President’s Newsletter September, 2022

President’s Newsletter

From 15th May 2022

It has been a very enjoyable and busy four months. On Sunday 15th May, I attended the last Interprovincial Final at Three Rock Rovers, when Leinster and Munster contested the Under 21 championship. Following the round robin stage of the competition all 3 teams finished on 6 points with 2 wins each, which meant that goal difference, which is a factor for U21s and Adult competitions, was required to determine the final placings. Leinster ended up on +2, Munster on 0 and Ulster on -1. After a closely contested match in the first three quarters where Leinster were just one goal up, they ended up coming out worthy winners 3-0. Our thanks go to Ann Ronan and the Interprovincial Working Group for all their hard work during the season to get all the matches played.

This was the start of a very sad week when we learnt of the passing of John Flack on 18th May and Dixon Rose MBE on 19th May. I attended both funerals. John gave hockey in Ulster and Ireland a great profile in the media and will be sadly missed. Dixon was Hockey Ireland President from 2006 to 2008 and a Hockey Ireland Honorary Life Member. He had a very distinguished career as an international player, captain and umpire and was widely respected for his love and work for hockey in Ulster and Ireland. Our thoughts were with both families at this sad time.

I attended Hockey Ireland’s Annual General Meeting, which was held online on Thursday 19th May.

My congratulations go to three members of the Hockey Family who received Honours from the Queen in the Birthday Honours, announced on Thursday 2nd June. Dr Shirley McCay, Ireland’s most capped female sports person was recognised for services to hockey and the community in Northern Ireland with an award of the MBE as was Eilish Rutherford (nee Mackin) for her services to sport and her charity work in Northern Ireland. Eilish is a former Chair of the Mary Peters Trust.  Ronnie Smyth was recognised also. Ronnie, a stalwart of Ulster and Annadale hockey, was awarded a British Empire Medal for his services to hockey. For over 50 years Ronnie has been an inspiration to many hockey players and continues to be known as the ‘Godfather of Coaching’.

On Saturday 4th June, I was honoured to be a guest at Newry Olympic Hockey Club’s Dinner and make a presentation to three Ireland players who had not received their caps. I would like to thank Nevin Gray for his help in organising this and for gathering the very relevant facts from Steven Hiles, who has worked hard on a database, with match details on all the capped players.  We recognise how the game has changed over the years with the number of international matches increasing – it is much quicker now in 2022 to chalk up several caps than it was in 1957 when an 18-year-old Newry Grammar schoolboy, made history for his club and school when he became the first Newry Olympic hockey player to play for the Ireland Senior men’s team. Bob Poots played 4 times for Ireland in that year. Unfortunately Bob was not present at the dinner to receive his cap as he divides his time by living in England and France. It is worth reading a very interesting article about Bob on the Club’s website.

Erroll Lutton first played for Newry Olympic in 1986-87 and he won the “4th XI player of the year”. In the next season, 1987-88, he was the “Young Player of the year”.  From 1993 to 2001 he had 52 Irish caps while playing for Newry and from 2001-2003 33 more while playing at Lisnagarvey – a total of 85 caps. Erroll captained Ireland on 12 occasions and scored 3 goals. Unfortunately, Erroll was not present to receive his first Irish cap and his 50th cap as he was in Copenhagen with Lisnagarvey at the EuroHockey Challenge Cup tournament. However, there is still a strong Lutton connection with Erroll’s, brother Ivor and his nephews Jonah, Noah and Corey playing for the club. We were pleased that Corey was present to receive Erroll’s caps.

Ivan Steen played for Newry Olympic Hockey Club for 10 years. He was the “Young player of the year” within the club for four consecutive years, from 1991 – 1994 and won 27 caps for Ireland scoring five goals. His first cap was on 8th August 1998 against Belgium in Dublin and he had 18 more international appearances to 2000 while at Newry Olympic. This was followed by nine more Irish caps when he was playing for Surbiton in England.

Ivan Steen receiving his Irish cap.

I was following the two Irish teams in their European competitions in June and would like to congratulate Loreto and Lisnagarvey on winning their respective tournaments.

I was at Lisnagarvey Hockey Club on Friday 10th June, to support the Ireland Senior Men play Italy in the first match of a three-match series.  Italy took lead and were ahead at halftime but the Irish men came back much stronger in the 3rd and 4th quarters and when Conor Empey and Johnny McKee scored two goals in quick succession in the 49th/50th minutes, Ireland came out winners 2-1. The following day I watched the second match in this series, which Ireland won 3-0, before going to Queen’s Playing fields, Upper Malone to support the Under 23 girls in their practice game against Scotland.

On Sunday 12th June, the Hockey Ireland Board meeting was held at the Carlton Hotel in Blanchardstown. This was the second meeting that was not held online and it was great to see everyone in person. Trevor Watkins welcomed all and especially the four new Directors, Rachel Berry, Niamh Byrne, Ursula Kilkelly and Dan McCormack. After the business part of the meeting, Rea Walshe, representing Carmichael, took us through Board Induction Training.

On Monday 13th, I was at Queen’s Playing Fields, Upper Malone to watch Under 23s in their final practice game against Scotland, as part of their preparation for the Uniphar 5 nations tournament.

The AGM of the Olympic Federation of Ireland took place, online, on Wednesday 15th June and I represented Hockey Ireland at this meeting.

As Hockey Ireland President, I was invited to the Centenary Dinner for Ards Ladies Hockey Club on Saturday 18th June in the Stormont Hotel. Over 130 members past and present were welcomed by their President Norma Gartside, who is an Honorary Life Member of Hockey Ireland. The speaker was Gillian Murphy who had gone to great lengths to research the history of the club and give an excellent comprehensive talk on the 100 years of hockey at Ards. The teams have celebrated their centenary also on the pitch during the year by winning the Under 16 Indoor Championship, the Ulster Premier League and coming out on top in EYHL 2, to gain promotion to EYHL 1 for next season.

The Lord Mayor of Ards & North Down Craig Blaney, Norma Gartside, President of Ards Ladies Hockey Club & George Wilson, Ulster Hockey President

On Sunday 19th June, I was at UCD for the opening games in the 5 Nations Uniphar Series.  We had teams from three continents stretching right across the globe – Europe, North America and Asia, with The Netherlands, Ukraine and India, joining Ireland in this Uniphar 5 Nations Tournament. We also had our senior women playing in a four match SoftCo sponsored series against Japan, as part of their final preparations for the World Cup in Amsterdam.


At the reception on Thursday 23rd June, it was my pleasure to welcome guests to UCD. We were pleased that Josepha Madigan, Minster of State with responsibility for Special Education and Inclusion and Senator Emer Curry were able to join us.


Minister of State, Josepha Madigan, Senator Emer Curry & Ukrainian Vice President.


I acknowledged and thanked the tournament sponsors, Uniphar for their tremendous support, not only sponsoring this 5 Nations tournament but also helping enormously in the money raised to bring the Ukrainian team to Dublin. David Passmore was also very grateful to a private donor and all the parental donations in this very sporting gesture, to bring Ukraine here.  They were so pleased to be in Dublin and could not thank me enough when through Michael, their interpreter, their Vice President spoke to me as I left the pitch after a presentation on the previous Sunday.  I must admit I found the conversation very emotional and mentioned that we were meant to play them in the Junior World Cup in South Africa, but due to the horrendous conflict in Ukraine, the girls could not take part. We felt their plight and were delighted to have them here with us. We wondered what some of them were heading back to in Ukraine when they left Ireland.


We had our sponsors at the reception. I thanked Susan Spence and SoftCo, the kit sponsors to both the Senior and Under 23 teams for their continued support and for sponsoring this Senior series against Japan. The girls were just back from Japan and were hosted there for their Olympic stay. Friendly relations have been developed over the past 18 months and it was great to have the Japanese team here. Our thanks were also expressed to Angela Cotter and Park Developments for their great support for the Under 23 and Senior programmes and to Alan Cadden from Saba who are the senior women’s food partners and provided all the dinners for the U23s during this tournament.


Sponsorship – what does it do for our sport? Success of the women in the World Cup put Ireland right at the top of the world. We have followers all over Ireland who would not have supported hockey in the past, new clubs especially in Connacht and increased membership in clubs. Unfortunately, the European Hockey Federation conference due to take place in Prague last summer had to go online – I was asked to speak on behalf of Hockey Ireland at it – “Inspiring a Nation – the inspiration of the women’s team reaching the Olympics”. The partnership that we have with all the sponsors has definitely helped to put us there.


Sponsorship of the Under 23 programme is vital and we can see the transition of the young players from this level to Senior level – congratulate David Passmore and his team for their hard work and commitment and it is great to see Sarah McAuley, Caoimhe Perdue, Christina Hamill & Siofra O’Brien, who were in the JWC squad for the tournament in South Africa, now in the senior squad.


I do not know if everyone knew that the Indian team arrived in Dublin but their hockey sticks didn’t and the girls lent them some so that they could play – this was true international sportsmanship.

The Ireland and Ukrainian teams

In the first match of the Uniphar tournament, the Netherlands came out 4-2 winners against the USA before Ireland took on India in their first match. Our girls played well but the Indian girls got stronger as the match progressed and came out winners 4-1.

I was back at UCD for the Play-offs and Final on Sunday 26th. An Ireland Development team had a good win against Ukraine in the first game before the Ireland Under 23 team lost narrowly to the USA in the bronze medal game. The final was won by the Netherlands who had a decisive win over India. We were pleased that representatives from the Sponsors, Uniphar took part in the trophy and medal presentation. Sally Ann Fanagan, Hockey Ireland Staff and the very large team of volunteers did an amazing job in organising and staging this event. They are to be congratulated and thanked for this.

After the Ireland Ukrainian game on Thursday 23rd, the Senior women played Japan in another build up game for the World Cup. They were just back from practice games in Japan. Just after the teams lined up with the umpires, members of the team made a presentation to the 5 Irish international players who had retired.

  • Grace O’Flanaghan, goalkeeper, has 36 caps, with her first cap on 26th July 2016. She is a World Cup Silver Medallist and an Olympian.
  • Lizzie Colvin, midfielder, 206 caps with her first one on 4th July 2008. Lizzie is a World up silver medallist and an Olympian.
  • Nicci Daly, midfielder, has 200 caps, with her first one on 5th February 2010. She is also a World Cup Silver Medallist and an Olympian.
  • Hannah Matthews, defender, has 157 caps, with her first one on 26th June 2014. Hannah is a World Cup Silver Medallist and an Olympian.
  • Shirley McCay, defender, the most capped athlete across all sports in Ireland with 316 caps. Her first cap was on 15th January 2007. She is a World Cup Silver Medallist and an Olympian.
  • An amazing total of 915 Irish caps, well done Girls.

During the half-time break, with the help of Sally Ann Fanagan, the tournament director, I had the honour of presenting Hockey Ireland’s two new Honorary Life Members, Inez Cooper and Brian Caruth, with their pins. An Honorary Life Member of Hockey Ireland is conferred to recognise an individual’s exceptional, prolonged and voluntary contribution to Hockey Ireland, especially at national level.

Inez Cooper has a long and distinguished history of involvement in Irish Hockey. She has contributed in a multitude of ways, filling significant roles at club, provincial, national and international levels. Photos

As an experienced project manager, in 2019 she successfully chaired the LOC for Ireland’s hosting of the Women’s FIH World Series Finals in Banbridge and followed this by leading the extremely successful Tokyo Olympic Games, FIH Women’s Qualifier Series in Donnybrook, Dublin. This ‘Donnybrook Event’ twice broke the previous record for the largest attendance at a Women’s International match in any sport in Ireland and culminated in ensuring that the Irish team became the first ever Women’s team to qualify for an Olympic Games. he has served for eight years on the Executive Board of the European Hockey Federation (EHF). During this time, she has held the position of Chair of the EHF Education Committee and has also acted as the of Chair of the EHF Officials Committee. In 2019 she was a speaker at the first European Hockey Female Leadership Forum where the EHF’s strategic goal, to advocate, support and build desires for equal female leadership opportunities, was to the fore. Last year Inez was elected Female Vice President of the EHF. This is very well deserved and a marvellous achievement.

He served a term on the Board of the IHU and then two further terms on the Board of Hockey Ireland. In total, he has served 12 years on the Boards and was Chair of the Board for 3 years.
In addition, he continues to co-ordinate HI competitions, convene the HI Competitions Committee and Chair the Competitions Committee. As well as being a dedicated volunteer, Brian is a great supporter of all the Irish National teams. He was a supporter even before his son, Peter, was involved with the Irish men’s side. He continues to support the teams now that Peter is no longer involved. In recent years, he has travelled to Rio to support the men’s team in the Olympics, London for the women’s World Cup, Canada for the men’s Olympic play-off, Cardiff for the Men’s EHF World Qualifiers and the indoor internationals against Scotland.

The Under 16 and Under 18 Boys played international matches against Scotland at the University of Ulster, Jordanstown at the beginning of July.  I watched the matches on 2nd July, when the Under 16s won 3-0 and the Under 18s won 4-1.  After their final matches on 3rd July, both teams had won all their games in the series – well done!

We knew when the draw was announced for the Women’s World Cup that we had a very tough pool with the Netherlands, Germany and Chile and we were not wrong when Germany and the Netherlands reached the semi-finals and the Dutch were World Cup winners. Chile were the unknown opponents and the girls were very disappointed when they narrowly lost that game. However, a good win against South Africa and a narrow defeat against China improved their world ranking from 13th to 11th. It was just wonderful to look around the stadium and see a sea of green with the support the team got from Softco Sponsors Susan Spence and Daragh Byrne, our Interim CEO Nick McElwee, Directors, Honorary Life Members, Family Members and Club players. We knew it would be a challenging tournament and appreciated that Grace O’ Flanaghan, Lizzie Colvin, Nicci Daly, Hannah Matthews and Shirley McCay had retired.  I felt very honoured to be there and cheer on our team.


While the women were in Amsterdam our Senior men won a 4 nations Invitational Tournament on July 3rd in Uddingston as part of their preparations for their EuroHockey qualifiers in Calais.

The Under 16 and Under 18 girls were in Terrassa in Spain for their European 8 Nations Tournament with the Under 16s finishing in 6th place. Both squads attended the semi-finals of the Women’s World Cup, which were being played at Terrassa.

The Under 16 boys were in Hanau, Germany finishing 5th in a European Six Nations tournament while the Under 18 boys played in an Eight Nations Tournament in Frankfurt.

The Under 21s were in action in EuroHockey Junior Tournaments with the women retaining their place in the top division coming 6th and the men winning the EuroHockey Junior Champions Division 2, to gain promotion into the top division for 2024.

Following on from the ID tournament, which was staged here last November, we sent a team to the EuroHockey ID event in Amsterdam at the beginning of July. It is great to see progress in the expansion of hockey ID in Ireland.

Ireland ID Team

I attended the Euro Qualifying event at the Sport Ireland Campus from 18th – 21st August between Ireland, the Czech Republic, Poland and Turkey, with one team going through to play in Munchengladbach next year. At the reception before Ireland’s first game against Poland I welcomed Minister of State Jack Chambers, representatives from Sport Ireland, Ambassadors from the Czech Republic, Poland & Turkey, EHF representatives’ Inez Cooper and Graine Corry, our sponsors SoftCo, Park Developments, Uniphar & Saba and invited guests and thanked them for joining us. I also acknowledged and welcomed the EHF delegates and officials; many had already been on duty in the first match, Czech Republic and Turkey.

This was a very notable event as it was the first time that an international hockey tournament was played at the Sport Ireland Campus. I acknowledged all the hard work in the planning and organisation of this event, thanks to great teamwork between Sport Ireland and Hockey Ireland. The reception was held in the extension of the pavilion which has just been completed a few days earlier and I thanked all involved for making this possible. We had experienced a taster event there in the last 2 weeks, when the women played games against France and the men played Chile and Austria. I watched the games on Saturday 6th August when the weather was superb and the setting perfect for players, officials and spectators with the stands on either side of the pitch, a Media Centre, PA system and live streaming of all the games. Other facilities had been brought in for this occasion. Well done to Sport Ireland, John Flannery, Nick McElwee and the Hockey Ireland organising committee for all the work they put into making this possible.

The tournament was a great success with Ireland coming out on top with three wins, 3-0 v Poland, 1-0 v Czech and 7-0 v Turkey and qualify for the Europeans in Munchengladbach next year. Well done to all and special congratulations to Ayeisha McFerran on becoming Ireland’s most capped female goalkeeper.

I followed the live streaming of the Men’s Qualifiers in Calais, where Ireland Men’s team were drawn against Lithuania, Turkey and France. Despite a mammoth 19-0 victory over Lithuania and a decisive 9-0 win over Turkey, a 4-1 defeat against France meant that the Ireland men finished runners-up in the tournament and will play in the second tier of the European Championships next summer.

On the umpiring scene, we continue to be very proud of the development of our young umpires and especially Alison Keogh, who umpired the bronze medal match in the World Cup when Germany played Australia and has received her golden whistle for officiating in 100 international matches. Another umpire, Bruce Bale, was prominent in the Commonwealth Games as an umpire and as a video referral umpire.

It was my pleasure to chair the Annual General Meeting of the Irish Hockey Umpires Association online, on Wednesday 31st August. My thanks go to Rob Argent, Jim Butler and Alison Keogh for their help during the meeting and I would like to congratulate all volunteers on the committee for their hard work and comprehensive reports. The meetings are always extremely well organised as all the information and reports have been sent out by Secretary Jim Butler, well in advance. Well done to you all. Thanks also go to Sedgwick for their continued support, which has enabled the umpires to conduct a number of activities focussing on development over the past year.

All these achievements could not be possible without the great funding and support that Hockey Ireland receives from Sport Ireland, Sport Northern Ireland and our sponsors, SoftCo, Park Developments, Uniphar and SABA.

I look forward to enjoying games at the start of the new season.

Ann Rosa, President, Hockey Ireland

6th September 2022