Glenanne and Three Rock lead the way in men’s EY Hockey League

Men’s EY Hockey Legaue – day two round-up

Glenanne and Three Rock Rovers made it two wins from two to head up the early season standings following impressive victories over YMCA and Banbridge on Saturday.

Pembroke 2 (J Dale 2) Monkstown 4 (G Sarratt 3, M Guilfoyle)
Guy Sarratt’s hat trick gave Monkstown their first win of the season while Pembroke await their first points of the season as two final quarter goals proved the difference.

Pembroke went 1-0 up when two defenders went for the same ariel ball and missed it, leaving an overload which Julian Dale exploited to score on his backhand. Town, though, drew level by half-time when Rory Nichols cut in from the right and found Sarratt mid circle and he bundled home.

Sarratt’s drag-flick made it 2-1 in the third quarter but Pembroke were back on terms via a straight drag-flick from Dale, 2-2 in the final quarter.

But Sarratt completed his treble from another set piece and then a good counter was slipped to Jeremy Duncan on the left of the D. His reverse was saved and Max Guilfoyle flicked the rebound in; Sarratt got a touch on it but just after the ball had crossed the goal line – the debate mattered only for the player stats as the three points were secured for the sky blues.

The game was very competitive with both defenses were solid as Town took more of their opportunities when it came to the crunch while Pembroke missed the services of Alan Sothern and Mark Duggan this time out.

Three Rock Rovers 3 (B Pasley, B Johnson, R Canning) Banbridge 1 (J McKee)
Three Rock Rovers made it two wins from two as they produced a strong defensive performance to get the best of the visiting Banbridge at Grange Road.

Bann made most of the early inroads with Jonny McKee hitting the post two minutes into the game before breaking the deadlock 15 minutes in with a back post deflection.

Rovers, though, responded in kind with their first shot in anger as Ben Johnson scored a corner flick to make it 1-1 at the end of Q1. Ben Pasley then finished off an excellent counter goal to put the hosts in front and it remained 2-1 until half-time with Harry MacMahon saving a Philip Brown shot off the line.

For Bann, they were frustrated they could not do more with eight corner efforts – not helped by Brown’s departure with a concussion – as Ben Whelan and his defensive team were able to rebuff those attacks. And the result was sealed in the third quarter when Ryan Spencer’s turnover laid on the chance for Ross Canning to score with a first time finish.

Pembroke’s Julian Dale scores the opening goal against Monkstown. Pic: Adrian Boehm

Glenanne 4 (S O’Donoghue 2, S Boucher, A Clayton) YMCA 2 (G Glutz, A Bailey)
Glenanne’s penalty corner machine clicked into gear as they continued their impressive start to the season with a second successive win. Shannon Boucher put them on their way in the first minute with a low corner shot past Jakim Bernsden – who returned last week after a year of injury – for 1-0.

And they ended the first half just as they started it with Shane O’Donoghue firing home down the low road once again for 2-0 in the 35th minute. YM got back into contention courtesy of Aaron Bailey’s effort four minutes after half-time but the Glens restored their two-goal cushion via Adam Clayton almost instantly.

YM’s hopes of closing the gap were stymied by yellow cards for Sam Ryder and Bailey and the game was put to bed by O’Donoghue’s second of the day, a corner shot from the left of the circle. Grant Glutz nabbed a consolation goal on the final hooter.

Corinthian 4 (I Stewart 2, C Futcher, M Wright) UCD 2 (S Byrne, H Lynch)
Corinthian made it four points from six to get up and running in strong fashion as UCD fell to a second defeat of the campaign. Chad Futcher continued his productive early form with his third goal in a week arriving just two minutes into the contest, his drag-flick proving the only goal of the half.

UCD had plenty of the game and chances to level things up in an end-to-end first half in which Corinthian also hit the bar through Max Neill.

Into the second half, the reds capitalised on a loose ball out of defence with their main marksman, Ian Stewart, the man to latch onto it one-on-one, lifting home a lovely second goal. UCD replied with Sam Byrne scoring with a clean strike from the top of the circle but Corinthian were back to 3-1 clear via Max Wright, a great counter move down the left side, finished at the back post.

Stewart added his second from a corner to make it 4-1 to cap an exciting third quarter. UCD got another back from a corner through Harry Lynch but the deficit was too much to claw back.

Annadale 1 (T Cross) Lisnagarvey 5 (P McKibbin, T Chambers, J Lorimer, D Nelson, C Chambers)
Lisnagarvey produced a resounding return to form as they won the Comber Road derby 5-1 over Annadale at Lagan College.

In a cracking opening medley, Peter McKibbin put Garvey in front from a fifth minute penalty stroke only for Tim Cross to reply quickly from a corner, 1-1 at the end of the first quarter.

It stayed that way through the second quarter before Garvey forged ahead with Troy Chambers, James Lorimer and Daniel Nelson all netting in quick succession. Cole Chambers completed the rout with nine minutes to go as Garvey bounced back from their opening day defeat to Glenanne.


First women’s EYHL wins of season for UCD, Railway and Pembroke

Women’s EY Hockey League – day two round-up
Old Alex 0 Catholic Institute 0

Old Alex and Catholic Institute shared the spoils as defences were on top in Milltown as goalkeepers Holly Micklem and Pam Smithwick put in fine performances. The former was the first to get down low to deny a first minute chance from the visitors from Limerick.

Alex, though, had the better of the first half with Lena Tice on her return controlling things from the back and Niamh Sweeney, Jessica McGirr and Gisela Estrenjer getting the better of midfield.

Both sides won a trio of penalty corners in the first quarter but to no avail and strong running lines was to be a major feature of this contest. Insta ended up with nine penalty corners across the match but the usually ferocious flicking of Róisín Upton was snuffed out at each turn.

From play, meanwhile, Naomi Carroll had the pick of their chances when a long second quarter overhead made it through to her in behind the last defender but Micklem was off her line like a light to keep out the chance.

For Alex, their attacks were more sporadic in the second half but they did find joy through Aine Connery and they almost nicked the victory in the closing couple of minutes. Mikayla Power drew an excellent stop from Smithwick and the rebound was scrambled clear to leave it scoreless.

Alex welcomed Lena Tice back into the line-up for the first time this season while Institute had welcomed Rebecca Barry for the first time since 2012 after spells in the US and at Cork Harlequins.

Muckross 0 UCD 4 (H McLoughlin 3, S Cole)
Hannah McLoughlin’s hat trick of backhand goals saw UCD pick up their first win of the season, lifting them to four points out of six to date. In the early phases, it was a corner battle with Ellie McLoughlin and Aoife Glennon trading saves until Sophia Cole broke the deadlock in the 20th minute with a low flick down the left channel.

Hannah McLoughlin then turned up the tempo when she stormed forward from midfield, dribbled left and then whipped home her first of the day just before half-time.

It became part of a recurring theme and she had a second when she pinched possession on the 23-metre line, forged a way forward and picked her spot on the backboard.

Her third – and UCD’s fourth – was the pick of the bunch, an excellent team move from the back finding the Olympian high up the pitch. She still had plenty to do but weaved her way through a number of tackles and pinged a shot in off the inside of the post.

Cork Harlequins 0 Railway Union 6 (S Hawkshaw, F Maughan, K Dillon, K Lloyd, L Lloyd, E Smyth)
Railway Union opened their EYHL campaign with a well earned win against a developing Harlequins side. The Railway side included Olympian Sarah Hawkshaw as captain, while Harlequins welcomed back Irish underage international Lauren Cripps.

An even first quarter saw both teams play enterprising hockey in an unusually warm Farmers Cross. Railway’s breakthrough came early in the second quarter when Florence Maughan came off the bench to finish sharply from close range. Harlequins keeper Lorna Bateman kept Railway at bay until half-time with an outstanding performance.

Railway’s strength and experience showed as a tiring Harlequins conceded four goals in a five minute spell in the third quarter to decisively decide the tie, including a wonderful individual effort from captain Hawkshaw. Emma Smyth’s goal in the 65th minute rounded off a convincing performance against the hardworking Harlequins side.

Pembroke 3 (S Loughran, L McGuire, T Wensley) Loreto 0
Pembroke produced an outstanding second half performance to beat Loreto 3-0 to build on their opening day away draw with Pegasus. The first half was a very even affair with Pembroke picking up a couple of incomplete chances toward the end of the first quarter while Loreto were unable to make the most from their corner openings.

The second half, though, saw things open up with Pembroke seizing the initiative in Q3. Sinead Loughran grabbed the first from a penalty corner scramble and it was a 2-0 scoreline inspired by Leah McGuire. She won possession to spark a rapid counter-attack which ended in a penalty corner which the former UCD and Armagh player stepped up to crack home.

Loreto attempted a kickstart their comeback in the final quarter, applying a lot of pressure, but Sarah Torrans missed out on a great chance.

And the result was sealed when an excellent passing moved was worked into the D to Tory Wensley to find the net with seven minutes to go.

Pembroke’s Tori Wensley gets away from Caitlin Sherin. Picture: Adrian Boehm


Loreto and Railway enter the fray on EYHL day two

Key contenders 12 months ago, Loreto and Railway Union have their first opportunity to show their hand this season in the women’s EY Hockey League.

Loreto will make their seasonal bow with a Dublin derby date against Pembroke at Serpentine Avenue. Paul Fitzpatrick’s team look like one of the more settled line-ups and they can draw on a range of players who were busy this summer with international squads in addition to Olympians Sarah Torrans and Hannah Matthews.

Siofra O’Brien, Yasmin Pratt, Caitlin Sherin and Christina Hamill were all with the Under-23 development panel that impressed in series wins over Wales’ senior team and GB’s development squad.

With no major departures, the 2019 runners-up will look to push for top laurels once again but their first tie will be a tough one against a Pembroke who, themselves, have designs on a top four playoff place.

Indeed, they showed plenty to suggest they will be in the shake-up last weekend with a 1-1 away draw at reigning champions Pegasus. Ellen Curran is a big addition in midfield, playing the game at a ferocious tempo which will help unleash Gillian Pinder as time goes on.

And Coach Gavin Groves said preseason he feels he now has a squad that can be genuine contenders at his dispoal.

Railway Union enter the fray with a trip to Cork Harlequins. The Sandymount club’s flying form 12 months ago was rudely interrupted by lockdown after three successive wins and they will look to get back on that trail this weekend.

Sarah Hawkshaw was an instrumental figure then, either scoring or assisting all bar one of their goals in that winning-streak. For Harlequins, they handed six EYHL debuts last weekend and this will be another quick learning curve for their young side.

Loreto in action against UCD in 2020. Pic: Adrian Boehm

Elsewhere, Old Alex host free-flowing Catholic Institute with Lena Tice potentially making her return to club action having missed Alex’s 4-1 win over Belfast Harlequins. The Milltown club were the only side to win on day one of the season with their youngsters making an impact; among them, Mikayla Power – daughter of Olympic umpire Carol Metchette – netted her first EYHL goals.

Muckross’s new look side are up against UCD at Grange Road. They handed a wealth of debuts out last weekend who were well guided by sisters Caroline and Emma Mathews while Polish addition Julia Balcerzak got her first taste of Irish club hockey.

The students, meanwhile, showed the ability to dig deep in salvaging a point from their trip to Insta with a couple of minutes to go as their new

Belfast Harlequins’ date with Pegasus has been pushed back to midweek; they play their all-Ulster clash on Wednesday, September 22nd at Queen’s. Railway Union’s refix with Loreto takes place on the same night.

In the men’s competition, it’s derby time as Annadale host Lisnagarvey. In recent years, this tie might have been heavily-weighted in Garvey’s favour but the influx of internationals Tim Cross and brothers Michael and Callum Robson should make a big difference for Dale.

Garvey, meanwhile, could not find their full flow against Glenanne a week ago, losing 2-1 but they will still be bouyed by the number of chances created with Glens’ keeper David Lawless enjoying a debut to remember in the face of a star-studded forward line.

Three Rock Rovers host Banbridge with the former potentially adding Ross Canning and Mark Samuel to the panel that beat UCD 5-2 last weekend.

Banbridge were frustrated to be caught by a late Monkstown counter-attack but showed they have plenty of strong options. Philip Brown’s overlapping runs down the right are a big feature while Jonny McKee’s innovation at the apex of their attack is also key.

UCD’s students will benefit from an extra week together with Kevin O’Dea shining last Saturday despite just a short time to assimilate into the club. Harry Lynch was also excellent in defence and they provide the fulcrum to a squad which coach Ronan Hickey hopes will be augmented following exam rechecks.

They head up to Whitechurch to meet a Corinthian side who look like they have a gem in the form of Chad Futcher who scored twice on debut against Annadale.

Lisnagarvey’s Jonny Bell. Picture: Adrian Boehm

It is one of three Dublin derbies up for decision. YMCA go to Glenanne looking to make it five wins in succession but are coming up against one of the other sides to win on day one.

The Y produced some serious counter-attack hockey against Pembroke, deploying a high striker in behind the last defender to great effect while Matthew Walker’s all action performance made him one of the players of the round.

For the Glens, they will be bouyed by their excellent defensive work against Lisnagarvey while their attacking efficiency to pick off their two goals was a strong feature.

Pembroke and Monkstown, meanwhile, are both eyeing their first win of the season. The former will need to keep things tight at the back as their forward line looks to be packed with goals with Julian Dale and Alan Sothern working in tandem.

For Town, Dave Fitzgerald was in fine form in goal last weekend in what is his 18th season in the first team.

Saturday 18th September 2021
Men – EYHL Division 1:
Annadale v Lisnagarvey, Lagan College, 2.30pm; Corinthian v UCD, Whitechurch Park, 3.15pm; Glenanne v YMCA, St. Andrews; Pembroke Wanderers v Monkstown, Serpentine Avenue, 4pm; Three Rock Rovers v Banbridge, Grange Road, 2.45pm

Women – EYHL Division 1: Cork Harlequins v Railway Union, Farmers’ Cross, 12.45pm; Muckross v UCD, Grange Road, 1pm; Old Alexandra v Catholic Institute, Alexandra College, 1.30pm; Pembroke Wanderers v Loreto, Serpentine Avenue, 2pm


Old Alex make early statement in women’s EY Hockey League

** Muckross’s Laura Hanlon celebrates making it 1-0. Picture: Adrian Boehm

Old Alex were the big winners on day one of the women’s EY Hockey League as they got the best of Belfast Harlequins 4-1 while the other three times on the agenda ended in close-fought draws. Here’s the round-up of Saturday’s action.

Women’s EY Hockey League – day one round-up
Belfast Harlequins 1 (N Lyttle) Old Alexandra 4 (M Power 2, S Robinson, M O’Donnell)

Old Alex got their campaign off to an impressive start with a 4-1 win over Belfast Harlequins at Deramore Park. It was end to end stuff throughout an entertaining contest but Alex edged possession and displayed a more clinical touch in front of goal.

After a scoreless first quarter, the visitors broke the deadlock when Mikyala Power netted at the far post shortly after Niamh Sweeney had been denied by a stunning save from Quins keeper Suzie Taylor.

On the stroke of half time, Alex doubled their lead through Millie O’Donnell’s direct penalty corner strike. The home team replied in kind early in the second half with Natalie Lyttle netting a set-piece to pull one back.

But with nine minutes left, Alex made the points virtually safe when Power got her second from yet another penalty corner. Any hope of a Quins’ comeback were well and truly extinguished in the 68th minute when Sarah Robinson crashed home after a penalty corner switch.

Despite the result, there were plenty of positives for Harlequins who, like Alex, were without their current Ireland players, most notably the performance of debutante Jane Kirkpatrick, who was a tower of strength at the back and was creative when going forward.

Catholic Institute 2 (E Ryan, L Clery) UCD 2 (S Young, KJ Marshall)
Honours even at Rosbrien as KJ Marshall bundled home a penalty corner melee in the dying embers of the tie to earn UCD a point from a strong battle with five Olympians on display.

Sarah Young had given the students the perfect start when she swooped off the pads to score a penalty corner rebound in the early minutes. Pam Smithwick did brilliantly against her alma mater to deny them a second when she got down to low to keep out Katherine Egan.

But Insta started to make waves of their own and they were level in the 17th minute with a swift move down the middle. Their Olympians were key to it with Naomi Carroll feeding Róisín Upton who picked out the run of Liz Ryan to the left of goal and she was on hand to shovel in first time.

The Limerick side enjoyed a lot of the ball between the second and third quarters but they looked like they had been caught on the break when UCD found the net. After a lengthy discussion, though, play was brought back for an Institute free some 80-metres away from their goal for an earlier incident.

And the hosts duly went in front in the 60th minute following a brilliant interception on the 23-metre line which was quickly worked into the circle and crossed for Leah Clery to finish off.

It left UCD only a short while to fight back but they forged forward, winning a couple of corners while Hannah McLoughlin’s driving runs almost unlocked the door. In the end, their leveller was something of a scramble but Marshall was on hand to get the final credit.

Muckross 1 (L Hanlon) Cork Harlequins 1 (M Barry)
Two almost identical penalty corner moves meant the points were shared at Grange Road between two new look sides with Laura Hanlon and Michelle Barry cancelling each other out.

Cork Harlequins’ Michelle Barry on the attack. Picture: Adrian Boehm

The Dubliners started in the ascendancy with a couple of early corners while Caroline Mathews vision from the back was a key feature and Sophie Barnwell’s surging runs a feature. For Quins, Yvonne O’Byrne was the driving force with Barry providing the creativity further up the field along with the beautiful skills of Julia McCarthy.

Hanlon broke the deadlock from a switch move back to the injector, flicking home from the left of the circle for 1-0 at half-time. Barnwell went within inches of a second early in the third quarter before Quins started to run up the corner count with a trio coming in quick succession.

And they got on the board when they used the same move to pick out Barry on the left post and she flicked in. And they had another corner chance on the final whistle but Muckross held them at bey to leave it at 1-1.

Pegasus 1 (E Armstrong) Pembroke Wanderers 1 (C Foley)
Reigning champions Pegasus and a confident Pembroke drew 1-1 from a well-matched battle at Queen’s to open up their respective campaigns.

Claire Foley put Pembroke in front in the 33rd minute after a flurry of attacks. One crash ball found them with an overload and the ball was worked to Foley for a close-range finish.

Peagsus got their equaliser via an excellent give and go move on the left touchline with Ella Armstrong storming on, laying the ball off the baseline and then getting back for a great finish.

The hosts had three corner chances in succession but could not nick a second to take a lead into the closing quarter. Pembroke, meanwhile, pushed on in the final stanza but were also kept out by Megan Todd.


Goals galore on opening day of men’s EY Hockey League

** YMCA celebrate a Matthew Walker goal. Picture: Sinéad Hingston

With 26 goals across five matches, the men’s EY Hockey League returned with drama a plenty. Here’s the round-up of the first day of action!

Men’s EY Hockey League – day one round-up
Annadale 3 (R Davidson, O McElhinney, D Tremlett) Corinthian 3 (C Futcher 2, D Howard)

Both Corinthian and Annadale were left to reflect on whether it was a point gained or a two points lost from a topsy-turvy tie in which both sides held the lead only to be pegged back.

For Dale, bolstered by the return of Callum and Michael Robson and the arrival of Tim Cross, they were up and running when Robbie Davidson broke the deadlock in the 24th minute. That came from a pitch-length counter-attack from a Corinthian corner, Davidson popping up in front of Simon Thornton to slot home.

The Ulster side were two to the good four minutes later, this time another of their additions for this campaign – Owen McElhinney – guiding home a crash ball to make it 2-0.

The reds, though, responded well and were back in the mix when Chad Futcher netted a debut goal from a corner, the South African international whipping home in impressive fashion. It remained 2-1 until the final quarter when Futcher grabbed his second from mid-circle.

And the reds looked on course for the victory when Davy Howard scored from the penalty spot after a physical challenge wide on the right of the circle. But Dale kept battling and the Robson brothers worked the opening, Michael feeding Callum on the his way down the left channel; the latter’s reverse stick cross turned in by Tremlett.

Glenanne 2 (S O’Donoghue, J McCormack) Lisnagarvey 1 (J Lorimer)
Glenanne produced an excellent first performance of the season to beat off a fancied Lisnagarvey at St Andrew’s. The prolific Shane O’Donoghue opened the scoring in the second quarter from play and that lead was augmented in the second half by Jonny McCormack before Garvey got a lifeline with nine minutes to go via a James Lorimer penalty corner.

Early on, the Glens were thankful to goalkeeper David Lawless who made some excellent point blank saves while Ben Nelson and James Corry could not find the target with great chances. O’Donoghue’s opening goal came direct from a free-in, dribbling into the circle and then flipping the ball over a stick before batting in the chance.

His side had a trio of corner chances repelled before Lawless also came to the fore when his defence were unable to clear under pressure from Nelson. He did have the ball in the net in the third quarter with a brilliant piece of ball juggling to an overhead into the circle – after an umpire’s discussion, the goal was disallowed.

Kevin Venter cleaned a corner from the goalmouth to keep the slender lead intact and they went up the field and doubled the advantage soon after. Shannon Boucher took a quick sideline ball, got it to Gavin Gibney whose cross was turned in by McCormack.

Lorimer got one back with a rocket of a shot and Garvey piled on the pressure in the closing minutes but Glenanne defended their circle superbly to hold on for the points.

Monkstown 1 (G Cole) Banbridge 1 (Ph Brown)
Geoff Cole’s excellent goal four minutes from time saw Monkstown snatch a share of the spoils at Rathdown against Banbridge after a high octane battle between two sides who will fancy their chances at the playoff places this term.

Cole was at the back post to turn in Jazze Henry’s baseline cross following a patient move from front to back which went perfectly through the lines before finding the opening down the left.

It cancelled out Philip Brown’s powerful effort, following up from a blocked corner chance from mid-circle for 1-0 in the third quarter. It was a deserved lead for Banbridge who had most of the first half chances, only to be denied by some excellent Dave Fitzgerald stops while two other big chances flashed across the face of goal.

Luke Roleston was similarly strong on the half-time hooter to tip away a Guy Sarratt drag-flick. As time wore on, Bann looked to be controlling proceedings well with Eugene Magee deployed in a sweeper role and they went ahead from their fifth corner of the game.

Monkstown, though, pushed on in the closing minutes with Lee Cole brilliantly denied an equaliser by Roleston at close quarters just before the vital goal from his younger brother.

YMCA celebrate a Harry McCarthy goal. Pic Sinead Hingston (1)

UCD 2 (S Walker, S Byrne) Three Rock Rovers 5 (A Empey 4, R Spencer)
Ali Empey produced a spectacular set of four goals to mark his return to Three Rock Rovers in style, earning against the points against the club he played for last season. It was another one of the new arrivals at Grange Road who opened the deadlock when Ryan Spencer got on the end of a superb interception and crash ball from Jody Hosking.

Sam Walker equalised from UCD’s second corner with a diving touch to Harry Lynch’s swept ball into the danger zone. Both were former Rovers players lining out against their siblings, Walker against older brother James, Lynch against younger brother Alex with Peter also in UCD colours for good measure.

Empey put Rovers back in front before half-time, peeling left before turning right to a ball to the top of the D, slamming home on his open side. His next came in the third quarter, this time peeling left and flipping onto his reverse and unleashing a rocket into the roof of the net.

UCD were level with a very sharp piece of work from Sam Byrne but the game was put out of reach when Empey pinched the ball off the last defender and swept home from the top of the circle. And he tipped in a handy rebound from Fred Morris’s shot to complete the victory.

YMCA 5 (R Henderson 3, H McCarthy, M Walker) Pembroke Wanderers 3 (A Sothern 2, J Dale)
YMCA carried on where they left off 12 months ago, making it four wins in succession between this term and the short-loved 2020/21 campaign as Ross Henderson’s hat trick propelled them to victory over Pembroke.

In a cagey first quarter, the visitors could not make the best of three penalty corners but the game burst spectacularly into life in the second phase with five goal. A quick break from Fionn Marriott down the right side was followed by a hard, bobbly ball into the circle to Ross Henderson who controlled and finished very well.

Pembroke hit back immediately through Alan Sothern as he waltzed into D to score the equaliser and he added another a few minutes later from a stroke after Julian Dale was denied by a sliding tackle.

But the Y had the lead for a second time just before half-time. First off, Henderson picked up another long ball into the D behind the back of the defence and applied a great scoring moment for 2-2.

Then another breakaway down the right saw Matt Walker making a tackle in his own 25 and passing to Sam Hyland. Walker continued his run and Hyland weighted an overhead to him perfectly, picking it up at the endline where he pulled the ball back to Harry McCarthy to finish off the goal of the day.

Walker went himself for the fourth goal in the third quarter to make it 4-2, smashing home from the centre of the D from breaking ball. Henderson completed his hat trick after an excellent attacking move instigated by Ben Stewart on his first team debut.

Julian Dale pulled one back from a corner drag to make it 5-3 and a YM yellow soon after kept things interesting for a spell but the hosts saw out the closing 10 minutes to earn the spoils.


Women’s EY Hockey League – team-by-team preview

Belfast Harlequins
Coach: Phil Mills (3rd season), Asst Coach Peter Pollock; Manager: Roisin Walsh (3rd season)
Players in: Jane Kilpatrick (Loughborough Students), Jodie Kee, Sophie Hunter (Nottingham Uni), Olivia Beattie (Mossley), Imogen Graham (Rainey), Andrea Desneaux, Katie Larmour (following graduation from Rutgers Uni USA for 2nd half of season).
Players out: Bethany Harper ACL, Serena Barr (ACL hopefully back at some stage) , Julie Dennison (about to give birth!) Ella Agnew off to Edinburgh Uni

Overview: A fresh injection of some great young players has given Belfast Harlequins’ coach, Phil MIlls a healthy squad to work with. Joining from Loughborough Students, Irish development panelist Jane Kilpatrick has added strength and speed to the defence whilst schoolgirl Imogen Graham has shown maturity beyond her years, growing in confidence with each game.

Belfast Harlequins’ Lizzie Colvin. Pic: Adrian Boehm

Sophie Hunter and Jodie Kee are former juniors who the club are delighted to welcome back following work and university days in England. Natalie Lyttle née Barr is defying logic by turning out in preseason games a mere seven weeks following the birth of baby Micah.

They also have Emma Uprichard and Olivia Beattie in positive mood from their UK School Games, both raring to go. Co-Captain, Jenna Watt is ‘buzzing ‘ for the new season with a team gelling well on and off the pitch. The Barr twins are both out for the time-being with ACL injuries but Serena could be back at some stage during the campaign. There is also the exciting possibility of Katie Larmour returning from Rutgers in the US for the second half of the season.

Catholic Institute
Head Coach: David Passmore, Assistant Coach: Ger O’Carroll, Manager – Brenda Moloney
Players in: Jenny Clein (UCC), Lizzie Ryan (Boston University)
Players out: Lauren Ryan (UCC)

Overview: Having started like a house on fire last term, the Limerick side will be hoping for more of the same. Homegrown Olympians Roisin Upton and Naomi Carroll will again be key players but the spine of the team is bound through the experience of Goalkeeper Pam Smithwick and the calm heads of Christine O’Shea and Ciara Moloney and club stalwart Rosie Pratt.

Institute have a number of good young players who have featured in pre-season friendlies including Thurles pupil Kate Ryan. However, it’s some of those in their early twenties who are pushing the standards including Eimear Ryan and returnee Jenny Clein along with fast developing Laura Foley and Anna Horan.

Catholic Institute’s Laura Foley. Picture: Adrian Boehm

Coach David Passmore said ahead of the season: “It will be great to get back playing competitive hockey after the long lay-off. After an exciting start last time out the players are raring to go but post lockdown holidays, injuries (especially Roisin Begley) and availability have resulted in a lack of continuity in the pre-season period. Finding pre-season fixtures has also been problematic so it is hard to gauge where we are at. I have no doubt we will be hard to play against, difficult to beat and will surprise a few teams with our attacking play.”

Cork Harlequins
Coach: Edward Gash (1st season), Manager: Vanessa Sargent
Players in: Niamh Sexton (Lock Haven University), Ruby Walsh, Katie Moore, Beatrice O’Hare (up from the youth section)
Players out: Siri Forde (not playing), Emily O’ Leary (Ashton), Isabel Lyons (UCC)

Overview: Co-captains Yvonne O’Byrne and Michelle Barry will again be hugely influential this season, providing valuable experience to a young Quins team. Lauren Cripps has impressed with the Irish Under-19 team this summer and will be an important player in the centre of the Quins defence.

Striker Leah O’Shea will no doubt provide one of the main threats up front for Quins, her performances this summer earning her a place on the Irish Under-23 squad. Another one to watch is 17-year-old Julia McCarthy in the Quins forward line up. Scoring on her EYHL debut last season, her impressive skill level makes her a real threat in the circle.

Eddie Gash takes on the coaching job from Darren Collins and he says of the campaign: “It’s great to get back to hockey matches after enjoying watching the Olympics over the summer. This team is an exciting mix of youth and experience and we are looking forward to getting the league started.”

Coach: Paul Fitzpatrick (6th Season); Asst Coach: Ian Clarke; Manager: Anne Marie Curran
Players in: none
Players out: none

Loreto’s Christina Hamill and Hannah Matthews. PIcture: Adrian Boehm

Overview: Keen contenders in each of the last few seasons, the Beaufort club bring a settled panel into the new season with plenty of international talent to filter back into the team. Hannah Matthews, Lizzie Murphy and Sarah Torrans were part of the Tokyo squad while the Junior Green Army featured attacking threat Siofra O’Brien, Lisa Mulcahy, Yasmin Pratt and Christina Hamill.

Cailtin Sherin was also involved over the summer and, back to full speed, she can be a massive addition. With Ali Meeke bringing her unique bag of tricks to midfield, they are shaping up nicely once again for a good campaign.

Coaches: Dave Sheils & Ralph Billings (1st Season) – Manager Freda Canavan
Players in: Julia Balcerak (LKS Gasawa, Poland), Lelia O’Byrne (UCD), Aoife Glennon (Pembroke)
Players out: Ellie McLoughlin (UCD), Sarah McAuley (UCD), India Cotter (Northeastern, USA), Annabel Sweetnam (The Netherlands), Sinead McGirr, Louise McCollum (work commitments), Susie Cannon (travelling)

Overview: Muckross will bring a fresh-faced line-up to the new season following a busy summer with Rob Abbott initially taking up the coaching role before having to step back for personal reasons. It means Dave Sheils and Ralph Billings will take on the job of moulding the team this time around.

Muckross’s Sophie Barnwell. Picture: Adrian Boehm

“The opportunity to working with this squad is exciting,” they said of the team. “There is a great mix of youth and experience in this club and the support for each other is so very strong. Looking forward to the challenges ahead in EYHL.”

Julia Balcerak’s arrival from Poland and Lelia O’Byrne’s return to the club are boosts but there have been significant departures with Olympian Sarah McAuley heading to UCD and Irish panelist Ellie McLoughlin also going to Belfield. Aoife Glennon is a talented goalkeeper on the incoming list.


Old Alex
Coaches: Cathy McKean (first season), Eimear Cregan (first season), Clodagh Grealy (manager), Nicky King/Louisa Healy (Gk Coach, first season)
Players in: Gisela Estrenjer (Atlètic Terrassa), Jess McGirr (Muckross), Niamh Sweeney (Railway Union), Holly Micklem (Corinthian)
Players out: Jeamie Deacon, Hannah Mc Dermott, Freya McDermott

Overview: Old Alex enter the new season with a brand new coaching team packed with international experience as Cathy McKean and Eimear Cregan reprise their teamwork from the Irish senior squad of roughly a decade ago with Nicky King and Louisa Healy also on the staff.

McKean said of the new season: “For inspiration I think I will defer to the words of the great trailblazer, Antonio Machado: ‘Traveller, there is no road; you make your own path as you walk.’ We look forward to pushing ourselves to our limits, and then beyond.”

The side were right in the mix for honours before 2019/20 came to a shuddering halt; then coach Niall Denham has since departed for New Zealand but they look like they have plenty of talent to be contenders again with the likes of Deirdre Duke, Lena Tice and Nikki Evans currently on the books. If all available, they will be among the sides to watch.

Jess McGirr is a strong addition along with All-Ireland LGFA winner Niamh Sweeney, linking up again with her Wesley schoolmate Sarah Robinson.


Coach: Craig McGrugan (1st season); Manager: Gerry McIvor
Players in: Katie McKee (Beeston); Julie Lonergan (Clydesdale Western Hockey Club)
Players out: Charlotte Beggs (Ulster Elks), Ellie Montgomery (Queens University); Olivia Berry (Exeter University)

Overview: The most recent EY Champions Trophy winners, Pegasus will be under the tutelage of head coach Craig McGrugan this season, hoping to emulate their success under Greg Thompson.

Pegasus’s Niamh McIvor. Picture: Adrian Boehm

The summer moves have seen a number of university-related switches with Katie McKee back after a spell in England with Beeston while Scottish player Julie Lonergan is now studying at Queen’s, making the move from Clydesdale Western. On the flip side, the hugely talented Charlotte Beggs has gone to Ulster Elks, Ellie Montgomery to Queen’s and Olivia Berry to Exeter University for their studies.

There is plenty of talent and experience to go around with Michelle Chisholm, Kerri McDonald, Ruth Maguire and Shirley McCay providing lots of top-line know-how. Niamh McIvor is a big talent to watch out for.

“Preseason has been really enjoyable as our focus was on building team morale and getting back on the pitch and developing the love for hockey again,” the club posted ahead of the campaign.

“We organised a little preseason tournament that included Pembroke, Loreto, Old Alex and Belfast Harlequins. The goal was to allow us all to have fun over that weekend while playing decent competitive hockey. All teams seemed to enjoy it. We really look forward to the start of the EYHL again with another eye on our EHL planning!”


Coach: Gavin Groves; assistant coach: Stephen Brownlow; manager: Sinead Guilfoyle
Players in: Issy Delamer (Trinity), Ellen Curran (UCD), Felicity McCarthy (City of Peterborough HC)
Players out: Maebh Horan, Emma Paul (UCD), Caoimhe Byrne (UCD), Aoife Glennon (Muckross)

Pembroke’s Gillian Pinder. PIcture: Adrian Boehm

Overview: A short, sharp preseason for Pembroke after the long wait to return but club coach Gavin Groves says the team are “delighted we were able to attract some really exciting players in Ellen Curran and Issy Delamer into the squad having lost two or three younger players to college hockey”.

He adds Felicity McCarthy has fitted in well to the line up and believes the club “have a group that can really challenge for trophies this year”.

And that belief looks well placed with World Cup silver medalists Gillian Pinder and Emily Beatty lining out alongside Sinead Loughran, Leah McGuire and Orla Macken.


Railway Union
Coach: Una McCarthy; assistant coach: Gareth Myburgh; manager: Margaret Shaw
Players in: Emma Smyth, Kate Dillon, Hannah de Burgh Whyte
Players out: none

Railway Union celebrate last October. Picture: Adrian Boehm

Overview: Railway Union were enjoying something of a renaissance at the start of last season with three battling wins in succession before the unceremonious end to the campaign. Sarah Hawkshaw was in inspired form for a hard-working outfit and she will again be the fore along with key players like Lisa McCarthy, Kate Lloyd and Patton sisters Orla and Sarah.

They will also benefit from the heavily-decorated Emma Smyth, Kate Dillon and Hannah de Burgh Whyte who have returned to the fold. Youngsters Katie Fearon and Martha McCready will benefit from a summer of youth international experience while no major departures means Una McCarthy’s charges can approach the season with confidence.


Coaches: Lisa Jacob, Fiona Connery (first season)
Players in: Emma Paul (Pembroke), Sarah McAuley (Muckross), Caoimhe Byrne (Pembroke), Ellie McLoughlin (Muckross)
Players out: Ellen Curran (Pembroke) Clodagh Cassin (UK) Nina Heisterkamp (travelling)

Overview: It has been a perhaps slight disjointed preseason with a combination of the early season start and the CAO offers along with players returning from international squad. All-in-all, though, it has been a healthy summer for UCD’s new coaching team of Lisa Jacob – returning to the club with whom she captained to the 2009 Irish Senior Cup – and Fiona Connery.

They have picked up some of Irish hockey’s big prospects with goalkeeper Ellie McLoughlin coming in for Clodagh Cassin, Irish Under-19 captain Emma Paul bolstering the defence and Olympian Sarah McAuley taking up an Ad Astra scholarship. She joins her fellow Tokyo alumni Michelle Carey and Hannah McLoughlin and Irish development panelists KJ Marshall, Niamh Carey and Sophia Cole for an exciting line-up.

On the graduation list is last season’s captain Ellen Curran who switches to Pembroke.

UCD’s Michelle Carey. Picture: Adrian Boehm


Men’s EYHL Division One – team-by-team preview


Coach: Richard Fairman (third season)

Players in: Michael Robson (Crefelder HTC Germany), Tim Cross (Tilburg, Holland), Callum Robson (Crefelder HTC Germany), Owen McElhinney (GHHC Groningen, Holland)

Players out: Fergus Gibson (Loughborough Students)

Overview: Annadale have had a hugely productive summer, welcoming back some serious international talent with brother Michael and Callum Robson back at their original club after a spell in Germany while fellow senior star Tim Cross is another big addition. The link up with youth internationals James Clark, Paddy Rose and Kent Irwin.

Callum Robson is back at Annadale. Pic: Adrian Boehm

It is slightly tempered by Fergus Gibson – another who played in August’s Euros – moving to Loughborough but Dale look much better equipped to move away from the bottom rungs they occupied in the two abandoned seasons.

And coach Richard Fairman is looking forward to the challenge, saying: “it’s been an exciting preseason welcoming our returning players and also our new arrivals. We are very much looking forward to what, hopefully, will be an uninterrupted season of hockey.”



Coach: Scott McCandless; assistant coaches: John Clarke and Gareth Lennox

Players in: John McKee (Crefelder HTC)

Players out: Ben Wallace(Brooklands), Drew Carlisle (Belfast Harlequins)

Banbridge in their new Ulster Carpets-sponsored kit

Overview: Banbridge are another Ulster club to welcome back one of their favourite sons with John McKee coming back following a spell in the German ranks, coming back to the club after an impressive EuroHockey Championship II campaign.

They have had a rigorous preseason which saw English outfit Brooklands visit Havelock with a return trip to play the same opponents along with Holcombe and Oxted. Preseason concluded with games against Lisnagarvey and Pembroke Wanderers.

Coach Scott McCandless is delighted with how things have gone to date with the latest crop of underage stars – like Charlie and Louie Rowe and Mark Cowan –  pushing hard for inclusion in match day squads. Eugene Magee and Bruce McCandless provide the experience to inspire the young guns but Drew Carlisle has stepped back, linking up with Belfast Harlequins this term.



Coach: Brinsley Powell (1st season); Assistant coach: Peter Caruth

Players in: Simon Thornton (Pembroke), Chad Futcher (South Africa), Stephen Reid (Australia)

Players out: Joe Brennan, Neil Pelow (Cork C of I), Ashley Kemp (South Africa)

Corinthian’s Craig Mackay. Pic: Adrian Boehm

Overview: The reds have strengthened with the arrival of Chad Futcher – known as Thor –  from South Africa having helped Wits University to win the Premier League and has accumulated both indoor and outdoor international caps.

A fellow South African Brinsley Powell takes over the coaching reins with Peter Caruth reprising the assistant role he held with Joe Brennan last season. Simon Thornton dons the pads on day one against Annadale after his move from Pembroke.

Other than that, it is largely a homegrown team with Ian Stewart earning a long-deserved call-up to the Irish side and Craig Mackay shining for the Under-19s in the summer; David Howard brings the corner threat.



Player coach: Shane O’Donoghue; Assistant coaches: Ralph Billings & David Shaw; Managers: Gerry Shaw & Noel Keogh

Players in: Kevin Venter (South Africa) David Lawless (Clontarf) Lorenzo Della Corte (Railway Union)

Players out: Iain Walker, Stephen Brownlow (both retired), Matt Mitchie (Returned to Manchester) Kevin Mellott (Studying)

Glenanne’s Brad Venter. Pic: Adrian Boehm

Overview: Glenanne player-coach Shane O’Donoghue is looking forward to an enjoyable season in upbeat fashion, saying: “Players are keen to get back playing, work hard and just enjoy playing competitive sport again”.

His brains-trust has expanded well with Ralph Billings and David Shaw bringing extra quality to the assistant coach roles from their variety of experiences. Iain Walker has retired for a second time while Stephen Brownlow is also taking a break. It opens the door for David Lawless to make his debut in the EY Hockey League having been a star for Clontarf in recent years.

Their South African contingent has expanded too with Brad Venter and Shannon Boucher joined by Kevin Venter, adding extra quality to a line-up which is powered by O’Donoghue’s brilliance in midfield and from corners as well as Sam O’Connor and Neil Byrne.



Coach: Erroll Lutton; Asst Coach: Steven Arbuthnot; GK Coach: Raymond Geddis; Manager: Dean Beckett

Players in: Matthew Nelson (Loughborough), Peter McKibbin (Grossflottbeker THGC); Ollie Kidd (Nottingham Trent)

Players out: Paddy Hunter (Exeter University)

Lisnagarvey celebrating their Irish Senior Cup win last September. Pic: Adrian Boehm

Overview: Probably the stand-out side from the past two incomplete seasons, Erroll Lutton has a number of extra options at his disposal this year while many of his young guns had busy summers, working with the Irish senior squad.

Matthew Nelson is back after stints in Germany and England to join his brothers Daniel and recent international Ben while Peter McKibbin is back from Grossflottbekker. Ollie Kidd is one of the youngsters who trained with the Irish seniors along with Mark McNellis, Troy Chambers, James Milliken and Jonny Lynch

With the Green Machine players otherwise occupied, Lutton was able to give game time to another new generation of youngsters in preseason in games against Brooklands, Banbridge and Cookstown before recording a strong performance against YMCA last week with the coach pleased with the outcomes.



Coach: Eddie O’Malley (1st season)

Players in: Guy Sarratt (UCD)

Players out: Ryan Spencer (Three Rock Rovers); Josh Filgas (UCD)

Overview: Eddie O’Malley moves up to the main job having initially taken on the role as Monkstown assistant coach last summer, following Gareth Watkins into the role after he moved south to Cork to coach UCC.

New Monkstown coach Eddie O’Malley. Picture: Adrian Boehm

On the player-movement front, Guy Sarratt is a serious addition, bringing one of the top scorers in the EY Hockey League back to the club he grew up at. Josh Filgas goes the other way to UCD while Ryan Spencer has switched to Three Rock Rovers.

With Lee and Stephen Cole and Jeremy Duncan in the line-up, they will be looking to push for a top four spot and a shot at a first national title since 2016. Preseason has been busy with wins over Three Rock and Banbirdge, a draw with Corinthian and a loss to YMCA.



Coach: Paudie Carley (fourth season); assistant coaches: Devin Donnelly (3rd season), Alan Sothern (3rd season)

Players in: Philip Förster (Nuremburg HTC, Germany), Ilko Dartsch (Germany), Mark Duggan (Clontarf)

Players out: Fionn O’Leary (Bandon), Simon Thornton (Corinthian)

Pembroke during a preseason trip to Banbridge

Overview: Given their dominance in the noughties, it is strange to think it is 11 years since Pembroke won their last national crown but they look to have a reasonably settled panel which can do some damage this season.

Philip Förster’s arrival from Germany and the addition of youth international Mark Duggan adds to Paudie Carley’s deck in which Olympian Alan Sothern is a key figure up front and as assistant coach.

Indeed, it is a side with goals in it with Isaac Johnson, Robert McCollum and Julian Dale involved while they have a heathy bunch of mid-20s players which will serve them well, even though the dynamic Kirk Shimmins is now in London.

“Pre-season, we have been integrating new players and giving some youth team members a run in the extended squad. Delighted to be back at hockey and looking forward to a solid post-Covid season,” is Carley’s initial assessment.


Three Rock Rovers

Coach: Elun Hack (third season); manager: Fraser Morris; physio: Huw Rees

Players in: Alistair Empey (UCD), Andrew Keane (UCD), Ben McInerney (Waterford), Ryan Spencer (Monkstown), Matteo Romoli (UCD), Fred Morris (Laren, Netherlands), Mark Samuel (UCD)

Players out: Ben McCrea (Netherlands), Sam Grace (Clontarf), Ben Walker (Braxgata, Belgium), Harry Morris (work abroad), Ravin Nair, Daragh Walsh (KHC Leuven), Mitch Darling (retired), James Kyriakides (work in London), Ethan Flynn (UCD)

Three Rock Rovers’ Harry MacMahon. Picture: Adrian Boehm

Overview: A rollercoaster of a summer for Three Rock Rovers for whom a large chunk of their three in-a-row winning side are unavailable this time around. Daragh Walsh (returning to KHC Leuven) and Ben Walker (Braxgata) are the latest co-opted to play in Belgium while club legend Mitch Darling has retired, ending with three Irish Senior Cup, three EY Champions Trophy and one All-Ireland Club Championship crown to his name.

With Harry Morris, Ben McCrea and James Kyriakides moving away for work, Elun Hack has seen the panel overhauled in recent weeks. Ali Empey, Andy Keane and Mark Samuel return from UCD along with Matteo Romoli while Fred Morris is back from the Netherlands. Ryan Spencer (Monkstown) and Ben McInerney (Waterford) add more options. The job now is to see how to gel together after such a turnover. A glut of youth players have been given a chance to shine in preseason, too.

“There is much potential here and I look forward to see it develop in the course of the season,” said coach Hack.



Coach: Ronan Hickey (first season)

Players in: Kevin O’Dea (Cork C of I), Josh Filgas (Monkstown), Matthew O’Brien Holohan (Monkstown), Ethan Flynn (Three Rock Rovers), Jay Menelaou (Avoca)

Players out: Conor Empey (SCHC, Netherlands), Guy Sarratt (Monkstown), Ali Empey (Three Rock Rovers), Andrew Keane (Three Rock Rovers), Matteo Romoli (Three Rock Rovers), Scott Ruttle (YMCA), Jamie Pullen (Erasmus), Stephen Dawson

UCD’s Sam Walker. Pic: Sinéad Hingston

Overview: After a strong spell, pushing to be part of the upper echelons of the EYHL and a first ever Irish Senior Cup final appearance, this year looks to be a year of reinvention. It follows the departure of big stars Conor Empey and corner expert Guy Sarratt, both who have been on the fringes of the national setup.

Their exact line-up will also be a bit later than usual to be finalised due to the earlier start to the season with Leaving Cert and CAO points only tabulated this week. The big news on that front, though, is Irish senior international Kevin O’Dea has been signed up; in tandem with Harry Lynch, they can do plenty of damage.

New coach Ronan Hickey says he is “delighted to be back in UCD where I started my coaching career. There’s so much potential here and the team has taken enormous strides in recent years. I’m looking forward to meeting the players and building on the great foundations established by Michael over the past two seasons.”



Coach: Jason Klinkradt; assistant coach: Justin Sherriff

Players in: Scott Ruttle (UCD)

Players out: none

Overview: Of all the sides to be frustrated by last season’s short-lived tenure, YMCA are chief among them. After a couple of years of struggle, they looked set for their EY season with three wins out of three before the abrupt end to proceedings.

With minimal turnover means there is plenty of belief they can carry that momentum through, particularly having retained the services of South African Olympian Peabo Lembethe. That mood is boosted by a preseason win over Monkstown and a competitive showing against Lisnagarvey at Comber Road.

Sam Hyland and Matthew Walker both made inroads into the Irish senior setup during the summer while Grant Glutz’s diverse options as goal-getting striker, sometime enforcer at the back, and corner expert, gives them a couple of different styles of play to work off. Scott Ruttle’s return from UCD is the only formal transfer listed in or out.

YMCA team talk during their win at Banbridge last term. Picture: Sinéad Hingston


EY Hockey Leagues back with a bang this Saturday

The EY Hockey Leagues – the sport’s flagship club competition in Ireland – will make it’s much anticipated return this Saturday with many Olympians and World Cup stars on display across the men’s and women’s competitions.

Indeed, anticipation is especially high to see where each team stands after two truncated seasons due to Covid-19 and Hockey Ireland is thrilled to have the continued support of EY who have promoted the league since 2015.

Ahead of the big restart, Frank O’Keeffe, Managing Partner for EY Ireland, commented: EY is delighted to be entering its sixth year as lead sponsor of the EY Hockey League, against the backdrop of what has been an incredibly challenging 18 months for sport.

“Now, as we slowly and safely emerge from the pandemic, we can all look forward to an exciting sporting season ahead and in particular a terrific 2021/2022 hockey season.

“The EY Hockey league never disappoints. The level of skill and sportsmanship on display by teams competing in the league is always outstanding. I cannot wait to see what surprises this year’s league will bring. On behalf of EY, I would like to wish every success to all of the teams competing in the league this season. ”

The action begins on Saturday with four women’s EY Hockey League Division One games and five matches in the men’s competition. The second tier EY Hockey League Division Two fixtures, meanwhile, will hit the turf in late November.

In addition to the long-awaited return to competitive action, the EYHL also provides the first chance for fans to see members of the Irish women’s side up close since the Tokyo Olympic Games.

For example, a number of them could be in action at the season curtain-raiser at Rosbrien as Limerick’s Catholic Institute face UCD with Róisín Upton, Naomi Carroll (both Institute), Sarah McAuley, Hannah McLoughlin and Michelle Carey (all UCD) in the mix.

It is among the highlights of day one of the season which also features Muckross against Cork Harlequins, Belfast Harlequins hosting Old Alex and the reigning champions – from the 2018/19 season – Pegasus welcome an ever-improving Pembroke outfit.

Action from the 2019 EY Champions Trophy final. Picture: Adrian Boehm

Pegs will be under the tutelage of new coach Craig McGrugan with the inspirational Shirley McCay bringing a powerful presence to the table. Pembroke had added Ellen Curran to their squad having led UCD to the 2020 Irish Senior Cup crown.  Loreto’s date with Railway Union has been postponed.

On the men’s side, a feature of the last couple of years has been the return of some top stars from abroad to add to the quality of the league.

Monkstown were the beneficiaries last summer when Lee Cole and Jeremy Duncan came back to Dublin after a few years in Belgium. Their first opponent, Banbridge, have one of their favourite sons – Johnny McKee – back in the fold following time with Crefelder HTC in Germany.

Lisnagarvey, meanwhile, similarly welcome back Matthew Nelson and Peter McKibbin after spells from the continent, boosting their star-studded squad. Their first day out is a trip to Glenanne on day one who will be inspired once again by player-coach Shane O’Donoghue.

Similarly, Annadale have current international brothers Michael and Callum Robson back from Germany and Tim Cross joins from Tilburg in the Netherlands. Their first game is against Corinthian. Ambitious YMCA and Pembroke meet at Wesley while UCD and Three Rock Rovers both look like wildcard teams having seen very large overhauls of their panels this summer.

** Longer previews to be posted later today. All the games will be covered and promoted via the Hockey Ireland website and social media channels through the weekend. Use the hashtag #EYHL to keep track of all the updates.

Saturday 11th September 2021
EYHL Division 1:
Annadale v Corinthian, Lagan College, 2.30pm; Glenanne v Lisnagarvey, St. Andrews College, 3pm; Monkstown v Banbridge, Rathdown, 2.30pm; UCD v Three Rock Rovers, Belfield, 1pm; YMCA v Pembroke Wanderers, Wesley College, 3.50pm

EYHL Division 1:
Belfast Harlequins v Old Alexandra, Deramore Park, 2.30pm; Catholic Institute v UCD, Rosbrien, 1pm; Muckross v Cork Harlequins, Grange Road, 1pm; Pegasus v Pembroke Wanderers, Queens University, 4.15pm

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Green Army icon Shirley McCay calls time on record-breaking Irish career

** Shirley McCay pictured above at the World Cup semi-final in 2018. Picture: Frank Uijlenbroek/World Sport Pics

Shirley McCay has decided to call time on her international career following a ground-breaking 14-year spell with the Green Army.

Since making her international debut in 2007, the Drumquin native has gone on to play for 316 times, a caps record for both hockey and for female sportswomen in general in Ireland.

A diminutive defender with an eye for a glorious long pass, a teak-tough competitor willing to contest every opponent and situation, her passion and perseverance stand her out as one of the iconic faces of the Green Army’s rise.

A rise which has brought them from obscurity to the world’s elite levels, a journey culminating in the 2018 World Cup silver medal and a maiden appearance for the Irish women at the Tokyo Olympic Games.

While she has dabbled with the idea of retiring on a couple of occasions in the past few years, she feels the time is right following the Olympics for her to step back and “go all in” to guide the next generation of stars through her work as an Ulster Hockey performance coach.

Shirley McCay in action during the Olympic qualifiers. Picture: ©INPHO/Morgan Treacy

Her beginnings in the sport came at Omagh Academy, picking up the basics of the game in jig-time, breaking into the senior team at the school when she was just 14. She would be a guiding light in Omagh’s sole Kate Russell All-Ireland Schoolgirls success in 2005.

Omagh Hockey Club soon came calling, “loving life” on the fourth team and enjoying the ride up through the teams before giving some of Ulster’s big guns a run for their money.

There, her development was overseen with Anne Buchanan, Iris Nelson and June Graham crucial figures who became almost ever-present supporters at European Championships – eight in all – among other competitions.

It helped propel her to new heights on the club front, first with Randalstown and then with Ulster Elks – with whom she would win two Irish Senior Cup crowns – KHC Dragons in Belgium, Old Alex and then to Pegasus where she became an EY Champions Trophy winner.

Gene Muller invited her onto the international stage at the age of 18 for a series in Stellenbosch in January 2007. Since then, she has been virtually ever-present, missing just 37 of Ireland’s capped games in 14 and a half years.

Those early days were tough at times with Olympic and World Cup qualification proving well out of reach. Nonetheless, McCay was hooked on the journey and embraced the chance to travel the world, playing the sport she loved and while material success was elusive at the time, there were always moments to last a lifetime.

“In my early career, beating New Zealand in New Zealand [Wellington, 2008] was a special memory. Anytime we could get the better of someone above was a special moment and that was unheard of at the time. Thankfully it became more regular over time but I will never forget that.

“Another eye-opener was playing Argentina in Parana [in 2011] and about 10,000 people must have shown up and gave us an incredible reception. It’s things like that which stay with you, not always the big results but those amazing moments.

Shrley with her nephew at the Olympic qualifiers. Picture: INPHO/Morgan Treacy 

During those early years, she hails the likes of Eimear Cregan, Linda Caulfield, Cathy McKean and Bridget Cleland for bringing her under their wing.

She remembers McKean “just telling me how class I was” at some early sessions, adding to “get something like that from such a good player was special” to hear.

As time went on, though, reaching the top table seemed to draw closer and closer, going within one result of reaching both the 2012 and 2016 Olympics.

And the breakthrough finally arrived via the World League in 2017, fighting back to beat India to earn a place in the 2018 World Cup.

Prior to that tournament, media reports suggested that would be her last run out in an Irish jersey. Indeed, she very much thought it was going to be the end, a suitable pinnacle after 11 years on the road, before the silver medal run changed everything for everyone involved.

“Getting over the Rio disappointment, it kind of felt like there would never be a bigger stage to go out on a high. Then things turned out the way they did, a way no one expected it to. With the silver medal, it gave us a much better ranking and a chance to qualify for the Olympics. I did not want to leave with any regrets for me or the team having come so far.”

And, of course, that dream was realised in November 2019 with qualification in front of a record crowd at Donnybrook Stadium, a lifetime away from the many years of empty stands and endless unseen effort. Those fixtures took on an extra significance as they marked her 300th cap while she cites walking out and signing the anthem with her nephew Alex as an extra special moment.

Her efforts in the background went on for an extra year due to the Covid-19 pandemic before eventually coming to fruition in July this year.

The side started off in brilliant fashion, breaking their duck with an historic 2-0 win over South Africa. Ultimately, a vital second win proved elusive and their campaign ended in the group stages.

“We were disappointed in regards to reaching our main target of reaching the quarter-finals. We had the capability of doing it but each team had those same dreams and that it why this is the toughest tournament.

“Even South Africa, with their limited preparation, showed some excellent hockey and there absolutely no easy games. Sure, the outcome was disappointing but the whole Olympic experience was filled with massive bucket-list moments.”

While the tournament was her curtain-call from the international playing scene, she knows she will not be too far from a pitchside anytime soon.

Indeed, she dove straight back into camps in her role as an Ulster Hockey Talent Coach and, last weekend, she was part of the coaching staff that saw Ulster win double-gold at the UK Schools Games. And she is thrilled at the prospect of inspiring the next generation on that front.

“Ulster Hockey have been so sympathetic to me and my international career, letting me do bits and pieces in between when I was away. I have been so used to trying to balance playing internationally and the role.

“So I am really looking forward to going all-in, committing to the job and making a difference, helping Ulster’s young talent develop and play to their potential.”

That role leaves her now in a peaceful position to step away from the international stage, paying tribute to her network who helped propel her to such spectacular heights.

“I am indebted to a few people who without their support I wouldn’t be where I am today. My friends, family and loved ones, thanks for putting up with me being grumpy and rarely being around.

“To the coaches I have had throughout my career, I have learnt so much from you all. To our sponsors, SoftCo and Park Developments in particular, thank you for helping prolong an old girl’s career and joining our journey.

“And finally, to every team mate I have ever had the pleasure of playing with, thanks for putting up with me. It has been an honour.”


Green Army back to work as focus shifts to World Cup qualifiers

The Green Army filtered back into camp this week following a month’s break in the wake of their maiden Olympic campaign as October’s 2022 World Cup qualifiers in Italy quickly come into view.

The event will take place in Pisa from October 21st to 24th with eight teams taking part from which only one side will earn a place at next summer’s showcase event.

For coach Sean Dancer, it is an uncharacteristically swift return to action with members of the Olympic panel returning to training on a phased basis, linking up on Monday and Tuesday at Abbotstown with members of the development panel.

From Dancer’s previous experience working with New Zealand in 2012 and 2016, there is usually a lengthy post-Games cooling off session but the nature of the Covid-19 affected calendar has brought this new qualifying event into view.

“I’m used to having a big ‘down’ period post the Olympics, the end of the cycle and the beginning of a new one, getting everything ready and preparing for the next Olympics,” Dancer said of the packed calendar.

The format is a winner-takes-all scenario for the one remaining spot at the World Cup. Each game is a knock-out match with top-ranked Ireland (12th in the world) – barring any late changes in entry list – set to face the ever-improving France (27th) in the opening round.

Lying in wait in the semi-finals will be Russia (20th) and Belarus (21st) with the other side of the draw provisionally featuring hosts Italy (17th), Scotland (19th), Poland (23rd) and Wales (25th).

“It’s a cut-throat tournament. Scotland and Italy from the A division and then France with a lot to play for given the next Olympics in Paris, progressing well, it will be a really tough tournament and the reality is only the winner gets to go to the World Cup. Every game is a must-win!

“The way things have unfolded with the qualifiers in October and then hopefully doing well in the World Cup is really important for us. There will be some retirements and plenty of new players will get an opportunity to come in. That brings excitement and we need to harness that and push hard for the next six weeks.”

On that front, Dancer has reassurance the step up from the Under-23 development programme should not be as dramatic as years gone by. That group underwent a busy summer schedule of their own with a wide group of players lining out in fixtures at home and abroad.

And Dancer confirmed a number of players will traverse the squads when they return to the pitch next Monday for training as a group for the first time since returning from Tokyo.

“[Under-23 coach] Dave Passmore has done an excellent job over the summer. It is something that previously had been discussed as we knew there would some players stepping back from the programme and this group and so it was important that group was ready to step in when the time arrives.

“They had some really successful series, beating Wales seniors and GB’s development squad.”

And that link between the two squads has been made even stronger with last week’s news SoftCo have extended their current sponsorship with the senior women’s squad until the end of 2022 while also expanding their support to now be the Under-23 side’s primary sponsor.

“It’s amazing from SoftCo to continue sponsoring us and it is a big boost with the World Cup qualifier around the corner and new players coming into the group. It is a sponsorship that is hugely beneficial and supportive of the team.”

FIH Women’s World Cup 2022 – European qualifier (October 21 to 24, all in Pisa)
Thursday, October 21, quarter-final: Ireland v France, 11.30am
Saturday, October 23, semi-final: to be confirmed
Sunday, October 24, final: to be confirmed