Looking back since my last newsletter, it has been a very busy five months. With the traditional Boxing Day and New Year’s Day hockey matches postponed across the provinces, it was great that the Indoor Internationals against Scotland was going ahead at the Antrim Forum on 28th & 29th December. These were the first indoor internationals to be played in Ireland since 1987. Three matches for both teams were played across the two days, with Scotland coming out on top in both. Our men improved their performances on day 2 and our women tied the series but agreed to play a shoot-out competition to decide the cup winners.

The games were great preparation for the Ireland Women’s team who played in the EuroHockey Indoor Tournament in Ourense, Spain from 21st to 23rd January where they faced Poland, Lithuania and Scotland and gained much from this experience.

The indoor scene continued on Sunday 9th January when I was invited by Ulster Hockey to present the trophy to the winners of the Girls Under 16 Indoor Tournament, sponsored by BDO at the Antrim Forum. Very close matches were played all afternoon with an exciting Co. Down final ending the day between Ards and Bangor, with Ards coming out winners.

The Under 16, 18 and 21 Interprovincials continued to be played throughout the season. On Sunday 16th January, I called in at Havelock Park, Banbridge to watch Ulster play Leinster in their Under 16 match, before heading to Three Rock Rovers to see Connacht and Leinster compete in the final of the Girls’ Under 21 Interprovincial competition. This was a closely contested first two quarters with the score scoreless but after the halftime interval, Leinster got two quick goals which changed the game and led to a Leinster victory 5-2.

On Sunday 30th January, I had the pleasure of attending the final of the Leinster Schools’ Senior Cup at UCD, between Holy Child Killiney and Newbridge College, with both schools competing in the final for the first time. This turned out to be a close, exciting game in front of a full stand of supporters, with Holy Child coming out winners 2-0. Hold Child Killiney will represent Leinster in the Kate Russell Tournament in Galway on 24th & 25th of March.  My thanks go to the Leinster Schools’ Organising Committee, under the leadership of Stephanie Murphy for their welcome and hospitality.

On Saturday 12th February, I watched the Women’s EYHL match between Pegasus and Railway Union in Belfast, with Pegasus coming out winners.

I was invited by Sean Dancer to the Sport Ireland Campus at Abbotstown on 15th February to observe the Senior Women’s squad training and playing against the Under 21s who were preparing for their Junior World Tournament in South Africa. It was great to see the results of hours of training and work that the girls are putting in to prepare for their next World Cup tournament in Amsterdam in early July, where they will face the Netherlands, Chile and Germany in their pool games.

Boyne Valley Hockey Club hosted the first-ever Leinster Intermediate Girls Indoor Hockey competition at Gormanston College in Co. Meath on Sunday 20th February. Club President, Audrey Gallen invited me to watch the games and present the prizes. The competition was open to all Leinster Clubs for 14–16-year-olds and the organisers were pleased that 12 teams took part. The A division was won by Boyne Hockey Club with Monkstown 2 winning the B division.

Gormanston College was again the venue for the 5 match Indoor International Series where the Ireland Women took on South Africa. South Africa is currently ranked 14th in the world and this gave our girls a wonderful opportunity to play against world-class opposition. I attended the matches on Tuesday 22nd and Friday 25th and joined a capacity crowd to cheer on the Irish team. Ireland won the first match on Monday 21st but didn’t manage to win the next 4, despite putting up excellent performances. Thanks go to all who made this possible and especially to Graham O’Connor from Spar South Africa for sponsoring the event and Rob Abbott and his team behindindoor rejuvenation in Ireland, not forgetting all from Hockey Ireland who helped out to make this series a very special one.

On Sunday 27th February I was at Three Rock Rovers to watch the Boys’ Interprovincial matches Munster v Ulster at Under 21, Under 18 and Under 16 levels. These were exciting games with the Ulster teams coming out on top in all three.

To mark International Women’s Day on Tuesday 8th March, I accepted an invitation from Sport Ireland Chief Executive Dr Una May to join female leaders in Sport at an International Women’s Day Breakfast at 8.30 am in the Sport Ireland Campus Conference Centre. This was a networking event to meet, share stories and celebrate the day withwomen who are making a difference in gender equality.

I attended the final of the Belfast Telegraph Ulster Senior Schools’ Cup on Wednesday 9th March between Royal School Armagh and Methodist College. Fortunately, the dreadful weather in the morning cleared for the match, which turned out to be a very close encounter with Methodist College holding on to their goal scored in the third quarter to win this prestigious final. They will join Holy Child, Killiney, Kilkenny College, Crescent Comprehensive and Salerno Secondary in the Kate Russell Tournament in Galway.  I was honoured to be invited to the dinner in the Wellington Park Hotel that evening to celebrate the school’s success in reaching the final of an important sporting competition.

The Kate Russell Tournament on the 24th & 25th of March turned out to be a great event with superb hospitality, closely contested matches, very sporting players and glorious weather.  It is quite unusual in a round-robin tournament for the winners to be decided in the last match. At the end of the first day, 3 schools, Holy Child Killiney, Salerno Secondary and Methodist College were on equal points at the top of the leader board. Going into the last match, Methodist College needed a draw against Salerno to win the title. Salerno took an early lead, Methody equalised, Salerno scored again and in a nail-biting finish, Methody got the goal to draw and win the Kate Russell. Salerno took the silver medals with Crescent Comprehensive, the bronze.

Ella Armstrong & Anna Pim receive the Kate Russell Trophy

During my visit to Galway, I attended a meeting with the Mayor, Colette Connolly, Councillors and representatives from Connacht Hockey to discuss the need for improved facilities at Dangan Park and in Galway. It is amazing that hockey is growing so well in the area on only one Astra-turf pitch.

Back Row: Dermot Nolan, Chair Galway H.C., Tanja Schafer, Connacht Hockey, Cllr Clodagh Higgins, Donal Dempsey Galway H.C.

Front Row: Ann Rosa, Kevin Keane, President & Chair Connacht Hockey, Mayor Collette Connolly, June Smith, Connacht Hockey & Aisling Keogh, Connacht Hockey.

The Ireland Schoolboys’ tournament was played over the season with the semi-finals and finals taking place on Wednesday 30th March in Dublin. In the semi-finals of the Tasmanian Shield Midleton College played Banbridge Academy with Banbridge comfortable winners by 4 goals to nil. The second semi-final was a much closer match between Kings Hospital School and Bandon Grammar with Bandon edging into the final 2-1. In the semi-finals of the Herbie Sharman competition, Wesley College and St. Andrews reached the final defeating Friends School and High School respectively.   Both the finals of the Herbie Sharman and the Tasmanian Shield went into a shoot-out competition with Wesley coming out winners of the Herbie Sharman and Bandon Grammar taking the Tasmanian Shield back to Munster after a 17-year gap. The competition will be back to the normal format next season and will be held in Munster.

Bandon Grammar, winners of the Tasmanian Shield

The men’s EYHL League had an exciting finish on Saturday 2nd April with Banbridge hosting Lisnagarvey in the final game of the season; a game that would decide the league winners. Going into the match Lisnagarvey was sitting at the top of the table, with Banbridge in 3rd place. Garvey needed a draw to secure the title and after a very closely played match, managed to hold on to a 4-4 result, to come out winners of the title. I had the pleasure of presenting the EYHL Winners’ trophy to James Corry, captain of Lisnagarvey.

I was at Grange Road for the Finals of the Under 16 and Under 18 Girls Interprovincial on Sunday 3rd April, with Ulster the holders of both from 2019. The Under 16 final between Leinster and Ulster was a game of two halves, with Leinster dominant in the first half before Ulster game out top in the second half to win 2-1. The Under 18 Final saw Munster take on Ulster in another close game but Ulster proved dominant and won 2-0. These matches were played over five months, to avoid overnight accommodation costs and will be condensed next season and be played before Christmas. Well done to all involved and especially the girls, coaches and family supporters with travel.

While these exciting games were taking place on home grounds, the Ireland Junior Green Army Women were putting up sound performances in the Junior World Cup in South Africa. Close defeats against England and South Africa denied the Irish girls a place in the quarterfinals but after the play-offs and great wins over Canada, Malaysia and Austria, they finished in 9th place. Our congratulations go to the team and coaches and also to Alison Keogh who umpired the final of this tournament between the Netherlands and Germany.

The John Waring All- Ireland Schoolboys Under 14 Tournament was played at Lisnagarvey Hockey Club on Wednesday 6th April with Wesley College and St Andrew’s College representing Leinster, Bandon Grammar and Midleton College, Munster and Banbridge Academy and Bangor Grammar, Ulster. The teams played five games in this round-robin tournament with Wesley College coming out on top with four wins and a draw, followed by Bangor Grammar in second place and Banbridge Academy in third. It was great to watch the future of Irish hockey play these matches in a very sporting manner and welcome Brian Waring to present the trophy to Tommy Cullen, the Wesley College captain.

I attended the All-Ireland June Smith Schoolgirls Under 14 Tournament that was played in Armagh on Thursday 7th April with Seamount College Galway representing Connacht, Dominican College, Muckross Park, Leinster, Mount Mercy College, Munster, Loreto Secondary Kilkenny, the South East and Royal School Armagh, Ulster. In this great round-robin competition, Royal School Armagh came out clearly on top, winning all four matches. The runners up were Loreto Secondary, Kilkenny and the bronze medallists, Dominican College Muckross Park.  Awards were presented to Hazel Cleere from Loreto Secondary as the goalkeeper of the tournament and to Daisy Costello from Dominican College, as the player of the tournament.

                       Joni Cunningham, Royal School Armagh with the June Smith Cup

It was a busy weekend on 9th and 10th April with the Interprovincial Finals for Boys’ Under 16 and Under 18 Finals taking place at Monkstown and the EYHL 2 Finals at Corinthian’s. I watched the Interprovincials where Ulster played Leinster in both and came out on top, with the Under 16s winning 4-1 and the Under 18s 4-2. Our thanks go to Sarah Horsefield and Monkstown for hosting the event and to Ann Ronan for Chairing the Interprovincial Working Group and making sure that all these important fixtures were up and running again during the season.

On the 23rd and 24th April, I attended the semi-finals and final of the EY Champions Trophy which was hosted by Banbridge Hockey Club. Close matches on Saturday resulted in Catholic Institute and Pembroke going through to the final of the women’s trophy and Banbridge and Lisnagarvey to the men’s final. In the finals, Pembroke and Lisnagarvey came out on top as EY Champions and all four finalists will represent Ireland in Europe next season. Our thanks go to the Executive Committee and volunteers of Banbridge Hockey Club for hosting an excellent festival. They have proved again how well they organise a large event, with every detail in the planning, preparation and organisation are taken into consideration. Thanks also go to the Lord Mayor of Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon, Alderman Glenn Barr for hosting a lunch at the Club on Sunday.

The finals of the Irish Senior trophy were played at UCD on Saturday 30th April with the same teams as in last week’s final, Catholic Institute and Pembroke competing. In this match the honours were reversed with the Limerick Ladies coming out on top,1-0, in a very close game. At the awards, I presented Roisin Upton with the Jimmy O’Connor trophy for player of the tournament in the EY Champions trophy.

On Sunday 1st May, I went to UUJ to watch the second in a three-game series, Ireland women v Scotland. The teams had played the day before with Scotland winning 2-1. Unfortunately, it wasn’t Ireland’s game as they lost 4-1 but they put up a pleasing result two days later, winning that match quite convincingly. We send the team our best wishes as the girls prepare for the World Cup, In Amsterdam in July.

Lisnagarvey played Monkstown in a repeat of last week’s very exciting and close semi-final but the Hillsborough men were too strong and were worthy winners, to complete an amazing season, winning the EYHL league, the EY Champions Trophy and the Irish Senior Cup. Our congratulations go to Lisnagarvey on these great results and their remarkable season.  It was a historic occasion for two more reasons. Alison Keogh became the first female to umpire a men’s senior cup final after a very exciting few weeks when she umpired the final of the Women’s Junior World Cup, Pro League internationals between Germany, Spain and the United States and the Euro Hockey League Final. This is a tremendous achievement by Alison and she is such an inspiration to young umpires.

It was also Warren McCully’s last umpiring match. Warren’s umpiring career started when he was 13 and then progressed to umpire men’s matches at the age of 17, while still at school. That was 30 years ago and, in that time, Warren has umpired 67 international matches along with numerous EYHL games and the Irish Senior Cup Finals in 2003 and 2011. He was Chair of the Irish Hockey Umpires Association for over 8 years and his immense work and contribution to Irish umpiring have been outstanding.

On Saturday 7th May I was back in Banbridge in more great weather, for three Hockey Ireland finals. Queens University won the Irish Hockey Trophy against North Down, Bangor Ladies were too strong for NICS in the Irish Hockey Challenge and Cookstown was victorious over Annadale in the Irish Junior Cup.

Queens University, winners of Irish Hockey Trophy

UCD was the venue for the remaining three Irish Cup finals on Sunday 8th May. I watched Corinthian defeat Pembroke in the Irish Women’s Junior Cup Final, Avoca come out on top against Raphoe and in the Irish Hockey Trophy and Waterford take home the Hockey Challenge Cup after their win over Portrush.

Avoca, winners of the Irish Hockey Trophy

It has been an exciting and busy few months for everyone and it has been great that hockey matches, cup finals and tournaments have been played without any disruption.  My thanks go to the staff of Hockey Ireland, the Technical Officials, Umpires and volunteers who have made these events possible and also to Linda Monaghan for her superb organisation and support.

Ann Rosa