International indoor hockey is set for a thrilling return to Ireland for the first time since the late 1980s with the Antrim Forum hosting a men’s and women’s triple-header against Scotland on December 28 and 29.
Over the course of the two days, both the men and women’s teams will play three times each with up to 120 tickets fans in attendance for each game in compliance with local Covid-19 regulations, selling out within seven hours of launch.
It is also a return of international hockey to the venue. The last time Antrim hosted international hockey was the meeting between Ireland and Pakistan in 1991 for the opening of the outdoor sand-based pitch.
In recent times, it has become the home of indoor hockey in Ulster, hosting the province’s ever-expanding series of youth tournaments with Bangor’s Under-15 boys and Coleraine’s Under-18 girls winning the most recent events last weekend. The venue also hosted the 2019 National Indoor Championships.
“It will be great to see international hockey back in Antrim after 30 years,” Ulster Hockey development officer and Antrim HC member Johnny McMeekin said of the exciting series.
“A lot of hard work around the development of the indoor game has taken place over the last number of years, and this event is another step in the right direction.
This event comes during a special celebratory period as Antrim Hockey Club and Ulster Hockey are celebrating over 125 years of hockey in Ulster.
“We look forward an exciting International Indoor Series between Ireland and Scotland and, to welcoming all the Players, Officials and Spectators to Antrim Forum on December 28th and 29th, 2021.”
Hockey Ireland indoor coach Kenny Carroll added: “It is really important that we showcase International indoor hockey in Ireland once again.
“It is a brilliant spectacle and great we have the opportunity to play at the Antrim Forum. I would like to thank everyone who has helped put this dual series together and to thank Scotland for taking us up on the opportunity to travel across at this time.
“It is brilliant our International Men and Women teams can play back to back matches. Finally I would like to wish all participants well during the series and look forward to Indoor Hockey further growing over the coming the years which will undoubtedly assist with the further development of hockey in general in Ireland.”
The Irish women’s side features seven of the side who played in the 2019 series in South Africa and the European Championships in early 2020 before the pandemic hit.
Millie Regan is the youngest of the trio of goalkeepers but also the most experienced in terms of caps. She is currently playing with Old Georgians outdoors but is back in Dublin with Railway Union for the Leinster indoor campaign.
She is joined in the pads by outdoor international Emma Buckley and Cork C of I’s Becky Maye who won an Irish Senior Cup title with Harlequins.
Outfield, reigning Irish champions Railway also provide five players – Patton sisters Orla and Sarah; Lily Lloyd, Holly Jenkinson and captain Orla Fox.
The side also features a trio of players who were due to be part of the Under-21 side to play in the Euros in Croatia this week before it was cancelled.
16-year-old Mikayla Power has enjoyed a break-out season with Old Alex, scoring some glorious goals; Hannah Kelly was a reserve for the Junior World Cup while the well-travelled Laura Graham is an exciting addition.
Born in Norway with a Dutch mother and father from Northern Ireland, she grew up playing with HGC in Wassenaar before moving to England where she won national indoor medals at Under-18 level for club and school.
She is currently on a year abroad with her studies, playing in Germany with Limburger HC before switching to Spain in the new year.
Chloe Brown and Amy Benson have lots of experience with Ards on the European club stage and will be key players along with Sophie Barnwell who was an almost-ever present in 2019/20.
Barnwell’s Muckross club mate Rebecca McMullen, Pembroke’s Sally Campbell and Alex’s Emilie Ryan Doyle – whose sister Eleanor is a senior football international – are set to make their international debuts.
For the men’s squad, seven of the 2020 Euros panel is back in action. Railway Union goalkeeper Stephen O’Keeffe is joined in the pads by YMCA’s Jakim Bernsden who can make his debut in this series.
There is a volume of senior outdoor internationals involved including Olympian John Jackson, an expert in the code from his time in England, reaching several super sixes finals weekends.
Neal Glassey, Callum Robson and Jason Lynch are all also dual indoor and outdoor internationals as is Ross Canning has been Three Rock Rovers’ driving force for the guts of a decade with his father Liam providing a link to the indoor scene of the 80s.
Rowland Rixon-Fuller also holds that dual accolade having played outdoors for Zimbabwe before qualifying to play indoor for Ireland in 2020.
Jody Hosking is following that route; he played for South Africa a handful of times several years ago but has been based in Ireland for most of the past decade to qualify for Ireland.
Monkstown’s Jeremy Duncan – a member of the 2018 World Cup squad – and his tight stick skills is an exciting prospect, too.
Oliver Kidd – with 11 goals – and Jack Haycock were the key players for the Under-21s last weekend and they move up to the senior setup.
Rory Patterson, who plays outdoors with Antwerp in Belgium; Cookstown’s Mark Crooks, Corinthian’s Davy Howard and Glenanne’s Richard Couse are all looking forward to senior debuts in this exciting series.
International Indoor series (all at Antrim Forum)
Tuesday, December 28: Ireland v Scotland, 6.30pm
Wednesday, December 29: Ireland v Scotland, 10am; Ireland v Scotland, 2pm
Tuesday, December 28: Ireland v Scotland, 8pm
Wednesday, December 29: Ireland v Scotland, 11.30am; Ireland v Scotland, 3.30pm
Ticket sales links – both dates currently sold out
|Millie Regan (GK)
|Old Georgians/Railway Union
|Emma Buckley (GK)
|Becky Maye (GK)
|Cork C of I
|Emilie Ryan Doyle
|Three Rock Rovers
|Cork C of I
|Stephen O’Keeffe (GK)
|Three Rock Rovers
|Jakim Bernsden (GK)