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President’s Newsletter July 2021

Excitement is mounting with the departure of the Women’s team for the Tokyo Olympics on Friday 9th July. We wish the players all the best of luck for their matches. This is a marvellous achievement and we thank them for their commitment, drive, determination and for the time they have given to prepare for this amazing experience. Our sympathy goes to the players who have played a large part in the build-up over the last few years and missed out. We know how disappointed they must be. By following the team’s 37-hour journey on social media, they have received a great welcome in Iwate and have started training there. Our thanks go to all their sponsors and especially to Park Development, Softco and Saba.

Their match schedule is, with times for Ireland/UK viewing: –

Saturday 24th July v. South Africa at 1.15pm (21.15 JST)

Monday 26th July v Netherlands at 2am (10.00 JST)

Wednesday 28th July v Germany at 4.15am (12.15 JST)

Friday 30th July v India at 3.45am (11.45 JST)

Saturday 31 July v Great Britain 12.45pm (20.45 JST)

The EuroHockey Championships in Amsterdam at the beginning of June were challenging and the draw was tough. However, the girls held their heads up high, producing commendable performances against the Netherlands, Scotland and Spain in the group section and against Great Britain and Italy in the play-off games, finishing 6th overall with two wins, one draw and two losses.  One of the highlights was Deidre Duke being awarded the goal of the tournament.

Mark Tumilty and his Men’s team continue with their preparations for their European Division B matches in Gniezno, Poland from 15th – 21st August. They are drawn in Pool A against Italy, Poland and Croatia. With several new players in the squad, they have played warm-up games against Great Britain and Scotland. We look forward to supporting them in further pre-tournament games against England at Lisnagarvey on 4th, 5th, 6th & 7th August.

With restrictions on spectators easing, I was able to enjoy watching my first official games as President, when the Ireland Under 19s played Wales at The University of Ulster, Jordanstown on 9th & 10th July. Four exciting games resulted in four wins for Ireland: The Girls winning 6-0 and 5-0 and the Boys 1-0 and 5-3. I look forward to supporting the Ireland Under 23 Girls when they play Wales Senior Women from 16th to 18th July and Wales U23 Girls from 21st to 23rd July. Further matches for the Under 19 Boys and Girls will be held at UUJ on 24th and 25th July. This is a busy programme for the players and coaches and it is great experience for all in their build-up to Senior matches.

I was invited by Lisnagarvey Hockey Club on 26th June to watch Under 15 Cup Finals for a tournament that the club had organised. The Girls’ tournament was won by Armagh who defeated Lisnagarvey and, in the Boys’ Final, Lisnagarvey defeated Portadown. It was great to see young players and their families enjoying exciting hockey on a sunny afternoon. I would like to congratulate and thank Lisnagarvey Hockey Club for their excellent organisation for this event and their compliance with Covid 19 regulations.

Our third Pilot Communication Session took place on Wednesday 16th June with Clubs from Armagh, Belvedere, Blackrock, Bray, Club KV, Cork Wanderers, Malahide Fingal, Newry and Parkview taking part. Topics discussed included how clubs were planning to get players back into hockey after this long Covid break; had they approached schools nearby to attract more members and what was the relationship between their Club and local schools; where they see their club in terms of Hockey Ireland’s priorities; had they applied for a grant and if so, how successful was their application. A follow up session on all three meetings is planned for early in the new season. My thanks go again to John Dennis and Linda Monaghan for their help and support in these meetings.

On Sunday 27th June I chaired an online meeting of the Four Provinces Advisory Committee and welcomed H.I. Vice President, John Dennis and representatives from the Four Provinces – Kevin Keane, Connacht, David Curran, Leinster, Colette Coomey, Munster and Christine Reid, Ulster.  This was an introductory session to get this committee meeting again, look at the Terms of Reference and arrange a further meeting on Monday 19th July.

In my last newsletter, I mentioned that we were pleased to support Inez Cooper’s candidature for election to the Executive Board of the Federation Internationale de hockey (FIH). The FIH Congress was held online on 24th & 25th May, with a strict voting procedure which required practice sessions. Inez narrowly missed out in the election to the 2 sitting members. She is a candidate for Female Vice President of EHF, with the Congress due to take place in Prague on 19th August.  I was delighted, on behalf of Hockey Ireland, to write her supporting letter.

Finally, again I end on a sad note with the passing of Nora Smith on 24th May. In recognition of her international career, Nora was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2007 and was an Honorary Life Member of Hockey Ireland. After her playing career as an outstanding centre-half, she became the Irish Women’s first ever coach from 1973 to 1976. Our thoughts are with her family at this sad time.

Ann Rosa

12th July 2021

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Junior Green Army enjoy competitive series at Egara

Ireland’s Under-23 selection played out a series of competitive games at Club Egara, Spain last week in a Five Nations tournament that featured the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany and the host nation.

Against the Dutch, the tie was scoreless at half-time before the decorated opponents ended up winning 2-0 while Erin Getty had to depart early with a nasty head injury.

Game two was more open against Spain who took a 2-0 lead before Ellen Curran’s neat finish on the backhand got Ireland back in range. Spain did move further clear but some sharp reactions from Katie Fearon to her own rebound saw the game close out 4-2 in the host’s favour.

Against Belgium, it proved a frustrating 1-0 final score as Ireland held sway for much of the tie but could not find the killer touch.

Ireland did finish with a draw against Germany in a hugely impressive performance though they were left to rue two late goals which denied them victory. Abbie Russell’s super corner deflection made it 1-0 early in the game and that lead was doubled in the second half when Siofra O’Brien got an outstanding touch to Laura Foley’s cross.

But Germany fought back when they swapped out their goalkeeper in the closing minutes and took advantage of a couple of Irish sin-binnings to deny the Junior Green Army victory, settling for a 2-2 draw.

Nonetheless, coach Dave Passmore was upbeat about the performances from the campaign.

“Overall it was a great week against some of the world’s top teams at this level,” he said. “While we played some really good hockey and had periods of dominance in all games except the first. That said it was obvious most of the other players had not had the season-long Covid break we had and we were punished for lapses in concentration and defensive decision making.

“It was pleasing not to concede any open play goals against Holland, Germany and Belgium but it was evident we are behind in developing a depth of drag flickers.

“Our performance against Germany was probably the best I have ever seen for an Irish underage team but we will learn a lot from the last nine minutes when two goals up and they took their keeper off; getting two cards during that period being a costly.

“The players have been fabulous and committed to what this program is about while building a strong bond and team ethos. We look forward now to taking on the Wales senior team this weekend, a team that has grown in strength in recent years and is preparing for their Europeans in August.

“Hopefully Erin Getty will be fit to return after her serious facial cut. She has returned to our squad fitter and stronger than I’ve ever seen.”

Next on the agenda for Ireland is a trio of games next weekend at Jordanstown against the Welsh senior team with the squad shuffled once again to maximise development benefits.

This week’s fixture schedule (all at Jordanstown):
Friday, July 16: Ireland Development squad v Wales, 7pm
Saturday, July 17: Ireland Development squad v Wales, 4pm
Sunday, July 18: Ireland Development squad v Wales, 9.30am

Ireland development squad for Wales series: Roisin Begley (Catholic Institute/Munster), Nadia Benallal (Beeston/Leinster), Niamh Carey (UCD/Leinster), Ellen Curran (UCD/Leinster), Sophia Cole (UCD/Leinster), Amy Elliott (UCD/Leinster), Katie Fearon (Railway Union/Leinster), Laura Foley (Co-captain, Catholic Institute/Munster), Erin Getty (Queens/Ulster), Christina Hamill (Loreto/Leinster), Hannah Humphries (GK, Catholic Institute/Munster), Anna Horan (Catholic Institute/Munster), Jane Kilpatrick (Loughborough Students/Ulster), Orla Macken (Co-captain, Pembroke/Leinster), KJ Marshall (UCD/Leinster), Ellie McLoughlin (GK, Muckross/Leinster), Lisa Mulcahy (Loreto/Leinster), Siofra O’Brien (Loreto/Leinster), Sara Patton (Railway Union/Leinster), Caoimhe Perdue (UCC/Munster), Yasmin Pratt (Loreto/Leinster), Ellen Reid (Banbridge/Ulster), Jess McMaster (Queens/Ulster), Siofra Murdoch (Monkstown/Leinster)

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Right place, right time, McAuley embracing the journey

When Sarah McAuley boarded the plane to Japan on Friday, it was the start of her longest journey both geographically and metaphorically.

Prior to departure, Spain is the furthest she has been before while her rise to the Irish women’s Olympic squad is similarly far-flung as she admits herself.

“I definitely didn’t expect it to come so soon,” the 19-year-old McAuley said. “At the start of last year, I was just training in the club. When I checked the list last week, I thought maybe I will go as a travelling reserve, you never know.

“I checked those straight away and then looked up a little bit and was like ‘oh my God, there’s my name!’ I couldn’t believe it. Right person, right place, right time – I just keep saying that to myself.”

It is a journey that started at Avoca’s Under-8s section where her mother organised the fixtures. Multi-talented, it was among a spate of sports on her agenda; she played tennis at Monkstown LTC with soon-to-be fellow Olympian Sarah Healy, named in Team Ireland’s athletics line-up, won a Dublin ladies football Division One Feile title with Kilmacud Crokes and also represented the county at the All-Ireland Feile skills competition.

Hockey, though, shone through from second year onwards at Muckross Park where she went on to play in the senior team for four successive seasons.

It has perhaps helped her get used to being “the young one”. In third year at Muckross, she won the Leinster Schoolgirls Senior Cup and took bronze at the All-Irelands under coach Una McCarthy.

McCarthy is the mother of Irish team mate Michelle Carey and McAuley hails her as a key influence and one who will be sorely missed at Muckross Park following her retirement this year.

Two Senior Premier League titles followed but another league success proved elusive with the 2020 cup final – scheduled to be against a Hannah Matthews’ coached Loreto Beaufort – cancelled due to Covid.

All along, Muckross alumni Anna O’Flanagan would flit in and out as a guest coach around her stint in the Netherlands, showing off her medal at the Marlborough Road school a number of years ago.

McAuley got a snap of it, one that she could compare to them lining out side by side at the Euros after her first – and only – formal cap.

“They say you should never meet your heroes but I totally disagree,” went the caption and McAuley says it did not take time to assimilate.

“In sixth year, I started to play with her in the club and she took a few sessions at school.

“Definitely, I looked up to these girls and now to be playing with them every day is a dream come true. They are not just team mates, now. They are friends – we hang out all the time and they are so lovely. It is cool!”

Despite the ease of the transition, she does admit is has taken her by surprise as the unfortunate knee injuries to Beth Barr and Zoe Wilson opened up an opportunity for a defensive reshuffle just a couple of months after she started training with the side.

“I came in with seven or eight younger girls around mid-November, coming up to Christmas. I thought I was just there to fill numbers.

“In January, I was part of the development squad and the core of the Under-23s but in February, I got to be part of those uncapped games against GB in Belfast.

“It was more delight to be able to have that opportunity to play them. Considering it was so close to Tokyo and the Europeans, I really didn’t think I would have the chance this summer. With the way things went with Covid and with the squad, I guess I was the right person, right place, right time.”

And take her chance she did. One of her first interventions off the bench was to flat-bat a tackle to nick the ball of Lily Owsley.

“I didn’t realise it! Once I get stuck into a game, I don’t really mind who I am playing against. It is just 11 versus 11, each with two hands, two feet, one stick.

“After it, I did think ‘wow, I was playing all those Olympians’. I was definitely a bit star-struck afterwards. Mabe I was a bit naïve and didn’t know what I was up against but more just enjoyed the experience.”

And that was how she was viewing the European Championships initially. Covid allowed for two extra reserves to travel to the event, a nice bonus to get the lie of the land before a couple of niggles in the central 18 gave her a chance to play in game five against Italy.

“Oh completely. I couldn’t wait to see even what happens in and around the tournament. I’d never been to Europeans underage so I didn’t know what to expect. When you are watching for that long on the sidelines, you are hoping for maybe a chance to play and lucky enough I got the last game.

Sarah McAuley carries team-mate Anna O’Flanagan during a Tokyo 2020 Team Ireland Announcement. Picture: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

“I was absolutely raring to go at that stage! When it was me and Zara [Malseed, the other reserve], it was grand. We also had Gareth [Grundie] to take individual sessions on the side pitch with us but when Zara got her call, I had to do the session by myself; it was pretty rough when you see the other 19 players heading out. That was tough but it paid off.”

Again, she was assured and smart in the 3-0 win over the Italians, defensively astute while an audacious backhand pass from halfway into the D to pick out Deirdre Duke showed plenty of verve.

“The girls just said enjoy the day, enjoy that first cap. I was definitely soaking up the atmosphere. Once the game starts, you just try your best. Sean always tells me to ‘make a decision’ and I quite like my reverse – maybe I am more comfortable on that side! – so it came naturally.”

It inspired confidence and nudged her up above the line from reserves to the main Olympic squad. Right person, right place, right time!

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Strong start for Irish Under-19s in Four Nations series

Ireland’s young guns completed a clean sweep from their opening Under-19 Four Nations Development Series, winning four from four games against Wales at Jordanstown.

The girls ran up a 6-0 success on Saturday, backed up by a 5-0 victory on Sunday with two comprehensive displays.

In both ties, they got off to strong starts and never looked back with Eva Lavelle and Sophie Dix setting the tone in the first quarter of the opener. Ella Brown extended the lead to three before Emma Paul, Ali Griffin and Aisling Murray chipped in.

On Sunday, it was 2-0 by half-time with Cork’s Leah O’Shea setting the ball rolling with a rocket of a backhand shot before Murray nabbed her second of the weekend.

Corner goals from O’Shea and Milly Lynch stretched the lead further before Martha McCready rounded off the weekend in style.

Picture: Billy Pollock

On the boys side, it was a much tighter double-header with game one decided by just a single goal – scored in the ninth minute by … – decided the contest.

Game two was far more open. James Maginnis and Max Anderson fired Ireland into a 2-0 lead but Wales were back on terms early in the final quarter to leave it anyone’s game.

But a brilliant Louis Rowe deflection put Ireland back in front and the game was safe when Evan Jennings and Sam Walker slipped home a couple of close-range goals. Wales did get a third back from a penalty corner but Ireland held on for a 5-3 success.

Next on the agenda for Ireland’s Under-19 teams is a trip to Lilleshall to face England with games next Friday and Saturday.

Under-19 Four Nations Development Series
Girls

Saturday: Ireland 6 (E Lavelle, S Dix, E Brown, E Paul, A Griffin, A Murray) Wales 0
Sunday: Ireland 5 (L O’Shea 2, A Murray, M Lynch, M McCready) Wales 0

Boys
Saturday: Ireland 1 (M Anderson) Wales 0
Sunday: Ireland 5 (J Maginnis, M Anderson, L Rowe, E Jennings, S Walker) Wales 3

Next week’s fixtures

Friday, July 15: Ireland U-19 girls v England, 2.30pm; Ireland U-19 boys v England, 4.45pm (both at Lilleshall)
Saturday, July 16: Ireland U-19 girls v England, 9.30am; Ireland U-19 boys v England, 11.30am (both at Lilleshall)

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Hockey Ireland Announces Three Year Sponsorship with AIB and Hockey Ireland’s Junior Age Group Girls

Hockey Ireland today announced a three-year long sponsorship with AIB and Hockey Ireland’s Junior Age Group Girls.

Hockey Ireland’s Junior Age Girls Group programme is comprised of the Under 18 and Under 16 squads that together form an important part of the sport’s high-performance pathway, enabling some of Ireland’s most talented young hockey players reach their full potential.

AIB Head of Corporate, Institutional and Wholesale Banking Cathy Bryce said:

“AIB is delighted to be sponsoring Hockey Ireland’s Junior Age Group Girls programme. At AIB we want to enable young people to achieve their true potential, and this sponsorship enables us to provide support to a key element of Irish hockey’s high performance programme.

“Few teams have brought as much joy and inspiration in recent times as the women’s senior hockey team and we are delighted to be able to support those who aspire to match their incredible achievements in future years.”

Hockey Ireland Performance Director Adam Grainger added this is a huge boost for the stars of the future:

“Hockey Ireland Junior Age Grade girls’ teams welcome AIB onboard and look forward to its sponsorship of the upcoming series Four Nations Development Series starting this weekend. This AIB and Hockey Ireland partnership adds extra impetus to immediate programme plans and further afield towards Paris 2024 and Los Angeles 2028 Olympic qualification.”

Hockey Ireland CEO Jerome Pels added:

“AIB has a strong connection with hockey as a sport and we very much look forward to working together in the coming years at supporting our junior players which is at the heart of the young hockey players’ development programme.”

The announcement comes ahead of this month’s Under-19 Four Nations Development Series with England, Scotland and Wales which will run over three consecutive weekends with six rounds of matches in total for both boys and girls.

Ireland will host Wales at Jordanstown for their double-header next weekend before travelling to England on the weekend of July 16 and 17 at Lilleshall. The series finishes off with a return to Jordanstown against Scotland on July 24 and 25.

The series is the highlight of their summer for the teams as Ireland’s JAG teams get back into action for the first time since February 2020. It follows the cancellation of their European Championship campaign last summer due to the Covid-19 pandemic and so the players will be raring to go for this new challenge.

Four Nations Development Series 
Saturday, July 9: Ireland U-19 girls v Wales, 2pm; Ireland U-19 boys v Wales, 4pm (both at University of Ulster Jordanstown)
Sunday, July 10: Ireland U-19 girls v Wales, 10am; Ireland U-19 boys v Wales, 12.15pm (both at University of Ulster Jordanstown)

Saturday, July 16: Ireland U-19 girls v England, 2pm; Ireland U-19 boys v England, 4pm (both at Lilleshall)
Sunday, July 17: Ireland U-19 girls v England, 2pm; Ireland U-19 boys v England, 4pm (both at Lilleshall)

Saturday, July 24: Ireland U-19 girls v Scotland, 2pm; Ireland U-19 boys v Scotland, 4pm (both at University of Ulster Jordanstown)
Sunday, July 25: Ireland U-19 girls v Scotland, 10am; Ireland U-19 boys v Scotland, 12.15pm (both at University of Ulster Jordanstown)

** To read more about the JAG Under-19 squad, click here

** Further info on the JAG Boys Under-19 squad is here

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Oscar Wilde’s Hockey Club ready to launch this summer

Hockey Ireland has joined with Sport Ireland and Sporting Pride for the #LetsGetVisible campaign as part of Dublin Pride Health and Wellbeing Week.

The campaign aims to recognise and acknowledge the importance of visibility and representation amongst the LGBTQI+ community, specifically in the sport sector.

Ireland is currently home to two LGBTQI+ specific clubs, the Pink Ladies and the Oscar Wildes. This week, we got the lowdown on the Oscar Wildes from founder Cormac McKay as he looks to get the club up and running.

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“Starting a team in the middle of a pandemic! It’s difficult enough as it is!” he said of the new venture. “It’s a brand new club we are trying to setup but it now looks like we have a target with the Euro Games in Copenhagen set to go ahead in August.”

The Euro Games is an LGBTI+ inclusive sporting event including 29 sports and will take place from Wednesday, August 18 to Friday, August 20 in Copenhagen. McKay previously linked up with the Black Swans – from Copenhagen as it happens – at the competition in Stockholm and that’s “how I got mixed up in it!”

“That was about four years ago. I just answered an ad on Facebook. It was a Danish team that was looking for players so I ended up playing with the Black Swans of Copenhagen. I really, really enjoyed it! I met the Pink Ladies over there and I made a promise to the Ladies that I’d try and form an Irish team so here I am now trying to get it going.

“It’s always more fun when it’s overseas and it’s very much a fun competition. It’s not hyper competitive and I truly enjoyed it when I was in Stockholm so I definitely want to try and get a men’s team going.

For his part, McKay followed in his family footsteps to take up the game 24 years ago, first with Smithfield and then with St Brendan’s/Phoenix Park and now under the Dublin North banner with whom he still plays.

With the Oscar Wildes, they will host summer hockey sessions on Monday and Friday evenings at 8pm at the National Sports Campus in Blanchardstown.

It will be open to any new or old players of any age any skill to come and play; registration is only €20 for the summer.

“I have a handful at the moment and haven’t really promoted it yet to the clubs. I had been holding off until there are clearer guidelines coming from Denmark about what is allowed but, by the look of things, fingers crossed it will all go ahead.

“This will be a brand new team from scratch and we will have the facilities of the National Sports Campus as our training venue.

“It is a bit of fun; it is not a ‘serious’ competition but it is about trying to get more members of the LGBT community involved in sport.

“It is primarily for international events. I don’t really see us having enough players to run a league; maybe down the road, there might be enough to run a team in Division 8 or something like that. At the moment, I don’t see a need for a team like the Dublin Devils [in football] or the Emerald Warriors [in rugby].”

** If you’re interested in finding out more about the Oscar Wilde’s LGBTQ men’s hockey club you can contact Cormac McKay on cormac325@gmail.com.You can also follow them on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/Oscar-Wildes-LGBTQ-mens-hockey-club-2710879852257178/

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Junior Green Army win GB Series ahead of Five Nations in Spain

Sophia Cole’s late equaliser saw Ireland’s development squad land an impressive series win over their Great Britain counterparts at Jordanstown, ending the four-game run with two wins, a draw and one loss on the ledger.

The UCD midfielder struck with two minutes left on the clock with a peach of a backhand shot from a penalty corner to earn a 2-2 draw in the last game of the series.

Earlier in the tie, Limerick native Laura Foley cracked home to make it 1-1 from another set play before GB edged back in front in the third quarter.

The draw backed up a pair of 1-0 wins for Ireland, the first coming last Tuesday with Niamh Carey stealing in at the back post for the only goal and then, a day later, captain Foley scoring again following a brilliant counter-attack move instigated by Jessica McMaster.

Game three belonged to the visitors with Britain running up a 3-0 win but game four was much more even and the Junior Green Army got a deserved draw to shade the series.

Overall, coach Dave Passmore was able to deploy 27 players over the course of the week for the squad which plays a key role in developing players for the senior setup.

Ireland celebrate Sophia Cole’s late equaliser. Picture: Keith Wilson (https://www.keithwilsonphotography.com/hockeyireland)

Indeed, it has been a fertile production line of late with Olympic call-ups Sarah McAuley, Sarah Hawkshaw, Sarah Torrans, Lizzie Murphy and Michelle Carey all featuring in recent times.

From this, he has since named a reduced panel of 20 to travel to Club Egara in Spain for a Five Nations between equivalent teams from the Netherlands, Belgium, Spain and Germany. The tournament rules stipulate teams can field up to eight sides from an Under-23 category with the remainder having to be Under-21.

“There is a nice mix of experienced players with senior caps and younger players such as Charlotte Beggs who impressed in our recent trip to Spain,” Passmore said of this latest selection.

“There are no easy games in this tournament and we obviously have a hard start with the first match against The Netherlands but the GB series has demonstrated that we can compete and this should be a great leaning experience to see exactly where we are at.”

The series also saw the return of senior cap Erin Getty to the line-up after a break from the program and she slotted back in to great effect.

“I am delighted the Erin Getty has rejoined the squad after a concerted effort on improving her fitness and she was a stand-out player in the series against GB. She combines excellent technique with a really mature reading of the game and so fitted straight back in and the girls are delighted she is back playing.

“We are very thankful to Spanish Hockey for hosting this tournament alongside a boys event given the tournament we had planned in Dublin could not go ahead due to Covid Protocols.”

The following week, the panel will see a number of changes for a three-game series against the Wales senior team with games at Jordanstown on Friday, July 16, Saturday, July 17 and Sunday, July 18. Their summer series will conclude three more games against a Wales Under-23 side from July 21 to 23.

Under-21 5 Nations, Club Egara (Saturday, July 3 to Saturday, July 10, 2021): Charlotte Beggs (Pegasus/Ulster), Niamh Carey (UCD/Leinster), Ellen Curran (UCD/Leinster), Sophia Cole (UCD/Leinster), Amy Elliott (UCD/Leinster), Katie Fearon (Railway Union/Leinster), Laura Foley (Catholic Institute/Munster), Gemma Ferguson (GK, Ulster Elks/Ulster), Erin Getty (Queens/Ulster), Christina Hamill (Loreto/Leinster), Jane Kilpatrick (Loughborough Students/Ulster), Ellie McLoughlin (GK, Muckross/Leinster), Jess McMaster (Queens/Ulster), Lisa Mulcahy (Loreto/Leinster), Siofra Murdoch (Monkstown/Leinster), Siofra O’Brien (Loreto/Leinster), Caoimhe Perdue (UCC/Munster), Ellen Reid (Banbridge/Ulster), Yasmin Pratt (Loreto/Leinster), Abbie Russell (Old Alex/Leinster)

Non-Travelling Reserves: KJ Marshall (UCD/Leinster), Roisin Begley (Catholic Institute/Munster)

Management:
Head coach:
David Passmore
Manager: Lorraine McGowan
Coach: Steven Arbuthnot
Coach: Una McCarthy
Physio: Amy Phelan
Physiology support: Lauren Daey
Analyst: Aaron Passmore

Fixture schedule (all at Club Egara, Spain; times local)
Monday, July 5: Ireland v Netherlands, 8pm
Tuesday, July 6: Ireland v Spain, 8pm
Thursday, July 8: Ireland v Germany, 6pm
Friday, July 9: Ireland v Belgium, 6pm

Team Ireland confirm squad for Tokyo Olympic Games

The Olympic Federation of Ireland formally announced the Irish women’s panel to travel to the Tokyo for the Olympic Games with 16 players and three travelling reserves confirmed.

The side will fly out to Japan on July 9 ahead of their debut on this stage on July 24 against South Africa at the Oi Stadium.

Over 20 months since qualification was confirmed, captain Katie Mullan says this day brings about a realisation of many years hard work, not just of those who have their Olympic dream move closer, but also from the wider panel who helped push the standards.

“With competition in our squad at its best and only 16 spots available, we always knew this was going to be the toughest selection,” Mullan said.

“31 players have played a massive role in our preparations over the past 10 months and we are honoured to represent the Green Army at the Olympic games.

“There has been a tremendous amount of work put in by the girls and each of them deserve this opportunity. It’s an exciting time for us and our families.”

Speaking about the selection, Irish head coach Sean Dancer agreed it was the selection panel’s hardest decision yet but he is excited about the possibilities his line-up brings to the table.

“It has been a tough time to get it right,” Dancer said “I really feel we have picked a great balance of senior players and experience and then adding in the excitement and opportunity of youth. Once we get to the Olympics, it will be just about playing hockey and making the most of the opportunities that come from it.”

There was an extra layer to selection with only 16 spots available for the Olympics compared to the usual 18 that would be available for a world ranking tournament.

“Going from 18 to 16 adds an extra complexity to it and the team hasn’t been in that position before. We have to consider those extra little things people contribute to the team and weighing that up was certainly tough.

“Versatility is really important when you get down to 16, even to the point of getting someone to fill the goalkeeper role in case there is an injury [to Ayeisha McFerran].

“If there is an injury during the game or just before it, you can’t bring in a replacement so we would have to bring in one of the field players. Even things like that need to be considered. We do have a couple who are able and willing which is the first thing we need.”

The panel features 11 of the panel that played in the 2018 World Cup run to silver: Ayeisha McFerran, Chloe Watkins, Hannah Matthews, Nicci Daly, Róisín Upton, Deirdre Duke, Katie Mullan, Shirley McCay, Lena Tice, Lizzie Holden and Anna O’Flanagan.

All also featured in June’s EuroHockey Championships as did Hannah McLoughlin, Naomi Carroll, Sarah Hawkshaw and Sarah McAuley.

For defender McAuley, it continues her rapid rise to prominence since linking up with the panel in the spring and making her formal international debut in the last game of the Euros against Italy.

Sarah Torrans, meanwhile, gets her chance to make a senior international tournament debut. The speedster was initially named in the Euros panel but missed out through injury but is in line now to link up with the side.

Ireland can bring a number of travelling reserves to the event with Michelle Carey and Zara Malseed waiting in the wings for the outfield spots while Lizzie Murphy is the goalkeeping cover. They can potentially step in if there are injuries within the main panel.

What it means is, from the European squad, Nikki Evans and Megan Frazer are the ones to narrowly miss out on selection.

“We have gone for the option of Sarah Torrans coming back into the group,” Dancer said of the line-up. “She was performing well before the Europeans. No fault of her own, she wasn’t able to go through injury so when we cut back the numbers, Nikki Evans – with all her experience and incredible contributions to the team – was the unfortunate one to miss out.

“Sarah McAuley has impressed since coming into our environment as early as February and the first GB series. She got the opportunity to play that last Italian game [at the Euros] and she showed mobility, comfort on the ball and certainly showed she is willing to mix it with the senior girls.

“She has a very exciting career ahead of her and it is an exciting time for her. She does have minimal experience but sometimes that is the best way to approach it; she doesn’t have that eight of expectation and can just go out there and play and that’s what we hope she does.”

As for the historical context, Dancer is fully aware of the significance of this final run-in to a maiden Olympic appearance for an Irish women’s team, something he says the team will not take for granted.

“Ireland’s senior women have had a long history and everybody that has gone before, in this group and previously, has made a huge contribution to where we are now. That really needs to be acknowledged; we will be at the Olympics, doing it for all of them and the long history that has gone before.”

Ireland women’s squad for Olympic Games – July 24-August 4, 2021, Oi Stadium, Tokyo, Japan (club/caps):
Ayeisha McFerran (SV Kampong, 105) – goalkeeper
Naomi Carroll (Catholic Institute, 115)
Lizzie Colvin (Belfast Harlequins, 201)
Nicci Daly (Loreto, 194)
Sarah Hawkshaw (Railway Union, 38)
Hannah Matthews (Loreto, 152)
Shirley McCay (Pegasus, 311)
Hannah McLoughlin (UCD, 19)
Katie Mullan (Ballymoney, 198) – captain
Anna O’Flanagan (Muckross, 212) – vice-captain
Lena Tice (Old Alex, 1114)
Sarah Torrans (Loreto, 26)
Róisín Upton (Catholic Institute, 81)
Chloe Watkins (Monkstown, 229)
Deirdre Duke (Old Alex, 146)
Sarah McAuley (Muckross, 1)

Travelling reserves:
Lizzie Murphy (Loreto, 13) – goalkeeper
Michelle Carey (UCD, 5)
Zara Malseed (Ards, 2)

** All of the profiles of the athletes can be viewed HERE.

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Women’s development panel take on GB at Jordanstown

A 28 player Irish women’s national development squad will take on their Great Britain counterparts in four games this week as part of an eight-day camp at University of Ulster, Jordanstown.

The aim of this panel is to develop the next group of senior internationals, a key task with the likely evolution of the panel for the World Cup qualifier in October and a EuroHockey Championship qualifier in 2022.

The squad incorporates the Irish Under-21 group who will play in their European Championships next summer along with one Irish Under-19 player, Charlotte Beggs.

The squad in this current format has been in existence since 2018 and has seen many players progress to the senior setup with Serena and Bethany Barr, Michelle and Niamh Carey, Ellen Curran, Sarah Hawkshaw, Sarah McAuley, Hannah McLoughlin, Lizzie Murphy and Sarah Torrans among them.

This series will be used to select a panel for a Five Nations in Barcelona, Spain from July 5-10 which also features Belgium, Spain, Germany and the Netherlands. The squad will also play games against the Welsh seniors and Under-23s in July.

Speaking about the setup, head coach Dave Passmore said: “After a long year of lockdown where physical training has dominated much of what we have done, this is an ideal camp environment with matches to develop these players further.

“Under the direction of new S&C Coach Cliodhna O’Connor, the players have worked really hard to push their physical levels over the past six months. This is such a key feature in the women’s game and essential in allowing players to progress to the Green Army.

“It was great to get away to the south of Spain last week where we included five of the Under-19s due to play in the Under-19 Four Nations in July but this is the first time we can get most of the National Development Squad together in a camp environment and the matches will be ideal given the lack of competitive hockey in the past 15 months.

“While we were competitive against the Spain Under-21 and Development teams, it was clear most of our players lacked competitive match play so these matches will allow us to build on that and select the team for the Five Nations next month”

“We are delighted to have the support of Park Developments along now with two other new program supports in PrimeCore and Cantor Fitzgerald who will support our trip to the 5 Nations in Barcelona.”

Fixture schedule (all at Jordanstown)
Tuesday, June 22:
Ireland v Great Britain, 4.15pm
Wednesday, June 23: Ireland v Great Britain, 4.15pm
Friday, June 25: Ireland v Great Britain, 2pm
Saturday, June 26: Ireland v Great Britain, 10am

Irish women’s national development squad: Roisin Begley (Catholic Institute/Munster), Charlotte Beggs (Pegasus/Ulster), Nadia Benallal (Beeston/Ulster), Niamh Carey (UCD/Leinster), Ellen Curran (UCD/Leinster), Sophia Cole (UCD/Leinster), Amy Elliott (UCD/Leinster), Katie Fearon (Railway Union/Leinster), Laura Foley (Catholic Institute/Munster), Gemma Ferguson (GK, Ulster Elks/Ulster), Erin Getty (Queens/Ulster), Christina Hamill (Loreto/Leinster), Anna Horan (UConn Huskies, USA/Munster), Jane Kilpatrick (Loughborough Students/Ulster), Orla Macken (Pembroke/Leinster), KJ Marshall (UCD/Leinster), Ellie McLoughlin (GK, Muckross/Leinster), Jess McMaster (Queens/Ulster), Lisa Mulcahy (Loreto/Leinster), Siofra Murdoch (Monkstown/Leinster), Siofra O’Brien (Loreto/Leinster), Sara Patton (Railway Union/Leinster), Caoimhe Perdue (UCC/Munster), Ellen Reid (Banbridge/Ulster), Yasmin Pratt (Loreto/Leinster), Millie Regan (GK, Railway Union/Leinster), Abbie Russell (Old Alex/Leinster), Muireann Scanlon (UCC/Munster), Caitlin Sherin (Loreto/Leinster)

Not Available: Hannah Humphries (GK, Catholic Institute/Munster)

Management:
Head coach: David Passmore
Manager: Lorraine McGowan
Coach: Steven Arbuthnot
Coach: Una McCarthy
Assistant coach: Niamh Small
Physio: Thomas Murray
S&C: Cliodhna O’Connor
Physiology support: Lauren Daey
GK coach: Iain Hughes

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Umpire Alison Keogh reflects on step forward at Euros

Among the busiest performers at last week’s EuroHockey Championships in Amsterdam was Irish umpire Alison Keogh, clocking up four games on the pitch and four in the video umpire role.

It was a tournament which saw her make another step forward, umpiring her first ever European semi-final in addition to a second bronze medal match, significant milestones in her progression.

We caught up with her to get her thoughts on the tournament and how she felt it went for her personally. First off, we asked how she assessed the tournament in general?

“It was unbelievable to be back in front of a crowd,” she said “The Europeans in 2019 was probably the last time. There’s been a couple of games since then but nothing really substitutes that atmosphere that you get.

“Simply being here and be able to be with people you haven’t seen in a couple of years and to perform at that level is a privilege. I am delighted to get the semi-final in particular; it is a progression for me, particularly as we had quite a strong panel of six Pro League umpires.

“I guess you never walk away completely happy. There’s things we looked at coming into the tournament like the aerial ball, the interpretation of that has changed ever so slightly. You always look at game management, things like that which you always try to improve.

“But having not done hockey for so long, to get back to that level and to perform at that level was really great and I was pretty happy overall with my performance.”

Can you speak a bit more about the various stages of progression and the stepping stones it takes to get to this level?

“We have a number of different gradings. First off, you have to attend an event which is eligible for an international standard, usually a senior international event where you have umpires managers.

“They judge your performance based on decision-making, your presence, your team work on the pitch, your fitness, these kind of elements. At the end, you get a score. Depending on that, you might get upgraded. You try to get up to FIH level and then, depending on how you do, you might progress.

“They put you in higher levels of competition to test you and then if you perform, you might move on to a higher level again. There’s five panels, so once you are at Pro League level, it’s about maintaining performance to make sure you stay on that panel. Progression can come in different forms.

“It might be how you manage the game, or the type of games you get. Semi-finals or bronze medal matches are the ones people look at in tournaments but, actually, a sign you have progressed from simply being there could also be an important relegation game.

“I guess you never walk away completely happy. There’s things we looked at coming into the tournament like the aerial ball, the interpretation of that has changed ever so slightly. You always look at game management, things like that which you always try to improve.”

Your face became a frequent feature in the video booth, particularly in a crazy 6-5 win for Germany’s men against France. Talk a little about how that compares to umpiring on the pitch?

“TV is a completely different set of skills, a completely different preparation. You can’t practice until you are actually in it and you can only practice it in really important games. It’s actually tricky to get to grips with.

“What you have to done is remain as calm as possible and just keep it as simple as possible. On the pitch, things are quite instinctive but in video, you have to try and look for the black and white and be objective. The tricky calls are when it is not black and white.

“The briefing says that unless there is a clear reason to change the umpire’s decision on the pitch, you only step in if it is clear. If you remember that, it is slightly easier. It is a different set of skills and an interesting perspective.”

** Alison is currently on the reserve list for the Tokyo Olympics.
** To start your journey in umpiring, click here