With Christmas being a time for reflection, Hockey Ireland can look back on a memorable year when our sport not only got back onto the pitch but brought the joy of hockey to new players and new audiences.
The vitality of our clubs, coaches, volunteers, supporters and sponsors has been emotional to witness in 2021 despite the many issues Covid-19 has created.
We have been heartened by the emergence of several new clubs bringing hockey to new regions while the growth of Masters Hockey and Hockey ID clubs shows the sport is becoming accessible to all, regardless of gender, ability or age.
Around 40,000 players across 164 clubs and 244 schools are now registered participants in our new membership system, helping form our wonderful clubs, provincial associations and flourishing schools game.
The summer’s Olympic Games provided the shop window with the Green Army competing on the Olympic stage before refreshing to qualify for another World Cup in 2022.
The senior men began their rejuvenation process in earnest with an emerging new line-up, featuring nine new capped players in green and some exciting developments in the pipeline for the new year.
Their progress has been enhanced by the development of the facilities at the Sport Ireland National Sports Campus with a state of the art video-analysis system, the latest addition to the Olympic standard pitch at Abbotstown.
Sport Ireland and Sport Northern Ireland have been crucial partners and we thank them directly for these provisions and their immense support for our high performance programs and beyond.
Our family of sponsors has also grown this year. We have welcomed Uniphar Group, Red Bull and AIB on board as significant sponsors to add to our current treasured partners SoftCo, Park Developments, Adidas and Saba.
Hockey Ireland has been busy, too, lobbying for capital funding and supports from various different bodies which are vital in helping us to grow the game and the hockey family.
Indeed, this week, we were delighted to hear of €350,000 being made available to the sport from the Covid-19 club support scheme which will hopefully benefit up to 38 different clubs/branches.
We have welcomed new staff on board to help spread the word further with Sarah Murtagh coming on board as our new Munster Regional Development Officer with similar roles in Fingal and Connacht in the pipeline.
It has also been a special year for Ulster Hockey, toasting their 125th anniversary with the launch of an exciting new strategic plan.
Our umpires and officials spread far and wide as European international and club competitions returned this year. We are also delighted to be represented in the European Hockey Federation by Inez Cooper as the continental vice-president and Keith Morrow on the EHF’s finance committee.
These elements have all helped shape and develop our vibrant sport we have in Ireland, from the top of the international game to the grassroots, community and family side which we hold so dear.
For that, we thank all of our clubs, schools, umpires and officials, administrators, supporters and volunteers for the 2021 we have enjoyed and plenty more to come in 2022.
Best wishes for a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.
Yours in hockey
Hockey Ireland Chairman