell was denied by Ellie McLoughlin soon after and the winner arrived with seven minutes to go. Sinead Loughran won a corner which Orla Macken thumped home for a 2-1 lead and they held on despite plenty of late pressure.

Railway Union 1 (K Lloyd) Pegasus 2 (A Speers, E Quinn)
Emma Quinn’s 67th minute goal saw Pegasus make it two wins in four days and keep them in a share of the lead with seven points out of nine to date.

The Ulster side started the match at a high tempo in the first quarter and won a number of penalty corners that looked promising, one in particular denied well by Holly Jenkinson.

They went in front when a lifted reception in the circle from Alex Speers – against her old club – led to a goalmouth scramble, Speers eventually batting into the goal

Railway lifted their energy and tempo in the second quarter and a well-worked run and persistence from Niamh Shaw led to a ball across the goal with a textbook finish from Kate Lloyd on the backpost to make it 1-1.

The hosts looked the more threatening for much of the second half. With forward pressure, Railway turned over several Pegasus outlets leading to a number of corner opportunities and circle entries but to no ultimate avail.

Pegasus held their defence, absorbing Railway’s pressure for much of the second half and they eventually got the sucker punch when they took a quick free which led to a counter-attack and a corner. Shirley McCay pushed it at goal which offered up the chance for Quinn to get the decisive touch.

Old Alex 1 (M Power) Loreto 4 (R Fitzpatrick, S Torrans, S O’Brien, G Donald)
Loreto picked up their first win of the season with an outstanding performance as their young guns took inspiration from the return of Hannah Matthews. The Olympian was back in the side after an almost three-week Covid-enforced break but she played a strong role in midfield and they looked good value for the points.

The Beaufort side’s press worked well in the first half and it was from a loose ball around the back from Alex – for whom Lena Tice sat out due to a tight hamstring – with Rebecca Fitzpatrick nipping in to slide home on her backhand. It was her first EYHL goal having made her debut on Wednesday.

Their general play might well have deserved a second goal before half-time but Holly Micklem was outstanding between the posts. They had to wait until the second period for it to arrive, a true piece of beauty when it landed, Sarah Torrans’ driving run ending with a thumping strike from the head of the D.

Mikayla Power scored a wonder goal for Old Alex. Picture: Adrian Boehm

Alex responded well, moving the ball better and working more openings. They got one back with another pearl of a goal, 16-year-old Mikayla Power’s run ending with a delicious backhand flick over Lizzie Murphy.

That made it game on going into the final quarter but Loreto finished strong the direct running Siofra O’Brien smashing home from mid-circle after a beautiful Aoife Murray through ball for 3-1. Grace Donald then dove onto a corner move for a fourth to round out a good result.

Belfast Harlequins 3 (L Geddes, S Hunter, N Lyttle) Cork Harlequins 0
Belfast Harlequins got the better of their Cork namesakes at a sunny Deramore Park, a 3-0 win giving the hosts their first points of the season.

It was a well-deserved victory for the more experienced home team – albeit still without their internationals – while the Munster side paraded a youthful outfit and travelled north with only one substitute.

Nevertheless, Cork made life tough enough for their opponents in the latter stages of the first half after they got the long journey out of their system.

They conceded the opening goal in the first quarter when Lucy Geddes netted at the far post after good work by Jane Kilpatrick down the right.

After that setback, Cork came in to the game and had a couple of chances of their own, Ruby Walsh clearing the crossbar with a backhand effort and Aine Power being denied by Suzanne Taylor in the home goal.

Belfast went on to dominate proceedings after those scares though and, five minutes into the second half, great work by Jenna Watt set up a simple chance for Sophie Hunter who tapped home at the far post.

In the 50th minute, Natalie Lyttle converted from the penalty spot after Cork keeper Joy O’Kelly was left with little option but to take out the unmarked Hunter in the circle with a goal looking likely.

The hosts continued to dominate and Watt and Kilpatrick – who had another fine match at both ends of the pitch – went close to adding to their team’s tally.

Catholic Institute 2 (L Clery, N Carroll) Muckross 0
Catholic Institute picked up their first win of the season with an impressive 2-0 home success against Muckross, adding to their two earlier draws.

Leah Clery broke the deadlock two minutes before half-time before Naomi Carroll put them two clear four minutes into the second half.