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President’s Newsletter May 2021

It is great to see that hockey and outdoor sport can start again across the 4 provinces. It has been a long period of restrictions with no games to watch or events to attend.  I must admit I had never experienced meetings on zoom in March 2020, but this has become a daily way of hockey life over the last 14 months.

With no hockey matches and events, John Dennis, Vice-President, Linda Monaghan, National Development Manager and I were keen to communicate with smaller clubs; those that have a maximum of 3 adult teams, are not involved in EYHL and ideally have a developing youth section and have organised pilot communication meetings with these clubs.

We held our first session was on 18th March, when we were joined by club representatives from Antrim, Ashton, Crescent, Dungannon, Dungarvan, Greenfields, Kilkenny, Kinvara, Midleton, Mullingar, Priorians and Tullamore. We were pleased to welcome Eric Brady, Chair of Hockey Ireland’s Board of Directors. Topics discussed included how clubs were coping with the Covid restrictions and the impact on their Youth/Underage section; where did their Club see itself in terms of Hockey Ireland’s priorities; how did their club see a role for your Club in supporting the Women’s team for the Olympics and how was their Club coping financially, coupled with the importance of participation in National Competitions?

A second session was held on 29th April when we were joined by Eric Brady and club representatives from Abbeyleix, Athlone, Ballynahinch, Carlow, Catholic Institute, Clonakilty, Galway, Gorey, Limavady, Limerick, Naas, Raphoe, Saintfield, Tipperary and Wicklow. Over a two-hour chat, topics discussed were how had their club coped with the Covid restrictions and in particular the impact on their Youth/Underage section; how was their club keeping the link between players of all standards, leaving school and continuing to play hockey at 3rd level education; has their club a pathway for developing Under 16 players into adult hockey and would their club be interested in joining a workshop to get advice on grant applications?

We plan to continue with this project with our 3rd meeting on Wednesday 2nd June and hopefully organise a Forum at the start of the new season to feedback on questions that came up in the 3 sessions. My thanks go to John, Linda and Eric for their help, support and enthusiasm with the meetings.

When only our elite hockey players could carry on with their preparations the 3-game series that the Women played against GB in March gave us all the chance to watch live hockey on TV. The Irish women played exceptionally well and showed great determination and drive to level the series with a win, a draw and a defeat. The squad have played another series against Great Britain and continued with practice games against Scotland on 15th & 16th May before the European Championships in the Netherlands in June.

Mark Tumilty, the Senior Men’s Coach, is pleased with the progress being made by the players currently involved with the Senior Men’s Programme. Regional sessions are taking place in Leinster, Munster and Ulster midweek, with national sessions happening at the weekend. The focus in the coming weeks will be preparing for the European B division in Poland, in August. Mark hopes to confirm warm-up games against Scotland and Great Britain during June and July. It has been a difficult 12 months with many unknowns, but hopefully things are becoming clearer and the players are excited to get playing competitive matches again.

We are delighted to support Inez Cooper’s candidature for election to the Executive Board of the Federation Internationale de hockey (FIH). Inez has a long and distinguished history of involvement in hockey in Ireland and has filled significant roles at Club, Provincial and International level. In July 2021 she will celebrate eight years on the Executive Board of the European Hockey Federation (EHF). The election will take place on 22nd May.

Soon after writing my first newsletter, we heard of the passing of Vivienne Clarke, a stalwart of Hockey Ireland. Vivienne will be sadly missed as she went out of her way to help everyone. With the restrictions on travel and funeral service attendance, we were unable to join Vivienne’s family at her funeral service but were able to watch the service online and hear the very fitting tributes and joy that she brought into the life of so many. A minute’s silence, before the start of Ireland’s Sunday match against Great Britain at Queens University’s Playing Fields, enabled the hockey community to remember Vivienne.

More sad news arrived when the death of Cees Koppelaar on 26th April at the age of 81 was announced. Cees was Ireland’s first external appointment as Senior Men’s Coach from 1987 to 1997 and later became an Honorary Life Member of Hockey Ireland. He brought a new dimension to the game in Ireland, based on his vast experience in identifying young talented players in Holland. He established a network of key coaches at Interprovincial level and was a regular visitor to the provinces, where he ran training sessions for existing and potential international players. Behind his affable and friendly approach to all was a steely resolve to achieve. This focus for success was reflected in the Senior Men competing in the World Cup in Lahore in 1990 and finishing fifth in the European Championships in 1995. Tributes to him say that he “put Ireland on the map in European and World terms”.

 

Ann Rosa

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Tumilty Looking Towards International Stage this Summer

With some light at the end of the COVID-19 tunnel. Irish men’s coach Mark Tumilty is looking forward to finally unleashing some young guns onto the international stage following almost a 20-month wait.

The last outings for the side were October 2019’s Olympic qualifiers in Vancouver. With the end of that cycle, there was always going to be a turnover of players and some new faces as the coach looked to the 2023 World Cup and Paris 2024. That rejuvenation, however, went on hold with the 2020 schedule wiped out but the Banbridge man can look forward to a busy second half to this year with plenty on the table.

Fixtures against Scotland and Great Britain are pencilled in for June and July ahead of August’s EuroHockey Championship II in Gniezno, Poland and a subsequent World Cup qualifier in October. It is a flurry of action from which Tumilty says plenty of new faces will get their chance to shine.

“We have a very young group, an exciting group and one that has worked extremely hard over the last year,” he said.

“But it is definitely a rebuild job that we need to embrace. We need to be patient with these players. There will be ups and downs and challenges, but I definitely think there is talent to work with and that’s part of the enjoyment in the role.”

Having that World Cup qualifier shot is a big boost for Tumilty. It means a top four finish at the Euro B division will put the Green Machine into an eight-team event with two places on the line. Initially, such an avenue looked to be off limits but the European Hockey Federation’s members canvassed successfully for this option to be introduced.

“Excellent news. When I first saw we weren’t getting a World Cup qualifier shot, alarm bells were ringing. But it reflects the good work of the EHF and their relationship they have with their federations.

“They deserve a lot of credit for that. It gives the lads a good focus for the next three or four months and could give us an extra focus for 2022.

“Having said that, with the FIH calendar, there is lots happening every year with the Nations Cup and the new Euro qualifier process. It is good to see that it gives us a structure.

“It highlights to me the importance of growing our player base. A lot of the guys returning home are now going into employment; we have to recognise people have a certain amount of annual leave; there’s not the same flexibility as if they were full-time players. We need to be able to manage it and have those younger players coming through.”

Since the Olympic qualifiers, Chris Cargo and Eugene Magee have formally retired while Jonny Bell, Stephen Cole and Stu Loughrey are taking time out for the time being.

It means opportunity knocks for the youngsters which Tumilty has been working with in regional sessions. In Munster, ex-internationals David Hobbs and Jonny Bruton have been heading things up; in Ulster, Erroll Lutton, Ray Geddis and Scott McCandless are in situ while Irish Under-21 coach Joe Brennan and senior assistant coach Jason Klinkradt are on board in Leinster.

Tumilty has also picked up some strong additions to his support staff. Eoin Cunniffe has been installed as physical performance lead for the side and the junior age groups while Neill Irwin will be the team manager and nutritionist.

“Eoin co-ordinates the medical side of the staff, the physios, the S&C and so on. He has done really well in developing the guys physically. The way the game has gone, it has moved a bit more toward the physical side from the technical and tactical side.

“We have definitely made strides in that area which I am pleased with. He has a good relationship with the players and is someone we are working with a long-term objective to develop in the underage groups.

“For Neill, he is also involved with Dublin GAA as a nutritionist which gives him a great understanding of high performance and has been involved with a very successful and professional environment.

“Manager is a key role and he has developed a good relationship with the players. Staffing-wise, it is good to get the team nailed down. It has taken a while but it is getting there.”

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Ireland Take 4 – 1 Win Over Scotland

Ireland 4 (Evans, Malseed, Hawkshaw, O’Flanagan), Scotland (Semple).

Ireland secures a second victory in as many days against Scotland. The match got underway with higher energy than the start of yesterday’s game, with Evans pushing the ball up the pitch and O’Flanagan chasing it fast, but Scotland’s Buchanan managed to get there before O’Flanagan could make the most of the opportunity. Scotland countered shortly after with a shot from Jamieson into the Irish circle, however, she sent the ball wide of the mark with no one on hand to meet it. O’Flanagan managed to put herself in a strong position for a second shot on the goal, but Buchanan came out to meet her and the deflection failed to convert to a goal. McLoughlin, Evans and Duke all contributed to further pressing the Scottish defence, however, it was a penalty corner to Ireland that saw McCay’s shot defended from the goal but Evans securing the rebound to give Ireland the lead in the opening quarter.

There were chances for both sides in the remainder of the quarter with Malseed set up in front of the Scotland goal before being pushed out, while Jamieson and Howie launched a brief attack on the Irish circle before being defended out. Scotland’s Dark pressed hard towards the close of the quarter but an interception from Evans, and some strong defence from McAuley finished the first quarter Ireland 1 – 0 Scotland.
The second quarter saw Captain Katie Mullan offload to Watkins for a skilful entry into Scottish territory before passing it off to Malseed to sweep into the net for a 2 – 0 lead. McLoughlin worked well to provide Carroll with an opportunity to further this moments later, the visitors defended well and the whistle blew as O’Flanagan attempted a shot as possession came back to Ireland in the circle. Camlin had gotten her pad to the ball regardless.
A McLoughlin and Evans worked well bringing the ball up to the Scottish circle, although Wilson pushed them back out. A Scottish attack was intercepted by Upton, passed to Carey for a long run up the pitch to off load to Carroll who was pushed out. It wasn’t long before McCay’s pass to Evans lined up Sarah Hawkshaw to put the ball past Camlin for an extended lead of 3 – 0. Ireland’s penalty corner opportunity with 5 minutes remaining in the first half saw the deflection go high. Scotland responded shortly afterwards with a penalty corner of their own, with Semple managing to get the ball past McFerran after scattered play in the circle. Half time saw Ireland 3 – 1 Scotland.
Jamieson secured a penalty corner for Scotland as the second half got underway, Ireland defended well with McLoughin forcing it out of play. Colvin attempted a strong shot into the Scottish circle, but Dark met it and sent it back out. Not long later Upton finds O’Flanagan in a quiet Scottish circle who finds her way past the keeper to the net, bringing the score line to Ireland 4 – 1 Scotland.
Sarah Hawkshaw was on form with a skilful interception from Scottish midfield and managing a shot on the goal, it was ultimately saved, however. Wilson attempted a long shot into the Irish circle, with no one there to meet it the ball went wide of the mark. Scotland pressed again, this time with Bell pushing for entry. McAuley kept her cool and made it difficult for her. When Bell did manage to take a shot, the resulting awkward angle of her shot allowed McFerran to swat it away easily.
The final quarter saw Ireland have a brief defensive period before Evans and Carroll put the Scottish goal under pressure. The ball appeared to enter the goal, but after some confusion, no goal was awarded. Carroll continued to attack, resulting in a penalty corner for Ireland. What followed was a flurry of penalty corners with none converting to the scoreboard.
Semple and McEwan made a brief attack on the Irish circle but were kept out. McCay defended well when Holmes returned shortly after. McLoughlin and Hawkshaw brought playback up the pitch where Evans and O’Flanagan attempted to increase the margin of their win. Evans shot found the Scottish defence, with the match wrapping up moments later.

Ireland: M Carey, N Carroll, L Colvin, M Frazer, D Duke, N Evans, S Hawkshaw, Z Malseed, S McAuley, A McFerran, S McCay, H McLoughlin, K Mullan, E Murphy, A O’Flanagan, C Perdue, R Upton, C Watkins.

Scotland: M Bell, J Buchanan, F Burnet, L Camlin, L Campbell, R Collins, B Condie, E Dark, J Eadie, K Holmes, S Jamieson, H McEwan, H Howie, K Robertson, L Sabatelli, F Semple, B Shields, M Steiger, E Wilson, B Ward.

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Match Report. Ireland v Scotland 5-1 Victory

Ireland Claims 5-1 Victory Over Scotland in First of Two Match Series in Final Prep for Europeans in June.

15 May 2021

Ireland 5 (Duke, Upton, Malseed, Carey, Evans), Scotland 1 (Burnet).

A short period of scattered play got the match marked off in the opening minutes before Deirdre Duke managed to strike from just inside the top of the circle and catch Scotland’s keeper off-guard. Hannah McLoughlin had the next opportunity of the match, applying pressure in the Scottish circle, but failed to convert it to the scoreboard. However, a penalty corner to Ireland with less than two minutes left in the first quarter saw Evans insert, deflection from McLoughlin before an Upton goal increased the lead to 2-0.

Malseed increased the Irish lead again in the opening minutes of the second quarter, and it wasn’t long before she was back pressing on the Scottish circle again. Scotland’s Burnet returned the challenge on the Irish circle moments later, but McFerran saved and pushed the ball back up the pitch where Ireland was awarded a penalty corner shortly afterwards. This time a shot from McLoughlin was saved and pushed out by the Scottish goalkeeper.

Scotland’s Sabatelli managed to create a chance for herself in front of the Irish goal. McFerran dived to save but the strike went wide of the mark. Caoimhe Perdue and Sarah McAuley played well throughout the second quarter before Katie Mullan created a chance for Naomi Carroll which was ultimately defended out. A penalty corner for Scotland saw Jamieson’s shot defended on the line by Shirley McCay, but the Burnet found the rebound to finally put Scotland on the scoreboard ahead of the half-time whistle went with a 3-1 lead to Ireland.

O’Flanagan and Evans pushed hard from the whistle to attack the Scotland defence, however, the eventual shot on the goal went too high. Michelle Carey was on form with a number of precise interventions, stealing possession back from Scotland on a number of occasions. The third quarter provided several chances for both sides. A flurry of chances for Ireland failed to return a goal, while McFerran saved two attempts from Scotland. An eventual cross circle shot from Duke was met perfectly by Carey who tapped it over the line to bring the score to Ireland 4-1 Scotland.

The final quarter saw a Watkins shot bounce off the Scotland keeper before Evans secured the rebound making it 5-1 to the hots. Sarah McAuley made her presence known to the Scottish attackers deftly intercepting as they approached the Irish circle. Scotland failed to convert their final penalty corner chance, while O’Flanagan shot wide in Ireland’s last real chance of the game. Scotland pressed in the final two minutes, however, fumbled in the circle and McFerran was able to kick the ball from harm’s way. Full-time score Ireland 5-1 Scotland.

Ireland: M Carey, N Carroll, L Colvin, D Duke, N Evans, S Hawkshaw, Z Malseed, S McAuley, A McFerran, S McCay, H McLoughlin, K Mullan, E Murphy, A O’Flanagan, C Perdue, R Upton, C Watkins.

Scotland: M Bell, J Buchanan, F Burnet, L Camlin, L Campbell, R Collins, B Condie, E Dark, J Eadie, K Holmes, S Jamieson, H McEwan, H Howie, K Robertson, L Sabatelli, F Semple, B Shields, M Steiger, E Wilson, B Ward.

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Hockey Ireland U19 Teams Withdraw from European Championships

Hockey Ireland has announced its decision to withdraw the U19 Boys and Girls National teams from competing in the EuroHockey Federation (EHF) European Championships in Valencia this July. The 2020 U18 EHF Championships were postponed last year, and an additional year was added to the age-group for 2021, making it an U19 event. The EHF distributed the tournament Covid-19 protocols this week and requested a decision from each Nation regarding their ability to travel and compete. Hockey Ireland are aware that a number of other nations have now also withdrawn.

Each nation has different levels of risk within their home country, along with different transport and quarantine requirements. The COVID-19 protocols were restrictive for underage players and costly to all the competing nations. It has been a very difficult decision for Hockey Ireland to make. However, several key factors from the protocols could not be overlooked and has led to this decision:

  • Government Guidelines state that all persons in the Republic of Ireland are advised against non-essential travel to any country. Elite Exemption for travel has only been granted to Hockey Ireland Senior programmes and professional sports teams within Ireland. Unfortunately, our U18 squads do not have elite exemption at this moment in time and are not guaranteed that the elite exemption stance on the U18 squads will change ahead of the tournament.
  • In line with Hockey Ireland safeguarding protocols, underage player and staff welfare is a priority. Hockey Ireland have concerns regarding the length of isolation periods should a player(s) test positive during the tournament or become close contacts, coupled with the fact that many travelling athletes would be U18 and would require an appropriate member of staff to remain nearby the isolation location in order to ensure their welfare.

Speaking on the decision, Performance Director Adam Grainger said, “This matter has been given careful deliberation. This was not an easy decision but one that was made with the players welfare in mind.

Following the decision to withdraw from the EHF European competition, Hockey Ireland have been discussing with the Home Nations regarding matches in July. We will be discussing this further with the management teams and will distribute information as soon as possible.”

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Green Army take on Scotland in Final Home Preparations for European’s

The Green Army will take on Scotland this weekend, the 15th and 16th of May, in Queen’s University Belfast. The sides last met in July 2019, with Ireland coming away from the series in Stormont with two wins and a draw.

The uncapped matches will be part of the final home match preparations for this summer’s European Championships in Amstelveen, the Netherlands, ahead of the Tokyo Olympic Games. Ireland will face Scotland as part of Pool A in the European Championships in June. Tournament hosts, and World Number One, the Netherlands will also play in Pool A of the Championship, with Spain completing the group.

With the EuroHockey Championships now an integral aspect of the World Cup qualification process, the 2018 silver medallists will be keen to ensure they maximise every opportunity to allow them to perform this summer in Amstelveen not only as a warmup for the postponed Tokyo Olympic Games but also to secure their spot in the 2022 World Cup.

The squad for these matches is as follows:

Carey Michelle Leinster                 Midfielder             Uncapped
Carroll Naomi Munster               Striker                     111
Colvin Lizzie Ulster                    Midfielder              196
Duke Deirdre Leinster                Midfielder               141
Evans Nicola Leinster                Striker                      198
Frazer Megan Ulster                   Midfielder                136
Hawkshaw Sarah Leinster                Midfielder                33
Malseed Zara Ulster                    Striker                      Uncapped
Matthews Hannah Leinster                Defender                 147
McAuley Sarah Leinster                Defender                 Uncapped
McCay Shirley Ulster                    Defender                306
McLoughlin Hannah Leinster                Defender                 14
McFerran Ayeisha Ulster                    Goalkeeper             100
Mullan Katie Ulster                    Midfielder               193
Murphy Elizabeth Leinster                Goalkeeper             13
O’Flanagan Anna Leinster                Striker                      207
O’Flanagan Grace Leinster                Goalkeeper             36
Torrans Sarah Leinster                Striker                      26
Upton Roisin Munster               Defender                 76
Watkins Chloe Leinster                Midfielder               226

Speaking on the announcement, Head Coach Sean Dancer, said “These are our final matches ahead of European selection. We’re really looking forward to getting some games under pressure in the lead up to a major tournament”.

These matches will not be lived streamed.

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Grace O’Flanagan, Darkness into Light.

“How do you manage to fit in all the practice and still be a doctor as well?” Daniel, aged 9, to Irish goalkeeper Grace O’Flanagan.

The hand-written letter landed in her mailbox at the end of a 14-hour shift before heading into a weekend of training with the Green Army.

The letter landed in February 2020 as she was working her way back into Olympic contention having taken a year out in the wake of the 2018 World Cup silver medal run.

As second choice goalkeeper behind Ayeisha McFerran, O’Flanagan’s role was an understated but absolutely crucial one. But it was perhaps her intervention a year before which was the most vital save of all, denying Rani Rampal from the penalty flick spot with her first touch of the qualifiers.

McFerran had been sent to the sin-bin and India were one up; lose and Ireland were likely set to sit out another major tournament. She guess right, Ireland fought back and the bandwagon’s wheels started to roll.

In the wake of London’s heroics, though, O’Flanagan had to take a year out to focus on her job as a surgical trainee, soon to be a specialist registrar, before thinking about whether or not to battle for a place in the Tokyo squad.

“Safe to say, [that letter] brought a smile to my face!” Indeed, it’s a question the Railway Union shot-stopper has been trying to work out for the guts of a decade, marrying an intense career on and off the pitch.

“I love to try and balance it all but the reality is I had jobs where the hours were too much, I wouldn’t make training sessions. It was looking after my mental health, there’s only so much you can do, so I took the decision after the World Cup to take a break because I had been doing so much.”

When the pandemic hit and Tokyo 2020 postponed, it meant all hands on deck and she spent six months working frontline in COVID hospitals.

Gradually, though, international hockey came back into view in the autumn and now, with the vaccine roll-out in place, O’Flanagan has been able to take the decision to take work-leave and solely play hockey for the coming months with June’s European Championships and the reset Tokyo dates a month later.

“My availability for work would have been too little really. I didn’t want to leave my colleagues stretched or short-staffed so the easier thing was that I would focus on training especially considering the quarantine issue every time we travel.

“It would have been just too much time out of work had I been in and out. I’m definitely glad I’ve made that decision, this is a once in a lifetime opportunity. 

“I think I would always have looked back and wondered ‘what if’ if I hadn’t given it everything I have, so that was my thinking going in to this. I’m enjoying every minute of it, but I’m looking forward to getting back to work. But this is an opportunity I had to go for.”

As such, it puts her in line for another loop on the rollercoaster of emotions. Eighteen months before the World Cup, she was diagnosed with cancer in her neck.

Her medical intuition suggested it was more than tight muscles after a tough training block. It allowed her to a catch an aggressive type of soft tissue sarcoma — an epithelioid variant of myxofibrosarcoma to be exact — early enough.

“I knew the kind of cancer they suspected and knew it had a poor outlook,” she said of that moment. “All of a sudden, I went from being a healthy 26-year-old to maybe not being alive in five years’ time. That was daunting!”

It is why she has an empathy with the powerful Darkness Into Light message and the ability to come back from your lowest moments, a central reason why she is delighted to be among the Pieta House fundraiser’s ambassadors.

“When I was asked, it was something I absolutely jumped at it,” she said. “My experience as a doctor and an athlete gives me a unique insight into the importance of mental health. 

“It is definitely part of everyday life for me in work and in my sport. As athletes, we have to pay really close attention to our physical but also our mental well-being, looking at how our mood is every day, our sleep, all those things make a difference to our performance.”

At work, meanwhile, she spent the first six months of the pandemic working in COVID hospitals where she saw all kinds of strain among her patients and colleagues.

“I see a lot of patients with mental health issues coming into hospitals in crisis. The reality is most of us know someone who struggles from mental health issues, most know someone affected by suicide. 

“That’s the importance of Darkness into Light and Pieta, helping them. The idea of 200,000 people coming together at one time for sunrise to show support, to show we are standing up for mental health issues, to show we are fighting against suicide is a really important message.

“It has been a difficult year for healthcare workers, for the health service, for our patients and the general public. Thankfully, we are seeing the light at the end of the tunnel with the vaccines rolling out, numbers going down, things opening up. That’s really positive and we are seeing the relief in hospitals.”

Four out of ten people who access Pieta’s services cite loneliness as a trigger for seeking suicide prevention counselling, making it more important than ever to unite for ‘One Sunrise Together’ this weekend

Join Pieta, Electric Ireland and the thousands of people already signed up for Darkness Into Light this Saturday, May 8th by signing up now at www.darknessintolight.ie

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Hockey Ireland Covid-19 Update – 06th May 2021

Hockey Ireland Coronavirus (COVID-19) UPDATE regarding Changes to COVID-19 Restrictions.

06 May 2021

The following changes have been made to the Hockey Ireland Covid-19 guidelines given the latest announcement on Covid-19 restrictions made by the Irish (ROI) Government.

Please see the following link for more information: gov.ie – Level 5 (www.gov.ie)

Updated Guidelines:

Please note: These guidelines are applicable from 10th May 2021.

  1. Outdoor training for adults in pods of 15 (including a coach) may resume. This includes contact training.
  2. Contact training for underage players may also resume in pods of 15 (including a coach).

From 07th June 2021:

  1. Outdoor (non-elite and club) matches and competitions may recommence.
  2. These should be played behind closed doors, with only essential personnel in attendance.

Please be advised that the ‘Return to Training’ guidelines continue to apply.

For Northern Ireland (NI), there following guidelines continue to apply:

From 23rd April:

The following relates to non-elite level outdoor sport:

  1. Outdoor sport organised by a club, individual or individuals affiliated will be extended to include squad training.
  2. Competitive outdoor sport can be organised by a club, individual or individuals affiliated, with numbers (including participants, officials, management and essential support personnel) not exceeding 100 and no spectators permitted.

The ‘Return to Training’ guidelines should continue to apply.

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The SoftCo Bucket Challenge

  • The Challenge

    Using the hockey stick, the ball must be passed by all players in the air without it hitting the ground, with the last player passing the ball into the bucket (see age categories below for details on the number of players). Your Challenge must be recorded & timed. The winner is the team who complete the challenge in the quickest time. There can only be 1 entry per team, but a club or school can have multiple entries from different teams within the same age category.

  • Challenge Entry Dates

    Challenge is open to entries between April 30 to May 31

  • How to Enter

    Each recorded Video Entry must be posted on twitter or Instagram by an authorised teacher or coach with the hashtag #softcobucketchallenge and tag @softcogroup on Twitter and @softco_life on Instagram. The winners in each group (see age categories below) will be the team who complete the challenge in the quickest time.

Want to see how the GreenArmy handled the challenge? Go to: https://twitter.com/SoftCoGroup/status/1388099470550839301 

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Cees Koppelaar tribute

Kindly written and supplied by Stephen Findlater.

“The beauty of life is movement” – Cees Koppelaar

The Irish hockey community joined the wider world of Dutch sport to remember Cees Koppelaar last week following his death on Monday [April 26th] at the age of 81.

He could tell someone’s talent from the way in which they ran and he saw plenty of talent in his colourful life, one which brought him to Irish attention from 1987 to 1997 as senior men’s coach and, ultimately, Honorary Membership of Hockey Ireland.

Before that, Koppelaar had already achieved more than cult status in his homeland where he ran internationally in the 800m and 4x400m.

But it was in the coaching realm that he truly made his name, starting off at the Sagitta club, home to Fanny Blankers-Koen. Her husband, Jan, recommended his talents to Ajax coach Rinus Michels, initially with a second team that featured future legends Ruud Krol and Arie Haan.

After an initial trial of 10 sessions, Michels kept him on and he was soon refining the running techniques of Johan Cruijff all the way through to the 80s with Frank Rijkaard and Marco van Basten.

Cruijff would discover his hard but fair methods when he tried to move a training cone a little closer to shorten the pain in a running session: “You don’t steal from uncle Cees, you steal from yourself!” was the lesson.

He settled in Bloemendaal at the end of the 1970s where his passion for hockey was ignited, working with the village’s famous club, immersing himself in the game. He was installed as coach, bringing the club back to the upper echelons of the Hoofdklasse.

He had hoped to be co-opted to the Dutch national team but when his application for that role was turned down, Ireland stepped in. George Treacy had met him at coaching courses in the Netherlands and helped hatch a plan to bring him over to Ireland.

Along with Dixon Rose, they flew him over to Dublin and a deal was signed in the kitchen at Grange Road to make him the first paid men’s head coach in 1987.

Rose explained: “He wasn’t really thought of as a hockey coach in Holland, more of a physical trainer. His connection with hockey was tenuous.

“It was big for him to get [the Irish job] because he was frustrated not to get the Dutch job and he was hell-bent on proving to the Dutch that he could coach. That was why he was keen to take it and we really got the benefit from him!

“It was a seismic shift. Cees had a great personality. He wasn’t a hockey person per se but he had a major insight to Ajax and saw it like football with sticks. His legacy was he put Ireland on the map in European and world terms.

“He could tell when he saw a hockey player when he was running from behind whether he would be any good or not!”

Koppelaar was famed for his affability, his ability to tell a story and to engage with allcomers. And he was also known for what some called his distinctly Dutch way of calling a spade a spade, knowing his own mind and what he wanted.

“He could be a very volatile person,” Rose added. “When I initially told him George [Compston] was going to come in to join him as manager of the team [in 1988], he flew off the handle.

“He wanted to appoint his own manager; I said he could accept our recommendation or go back to Holland. I asked him just to try it, meet George, have the craic with him and see what you think.

“They just gelled immediately. George was perfect for him; he was pragmatic, quiet and very efficient and so they became the perfect partnership and that is when the success came.”

The outcome was plain to see; a place at the 1990 World Cup in Lahore and a fifth place finish at the European Championships in 1995.

And he relished helping Ireland land their first – and, still, only – win over the Netherlands, a 2-1 success in 1995 in Dublin. In total, he was head coach for 127 games, with 52 wins.

More than that, he travelled the length and breadth of the island to support the sport, running coaching clinics ­­wherever called for one.

Following his Irish stint, he returned to his original job as a running trainer with RKC Waalwijk football club and, always, with Bloemendaal and the Dutch national setup. In 2012, he was included in the KNHB’s Order of Merit, and he would remain involved at the highest level until just two years ago.

He famously gave the country’s best ever player, Teun de Nooijer, his first start at club level at the age of 15, and he encapsulated his influence.

“You read everywhere that Cees was a running trainer, but he was so much more than that,” de Nooijer said. “He was tactically strong and often acted as mentor to the group. He was someone with the gift of striking the right chord with players. 

“Hard, but fair. He had a perfect sense of what it took to get a team up and running again. He often saw from a distance whether someone was not feeling well. He immediately started working on it. Always with a lot of enthusiasm, anecdotes and humour, and with an enormous empathy.”

*Pictured about in his role as running coach with HC Bloemendaal and then back in the 70s with Johan Cruijff