Women’s EY Hockey League – team-by-team preview

Belfast Harlequins
Coach: Phil Mills (3rd season), Asst Coach Peter Pollock; Manager: Roisin Walsh (3rd season)
Players in: Jane Kilpatrick (Loughborough Students), Jodie Kee, Sophie Hunter (Nottingham Uni), Olivia Beattie (Mossley), Imogen Graham (Rainey), Andrea Desneaux, Katie Larmour (following graduation from Rutgers Uni USA for 2nd half of season).
Players out: Bethany Harper ACL, Serena Barr (ACL hopefully back at some stage) , Julie Dennison (about to give birth!) Ella Agnew off to Edinburgh Uni

Overview: A fresh injection of some great young players has given Belfast Harlequins’ coach, Phil MIlls a healthy squad to work with. Joining from Loughborough Students, Irish development panelist Jane Kilpatrick has added strength and speed to the defence whilst schoolgirl Imogen Graham has shown maturity beyond her years, growing in confidence with each game.

Belfast Harlequins’ Lizzie Colvin. Pic: Adrian Boehm

Sophie Hunter and Jodie Kee are former juniors who the club are delighted to welcome back following work and university days in England. Natalie Lyttle née Barr is defying logic by turning out in preseason games a mere seven weeks following the birth of baby Micah.

They also have Emma Uprichard and Olivia Beattie in positive mood from their UK School Games, both raring to go. Co-Captain, Jenna Watt is ‘buzzing ‘ for the new season with a team gelling well on and off the pitch. The Barr twins are both out for the time-being with ACL injuries but Serena could be back at some stage during the campaign. There is also the exciting possibility of Katie Larmour returning from Rutgers in the US for the second half of the season.

Catholic Institute
Head Coach: David Passmore, Assistant Coach: Ger O’Carroll, Manager – Brenda Moloney
Players in: Jenny Clein (UCC), Lizzie Ryan (Boston University)
Players out: Lauren Ryan (UCC)

Overview: Having started like a house on fire last term, the Limerick side will be hoping for more of the same. Homegrown Olympians Roisin Upton and Naomi Carroll will again be key players but the spine of the team is bound through the experience of Goalkeeper Pam Smithwick and the calm heads of Christine O’Shea and Ciara Moloney and club stalwart Rosie Pratt.

Institute have a number of good young players who have featured in pre-season friendlies including Thurles pupil Kate Ryan. However, it’s some of those in their early twenties who are pushing the standards including Eimear Ryan and returnee Jenny Clein along with fast developing Laura Foley and Anna Horan.

Catholic Institute’s Laura Foley. Picture: Adrian Boehm

Coach David Passmore said ahead of the season: “It will be great to get back playing competitive hockey after the long lay-off. After an exciting start last time out the players are raring to go but post lockdown holidays, injuries (especially Roisin Begley) and availability have resulted in a lack of continuity in the pre-season period. Finding pre-season fixtures has also been problematic so it is hard to gauge where we are at. I have no doubt we will be hard to play against, difficult to beat and will surprise a few teams with our attacking play.”

Cork Harlequins
Coach: Edward Gash (1st season), Manager: Vanessa Sargent
Players in: Niamh Sexton (Lock Haven University), Ruby Walsh, Katie Moore, Beatrice O’Hare (up from the youth section)
Players out: Siri Forde (not playing), Emily O’ Leary (Ashton), Isabel Lyons (UCC)

Overview: Co-captains Yvonne O’Byrne and Michelle Barry will again be hugely influential this season, providing valuable experience to a young Quins team. Lauren Cripps has impressed with the Irish Under-19 team this summer and will be an important player in the centre of the Quins defence.

Striker Leah O’Shea will no doubt provide one of the main threats up front for Quins, her performances this summer earning her a place on the Irish Under-23 squad. Another one to watch is 17-year-old Julia McCarthy in the Quins forward line up. Scoring on her EYHL debut last season, her impressive skill level makes her a real threat in the circle.

Eddie Gash takes on the coaching job from Darren Collins and he says of the campaign: “It’s great to get back to hockey matches after enjoying watching the Olympics over the summer. This team is an exciting mix of youth and experience and we are looking forward to getting the league started.”

Coach: Paul Fitzpatrick (6th Season); Asst Coach: Ian Clarke; Manager: Anne Marie Curran
Players in: none
Players out: none

Loreto’s Christina Hamill and Hannah Matthews. PIcture: Adrian Boehm

Overview: Keen contenders in each of the last few seasons, the Beaufort club bring a settled panel into the new season with plenty of international talent to filter back into the team. Hannah Matthews, Lizzie Murphy and Sarah Torrans were part of the Tokyo squad while the Junior Green Army featured attacking threat Siofra O’Brien, Lisa Mulcahy, Yasmin Pratt and Christina Hamill.

Cailtin Sherin was also involved over the summer and, back to full speed, she can be a massive addition. With Ali Meeke bringing her unique bag of tricks to midfield, they are shaping up nicely once again for a good campaign.

Coaches: Dave Sheils & Ralph Billings (1st Season) – Manager Freda Canavan
Players in: Julia Balcerak (LKS Gasawa, Poland), Lelia O’Byrne (UCD), Aoife Glennon (Pembroke)
Players out: Ellie McLoughlin (UCD), Sarah McAuley (UCD), India Cotter (Northeastern, USA), Annabel Sweetnam (The Netherlands), Sinead McGirr, Louise McCollum (work commitments), Susie Cannon (travelling)

Overview: Muckross will bring a fresh-faced line-up to the new season following a busy summer with Rob Abbott initially taking up the coaching role before having to step back for personal reasons. It means Dave Sheils and Ralph Billings will take on the job of moulding the team this time around.

Muckross’s Sophie Barnwell. Picture: Adrian Boehm

“The opportunity to working with this squad is exciting,” they said of the team. “There is a great mix of youth and experience in this club and the support for each other is so very strong. Looking forward to the challenges ahead in EYHL.”

Julia Balcerak’s arrival from Poland and Lelia O’Byrne’s return to the club are boosts but there have been significant departures with Olympian Sarah McAuley heading to UCD and Irish panelist Ellie McLoughlin also going to Belfield. Aoife Glennon is a talented goalkeeper on the incoming list.


Old Alex
Coaches: Cathy McKean (first season), Eimear Cregan (first season), Clodagh Grealy (manager), Nicky King/Louisa Healy (Gk Coach, first season)
Players in: Gisela Estrenjer (Atlètic Terrassa), Jess McGirr (Muckross), Niamh Sweeney (Railway Union), Holly Micklem (Corinthian)
Players out: Jeamie Deacon, Hannah Mc Dermott, Freya McDermott

Overview: Old Alex enter the new season with a brand new coaching team packed with international experience as Cathy McKean and Eimear Cregan reprise their teamwork from the Irish senior squad of roughly a decade ago with Nicky King and Louisa Healy also on the staff.

McKean said of the new season: “For inspiration I think I will defer to the words of the great trailblazer, Antonio Machado: ‘Traveller, there is no road; you make your own path as you walk.’ We look forward to pushing ourselves to our limits, and then beyond.”

The side were right in the mix for honours before 2019/20 came to a shuddering halt; then coach Niall Denham has since departed for New Zealand but they look like they have plenty of talent to be contenders again with the likes of Deirdre Duke, Lena Tice and Nikki Evans currently on the books. If all available, they will be among the sides to watch.

Jess McGirr is a strong addition along with All-Ireland LGFA winner Niamh Sweeney, linking up again with her Wesley schoolmate Sarah Robinson.


Coach: Craig McGrugan (1st season); Manager: Gerry McIvor
Players in: Katie McKee (Beeston); Julie Lonergan (Clydesdale Western Hockey Club)
Players out: Charlotte Beggs (Ulster Elks), Ellie Montgomery (Queens University); Olivia Berry (Exeter University)

Overview: The most recent EY Champions Trophy winners, Pegasus will be under the tutelage of head coach Craig McGrugan this season, hoping to emulate their success under Greg Thompson.

Pegasus’s Niamh McIvor. Picture: Adrian Boehm

The summer moves have seen a number of university-related switches with Katie McKee back after a spell in England with Beeston while Scottish player Julie Lonergan is now studying at Queen’s, making the move from Clydesdale Western. On the flip side, the hugely talented Charlotte Beggs has gone to Ulster Elks, Ellie Montgomery to Queen’s and Olivia Berry to Exeter University for their studies.

There is plenty of talent and experience to go around with Michelle Chisholm, Kerri McDonald, Ruth Maguire and Shirley McCay providing lots of top-line know-how. Niamh McIvor is a big talent to watch out for.

“Preseason has been really enjoyable as our focus was on building team morale and getting back on the pitch and developing the love for hockey again,” the club posted ahead of the campaign.

“We organised a little preseason tournament that included Pembroke, Loreto, Old Alex and Belfast Harlequins. The goal was to allow us all to have fun over that weekend while playing decent competitive hockey. All teams seemed to enjoy it. We really look forward to the start of the EYHL again with another eye on our EHL planning!”


Coach: Gavin Groves; assistant coach: Stephen Brownlow; manager: Sinead Guilfoyle
Players in: Issy Delamer (Trinity), Ellen Curran (UCD), Felicity McCarthy (City of Peterborough HC)
Players out: Maebh Horan, Emma Paul (UCD), Caoimhe Byrne (UCD), Aoife Glennon (Muckross)

Pembroke’s Gillian Pinder. PIcture: Adrian Boehm

Overview: A short, sharp preseason for Pembroke after the long wait to return but club coach Gavin Groves says the team are “delighted we were able to attract some really exciting players in Ellen Curran and Issy Delamer into the squad having lost two or three younger players to college hockey”.

He adds Felicity McCarthy has fitted in well to the line up and believes the club “have a group that can really challenge for trophies this year”.

And that belief looks well placed with World Cup silver medalists Gillian Pinder and Emily Beatty lining out alongside Sinead Loughran, Leah McGuire and Orla Macken.


Railway Union
Coach: Una McCarthy; assistant coach: Gareth Myburgh; manager: Margaret Shaw
Players in: Emma Smyth, Kate Dillon, Hannah de Burgh Whyte
Players out: none

Railway Union celebrate last October. Picture: Adrian Boehm

Overview: Railway Union were enjoying something of a renaissance at the start of last season with three battling wins in succession before the unceremonious end to the campaign. Sarah Hawkshaw was in inspired form for a hard-working outfit and she will again be the fore along with key players like Lisa McCarthy, Kate Lloyd and Patton sisters Orla and Sarah.

They will also benefit from the heavily-decorated Emma Smyth, Kate Dillon and Hannah de Burgh Whyte who have returned to the fold. Youngsters Katie Fearon and Martha McCready will benefit from a summer of youth international experience while no major departures means Una McCarthy’s charges can approach the season with confidence.


Coaches: Lisa Jacob, Fiona Connery (first season)
Players in: Emma Paul (Pembroke), Sarah McAuley (Muckross), Caoimhe Byrne (Pembroke), Ellie McLoughlin (Muckross)
Players out: Ellen Curran (Pembroke) Clodagh Cassin (UK) Nina Heisterkamp (travelling)

Overview: It has been a perhaps slight disjointed preseason with a combination of the early season start and the CAO offers along with players returning from international squad. All-in-all, though, it has been a healthy summer for UCD’s new coaching team of Lisa Jacob – returning to the club with whom she captained to the 2009 Irish Senior Cup – and Fiona Connery.

They have picked up some of Irish hockey’s big prospects with goalkeeper Ellie McLoughlin coming in for Clodagh Cassin, Irish Under-19 captain Emma Paul bolstering the defence and Olympian Sarah McAuley taking up an Ad Astra scholarship. She joins her fellow Tokyo alumni Michelle Carey and Hannah McLoughlin and Irish development panelists KJ Marshall, Niamh Carey and Sophia Cole for an exciting line-up.

On the graduation list is last season’s captain Ellen Curran who switches to Pembroke.

UCD’s Michelle Carey. Picture: Adrian Boehm