Thursday, May 29, 2008

Olympic schedule announced

The Olympic Games Committee and the International Hockey Federation (FIH) released the match schedule for the hockey tournament of the 2008 Olympic Games today.

The first day of competition will be Sunday 10 August 2008 when the 12 women’s participating teams will enter the pitch in Beijing, China. Japan and New Zealand have the honour to open the tournament while the men’s tournament will start on Monday 11 August 2008. The first men’s match will be the encounter between Germany and China .

The pools for the 2008 Olympic Hockey Tournament are as follows:

Men's Olympic Hockey Tournament:
Pool A: Germany , Spain , Korea , New Zealand , Belgium , China .
Pool B: Australia , Netherlands , Pakistan , Great Britain , South Africa , Canada .

Women’s Olympic Hockey Tournament
Pool A: Netherlands , Australia , China , Spain , Korea , South Africa .
Pool B: Argentina , Germany , Japan , New Zealand , Great Britain , USA .

For the full list of match times, click here

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Clare Parkhill retires

Irish defender, Clare Parkhill, 27, today announced her retirement from the international hockey scene after earning a total of 70 senior caps in just a three year period.

Parkhill's decision comes shortly after Ireland's return from the Olympic Qualifying Tournament. Parkhill wore the green jersey for the first time against Korea in 2005 and since then she has been a regular in the line-up, competing in the Europeans and the Olympic Qualifiers.

Coach Gene Muller said of the retirement "She played very well for Ireland recently and was one of our most consistent performers at the Olympic qualifier. She will be especially missed in our set pieces in which she contributed enormously.”

Parkhill retired to pursue her legal career in Manchester, and said of het time in the Irish set-up: “It has been a pleasure and a privilege to have been part of such a successful and professional organisation.

"During my hockey career I have been fortunate to experience the development of Irish hockey and given the level of expertise throughout the IHA and coaching staff I have every confidence that Ireland will continue to achieve at the highest level in the future.”

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Men's Club Championships Final: TRR 1 Pembroke 0 (after golden goal)

Three Rock Rovers broke Pembroke Wanderers two year hold on the All-Ireland Club Championships with a ferocious Maarten Sier drag-flick with just 47 seconds of golden goal extra-time remaining.

In a nip and tuck game, with little quarter given, Pembroke probably edged the general play.

Rovers, in turn, had a number of chances but goalkeeper of the tournament David Harte smothered the chances, coming off his line before Mitch Darling could get a clean shot off.

Three Rock coach, Turloch O’Siochain, went into the finals weekend believing his side to be rank underdogs but they stood their ground in the face of a mighty Pembroke tide to claim their first ever President’s Trophy.

In the final, Pembroke – going in search of three in a row – settled the quickest with veteran Gordie Elliott looking the likeliest to unlock his former club’s defence.

He had the most clear-cut chance banging in but Charlie Henderson produced an amazing left-handed save. Indeed, the former Pembroke man was in unbelievable form all afternoon, later denying Alan Sothern’s deflection and Craig Wilson’s shot.

The early stages were played almost exclusively down the Rovers left channel, creating one of the key battles between Michael Maguire and Pembroke’s player–coach Craig Fulton.

Maguire won a victory of sorts in the match-up when Fulton was green carded and then sin-binned for some niggly tackles.

Rovers became more of a force in the second half. Mitch Darling – who scored five in the semi-final – and Andy McConnell were at the heart of everything good they had going forward.

David Harte came off his line twice to smother potential goal threats while in front of him, Ronan Gormley was outstanding - solid in defense and setting a number of attacks in motion with sublime overheads.

Sier, meanwhile, almost turned villain with a yellow with 80 seconds of normal time remaining for petulantly knocking the ball away.

Neither side, though, could get a crucial goal leading to extra-time. Three Rock, again, had most of the forward momentum and were eventually rewarded when Phelie Maguire was bundled over on his path to goal.

Sier held his nerve to convert to give the Rathfarnam side the the top prize in Irish hockey and a coveted EuroHockey League berth.

Women's Championships final: Hermes 1 Loreto 0 (after golden goal)

Aoife Harte’s golden-goal beauty saw Hermes reclaim the All-Ireland Club Championships, winning back the trophy they won two years ago.

It was a sublime effort, set up by 16 year-old Chloe Watkins whose slide-rule path found the onrushing midfielder at the top of the D.

Harte’s initial effort was blocked by Rachel Keegan’s foot but a good advantage from umpire Lyn Morrow allowed her to carry on, picking up the ball and robustly hammering into the bottom corner.

A beautiful goal to end a cagey end-to-end encounter.

But this final may well be remembered in the longer scheme of things as a day where prodigious youth got its head with six schoolgirls making their mark.

The changing of the guard was apparent in Saturday’s semi-final when Hermes deposed last year’s champions, Pegasus – a side complete with five retired internationals in their squad.

Coach Colin Stewart has protested numerous times this season that his side is in transition with former internationals Catriona Carey and Mary Logue retiring while Jenny Burke missed the end of the season due to pregnancy.

Add to that, captain Fiona Connery missed the final as she flew out to her wedding and you would be forgiven for agreeing with Stewart

But, at Belfield on Sunday, his side came of age with the help of a precocious trio of teenagers.

In Chloe Watkins, the Booterstown club has the most exciting talent to grace Irish hockey in recent years. With just a handful of senior club games under her belt, she delivered a first half master-class that left many of Loreto’s more senior talent bewildered.

From her left midfield position, she ghosted past players with ease creating chance after chance for fellow schoolgirls, Nicola Evans and Anna O’Flanagan.

Indeed, that pair were causing all sorts of problems in before the half-time break as Hermes dominated but could not take advantage. For Loreto, their main threat was coming through the right-wing flyer, Zara Delaney – one of another three schoolgirls from Loreto, Beaufort also taking the pitch.

Loreto should have made Hermes pay for their profligacy. Senior internationals Cathy McKean and Nikki Symmons became increasingly more involved and were instrumental in winning eight penalty corners in the second half.

Their array of switches, though, would not produce a goal as, Sinead McDonnell twice took the ball off the line first from Rachel Keegan’s deflection and then from Symmons’ drag-flick.

Symmons also drew a smart save from Emma Grey’s stick as they pounded the Hermes goal. It meant golden goal and just three minutes in, Harte scored the goal to reclaim the trophy and secure a golden future for her club.

AIL Wildcard Playoff - Final places decided

UCD and Belfast Harlequins confirmed their place in next year's All-Ireland League places today. UCD topped the four-team group with a 2-0 win over UCC, Christine Quinlan getting the goals.

Belfast Harlequins drew with Galway, the second draw in a row for both sides. Claire Heskin scored for the Connacht side while Ruth Millar was on target for Quins.

They join Munster duo Cork Harlequins and C of I; Ulster's Pegasus, Armagh, Ballymoney and Randalstown and the Leinster quartet: Hermes, Railway Union, Loreto and Pembroke Wanderers.

Argentina claim Champion's Trophy

Argentina are the winners of the Samsung Champions Trophy Women 2008, after defeating Germany 6-2 in a wonderful final here in Mönchengladbach, Germany.

The thrilling encounter was played in front of the biggest crowd of the week, who did their best to encourage the home team in every possible way.

WorldHockey Player of the Year 2007 Luciana Aymar enhanced her reputation as the world’s finest player with a stunning performance, setting up two goals and at times looking like an almost unstoppable force going forward.

However, the match was not all about Aymar, with Alejandra Gulla scoring a three times to help her side triumph over Germany .

Aymar was named as the MVP of the tournament, with Germany ’s Kristina Reynolds given the goalkeeper of the tournament award. The top goal scorer award was jointly shared by Australia’s Megan Rivers and Netherlands Marilyn Agliotto, who both scored five times during the tournament.

Earlier in the day, The Netherlands produced a wonderful display to defeat China 3-0, sealing the Bronze medal. Goals came from Agliotto, Wieke Dijkstra and Eefke Mulder, sealing a terrific third place finish for a side that were far from full strength.

Australia made light work of defeating Japan in the 5th / 6th place play-off match, winning the contest 3-0. Nikki Hudson was in excellent form for her side, creating a goal and scoring another. Sarah Young opened the scoring for The Hockeyroos, with Rivers and Hudson completing the scoring.

However, it was Argentina ’s day, and they will hope that can take the confidence of winning this event into the Beijing Olympic Games. Argentina have sealed their place in the 2009 Samsung Champions Trophy, and will be joined by World Champions Netherlands and host nation Australia . The winning team at the 2008 Olympic Games plus the two highest finishers in Beijing will complete the line-up.

Hockey on Setanta

Setanta will be showing a wealth of hockey on the television over the next couple of days. Here's the current schedule for the next couple of days:

Sun 25-May 17:30 Womens Semi 2 - Pegasus v Hermes Setanta Ireland
Sun 25-May 22:30 Mens Semi 2 - Lisnagarvey v Three Rock Rovers Setanta Ireland

Mon 26-May 09:00 Mens Semi 2 - Lisnagarvey v Three Rock Rovers Setanta Ireland
Mon 26-May 15:00 Mens Semi 1 - Pembroke Wanderers v Glenanne Setanta Ireland
Mon 26-May 18:30 Womens Semi 2 - Pegasus v Hermes Setanta Ireland
Mon 26-May 20:00 ESB Club Championship Final - Hermes v Loreto Setanta Ireland
Mon 26-May 22:00 Mens Club Championship Final - Pembroke v TRR Setanta Ireland

Tues 27-May 09:00 ESB Club Championship Final - Hermes v Loreto Setanta Ireland
Tues 27-May 15:30 Mens Club Championship Final - Teams TBC Setanta Ireland

Thurs 29-May 09:00 Womens Semi 1 - Loreto v Railway Union Setanta Ireland
Thurs 29-May 19:00 ESB Club Championship Final - Hermes v Loreto Setanta Ireland

Saturday, May 24, 2008

AIL Wildcard Playoff

UCD and Belfast Harlequins look the favourites to take the final places at next season's All-Ireland league after the second round of matches at Pembroke

Two Roisin Flynn goals were cancelled out by Sarah Wilkinson and Judy Getty's strikes for a 2-2 draw that sees both sides onto four points.

That leaves both sides three clear of Galway and UCC who played out a 1-1 draw, Sarah Gray scoring for the Munster students. Christine Rabbitte got the goal for Galway.

Club Champs semi-final: TRR 6 Lisnagarvey 5

In complete contrast to the first semi-final, TRR and Lisnagarvey served up an absolute cracker at UCD in the blazing sunshine to set up an All-Leinster pair of finals tomorrow afternoon.

A five-star performance from Mitch Darling had Rovers home and hosed early on before a near freakish comeback had the crowd gnawing at their nails until the very end.

Darling opened the scoring with his side’s second clear-cut chance after two minutes, a superb reverse shot from the left of the circle into the roof of the net.

And the Grange Road side dominated the first half, Darling doubling the lead from a tidy short corner.

‘Garvey pulled one back after a fortunate corner, awarded when Charlie Henderson got his feet in a tangle when faced with a simple clearance. Timmy Cockram scored the resulting drag-flick. Indeed, that was the Northern side’s one of only two significant attacks in the first half. From the other they won a stroke, off Alan Bothwell’s foot on the line.

Stephen Arbuthnot, though, could not take advantage, banging the ball off the post with Henderson going the wrong way.

Maarten Sier restored the two-goal advantage in bizarre fashion. His drag-flick was saved by David Williamson’s glove but looped high into the air. Attempting to clear the ball, a ‘Garvey defender knocked the strike the ball straight into his own net.

If that goal was lucky, the fourth was a thing of true beauty. A free out turned into a fifteen pass move, with no Lisnagarvey player getting near a touch or interception.

Passes down the right flank found Colin Huet on the backline whose pass across was met first time by Darling to fly high into the net to make it 4-1 – an excellent goal to round off the half.

The Northerners came back strong in the second half, knowing they would have to go some to keep their season alive for one more day.

Cockram and Mark Daniel both flashed wide before Darling looked to have well and truly finished the game in the 55th minute – his reverse wrong-footing Williamson after Andy McConnell laid on.

Brian Waring got one back a minute later with cracking aerial rebound but Darling got his fifth in the 58th minute to make it 6-2. It was another beautifully conceived goal, Andy McConnell blazing a trail down the right wing before waiting for the perfect moment to set up Darling for another spectacular finish.

That should have been that. But ‘Garvey showed the fighting spirit that saw them qualify for the semis with a last gasp goal against Pembroke.

Rovers were all at sea when Daniel Buser deflected in Mark Daniel’s cross with eight minutes to go.

The pair repeated the trick before Cockram’s second drag-flick made for a nervy final 190 seconds. They saw a cross bobble across the front of the goal before Rovers finally got a grip on the game and played out the remaining time in the Lisnagarvey corner.

A cracking game and one to look out for Setanta Ireland in the next few days.

Men's Club Champs: Pembroke 0 Glenanne 0 (Pemb win 4-2 on strokes)

In the many chapters of Glenanne and Pembroke’s recent history, this will barely be remembered beyond the result. Pembroke won out 4-2 in the end on penalty strokes.

The boys in green will probably point to Gary Shaw’s disallowed goal as the key moment when he was denied what looked a good goal. That and a Stephen Butler drag-flick were the best opportunities on a day where dogged defence and midfield niggle were the defining factors.

Nip and tuck throughout, there was little to separate the sides in normal time in a fractious and tetchy affair. Neither side managed to get much sustained momentum going forward.

John McInroy drew a sharp save from Stephen Doran in the fifth minute. Graham Shaw had a couple of half-chances before Stephen Butler’s first drag-flick drew an excellent stick save from David Harte in the 20th minute.

Pembroke’s best chance fell to Paddy Conlon – who was terrier-like best in midfield – making the chance himself with a solid tackle on the 25. He seemed well set to shoot but decided to pass and the chance was gone.

Captain Craig Fulton was sin-binned just before the break as the Glens ended the half the stronger.

Pembroke started the second well, three Alan Sothern shots comfortably saved by Doran.

The game’s most controversial moment, though, went against Glenanne when Gary Shaw was denied. Off balance, he managed to fire across a shot from the baseline which deflected into the goal off Ronan Gormley – who was otherwise the game’s standout player. The hit looked well inside the circle but was deemed to be outside by Colin Hutchinson.

It was a key point in the game and was the last goalmouth action for some time. Pembroke looked in dire need of freshening up their forward line, playing virtually the whole half without a switch despite putting in a huge amount of yardage.

Eddie O’Malley almost got the winner with 90 seconds on the clock, reacting first to Graham Shaw’s reverse but could got under the ball to loop it into the Belfield Bowl.

Pembroke bossed extra time but to no avail leaving the lottery of penalty strokes.

After Fulton and Butler scored, Gordon Elliott saw his saved by Doran. But back-to-back misses from Joe Brennan and Devin Kehoe gave Pembroke the chance of securing a third successive final place.

Gormley, Sothern and McInroy all scored to bag the win.

Club Champs semi-final: Hermes 3 Pegasus 2 (after golden goal)

A delightful deflection in the sixth minute of extra from Nicola Evans saw Hermes shock Pegasus and set up an all Leinster final.

Their young legs held out the best as they took the first and only chance of golden-goal extra-time as the excellent Anna O’Flanagan slid the ball through to Evans. Through one on one with Sharon Moffett, she needed just one just deft touch to slide home the winner.

Pegasus dominated the opening stages with Claire McMahon and Suzanne Beaney’s skills causing havoc up front.

But the Booterstown ladies had the clearer cut chances. Nicola Evans’ pace combined with good work from O’Flanagan and Aoife Harte created three good opportunities in the circle saw Evans clear but she was unable to get away a clean shot on goal.

Pegs’ took the lead in the 30th minute in sublime fashion. Beaney’s bag of tricks conjured up some space in midfield to find McMahon on the top of the D, with only Emma Grey to beat. A fantastic dummy sent Grey the wrong way for the former international to roll home.

The lead lasted barely 90 seconds, though, when O’Flanagan stole the ball on the right wing. She fed Chloe Watkins on the baseline who provided the perfect slip pass for the diving Carol Devine to sweep into the net from five yards.

As much as Pegasus controlled the first half, Hermes came back strongly in the second, winning their first three penalty corners within 15 minutes of the restart. The third – won by O’Flanagan – was converted by Aoife Harte after a sweet switch move, Jenny Kinch providing the pass.

But their lead was short lived, too. Beaney rode three tackles on the 25 to play through to Alex Speers. Her cross was tame but the clearance fell straight to Beaney who played on as the rest stopped for a perceived foot. Kieran Bolger played a good advantage and Beaney leveled the game up.

Devine had the best chance to win the game with three minutes to go but was unable to fire home from eight yards.

But Hermes did not have long to wait, as Evans’ goal sealed the final place.

Club Champs semi-final: Loreto 3 Railway Union 0

Three penalty corner goals were enough to see Loreto into the Club Championships final as they made the most of their chances against a brave Railway Union.

Nikki Symmons broke the deadlock early on with a drag-flick before Clodagh Greally made it 2-0 with a direct hit in the 30th minute.

In between, Cathy McKean had the best chance from play when she rounded Jane Coyne but was unable to get a clean shot away.

Railway had spent much of the opening stages on the back foot but once they stepped up to a more aggressive press they began to assert a lot more pressure and spent long periods in the Beaufort side's territory.

Indeed, they dominated after the break, penetrating the Loreto circle 15 times in the second half alone.

But they were once again stung by a Loreto corner, Symmons drag-flick again sneaking in as Coyne could not get a strong enough glove to push the ball wide.

Solid defending from Greally and the classy Hannah Matthews meant Railway were rarely given much space in the D, though, with Jean McDonnell and Kate McKenna flashing reverse shots just wide from sharp half-chances.

McKenna also drew a smart save from Louisa Healy, again with a reverse and Jean McDonnell’s short corner strike shaved the outside of the post, with ten minutes remaining.

A brave performance to end Railway’s season while Loreto now look forward to a final appearance and the chance to break Hermes and Pegasus’ duopoly.

UCD start playoffs in style

UCD got their All-Ireland league bid off to a good start as they beat Galway 4-0 in the opening match at the National Hockey Stadium. Irish international Lisa Jacob opened the scoring before a goal from Christine Quinlan and a brace from Rachel Burke completed the scoring.

Belfast Harlequins won their encounter with UCC 1-0, Ruth Kelly scoring the only goal of the game.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Women's Club Championship Finals preview

The Leinster trio will have their work cut out if they want to take the top honours at this weekend’s All-ireland Club Championship finals in UCD.

Pegasus are the obvious favourites for the competition starting with a semi-final against Hermes.
The battle sees two sides at opposite ends of the spectrum. Pegasus are inundated with Irish international experienced with Arlene Boyles, Jill Orbinson, Suzanne Beaney and Katharyn Smyth as well as livewire forward Alex Speers.

Hermes, meanwhile, is a side in transition according to coach Colin Stewart. The retirements of Catriona Carey and Mary Logue allied with Jenny Burke’s pregnancy have shorn the side of a lot of international experience.

The Tasmanian has replaced them with a trio of exceptional schoolgirls. Anna O’Flanagan bagged a hat-trick in the win, last weekend, over Cork C of I while underage internationals Chloe Watkins and Nikki Evans have grown rapidly into the team.

On the other half of the draw Railway Union are entering uncharted territory as they contest their first ever semi-final, taking on the might of Loreto.
The side, led by Cork woman Cathy Kenefick, will have to pull out all the stops to go that one step further.

They face Loreto, who - along with Pegasus – were one of the stand-out sides last weekend in the qualifying round as they profited most from the returning international players after their Olympic qualifying campaign.

Saturday 24th May
9.30am ESB Loreto v Railway Union
11.45amESB Pegasus v Hermes

Sunday 25th May
2.15pm ESB Women's Club Championship Final

Galway to travel to Portugal

Galway's reward for their Indoor championship win last month will see them travel to Lousada, Portugal next February. They will play against opposition from Denmark, Georgia and Serbia as Ireland re-enter women's indoor club competition.

Women’s Challenge - Lousada (POR) - 20-22 February 2009
Pool A: HK Zrinjevac (CRO), Cankaya Bld SC (TUR), Howardian LHC (WAL), AD Lousada (POR)
Pool B: Slagelse (DEN), HK Bask (SRB), Ukimerioni Kutaisi (GEO), Galway HC (IRL)

All-Ireland League Playoffs

The final two women's All-Ireland league places as Galway, UCD, UCC and Belfast Halrequins play off this weekend.

AIL Women's Playoff
FRIDAY 23rd May
6.00pm UCD v Galway
8.00pm Belfast HQ v UCC

Saturday 24th
Pembroke Wanderers H.C.
2.00pm UCC v Galway
4.00pm UCD v Belfast HQ

Sunday 25th
10.00 UCC v UCD
12.00 Belfast HQ v Galway

Men's Club Championships Preview

The climax of the domestic season hits UCD this weekend with Leinster well set to complete the male clean-sweep of All-Ireland titles.
Pembroke Wanderers and Glenanne, have mopped up all of the national titles in the past two years but one of them will have to sit out Sunday’s final as they meet in the semi-final.
The second semi-final, though, could provide more subtle intrigue as Three Rock Rovers attempt to revisit their halcyon days.

Coach Turloch O’Siochain admits his side are facing into the finals stage with ‘trepidation’ but that anything his side can achieve is a bonus. He said “Basically, it’s a win-win situation. We’re peaking at the right time and, for a young squad, everyone is learning fast, including me, about what it takes to perform at the highest level.”

Three Rock have one addition to the squad with Australian Pierre Quesnel delaying his holiday plans to take in the Club Championships, filling in for Ali Haughton who suffered a broken arm on the eve of the pool stages.

Their opponents on Saturday morning are Lisnagarvey, who finished third in Ulster in the regular season.

To the all-Leinster rivalry, and Glenanne have drawn the most recent blood, winning 4-3 in the Leinster Senior cup final though choosing a winner between the two is nigh on impossible.

Pembroke have a few defensive headaches. Conor Harte has been a long-term absentee but has been joined on the sidelines by Colin Kelly with Duncan McKeen, is in line for a recall.

Ronan Gormley faces a late fitness test on a tight hamstring, though his chances are more probable than possible while free-scoring Justin Sherriff is another who must prove he is ready to play.

Saturday 24th May
2.00pm Men's Pembroke W v Glenanne
4.15pm Men's Lisnagarvey v Three Rock Rovers

Sunday 25th May
4.30pm Men's Club Championship Final

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Club Championships: Day Three

As in the men’s All-Ireland Club Championships, three Leinster sides made it through to the semi-final stages as Loreto, Railway Union and Hermes progressed at Lisnagarvey.

Reigning champions Pegasus, though, would appear favourites as they showed their class with a comprehensive win over Railway (3-0) as well as getting by Armagh after coming from a 2-0 deficit on Friday night.

They had qualified with a game to spare with results meaning Railway Union, Armagh and Harlequins all had a chance of making the semi-finals going into the last round.

Railway Union took the spot as Mick McKinnon’s charges got a key point they needed against his old club, Armagh .

The Sandymount side bossed the opening stages but only had Sinead Dooley’s goal to show. Scarlett Holdsworth equalised to ensure a nervy ending and Armagh almost snatched victory, hitting the post with just 20 seconds left on the clock.

It left Harlequins with an outside chance of reaching the final stages, needing a two goal win to advance. But that never looked likely of causing an upset against Pegasus, the recent Irish Senior Cup winners.

The Ulster side went 3-0 up by half-time, with Alex Speers’ double and Suzanne Beaney sealing the points.

On the other half of the draw, a gutsy performance from Hermes saw Colin Stewart’s youthful side scrape through to the semi-finals after surviving 13 short corners in their 2-1 win over Ballymoney.

The Leinster champions were under pressure to qualify following Friday night’s 1-0 loss to Loreto.

A 5-1 win over Cork C of I on Saturday got them back into contention, leading to a straight playoff with Ballymoney for the second qualifying spot.

That win was thanks in the main to the returning Anna O’Flanagan’s hat-trick. She missed the Loreto tie due to exam commitments while former Irish captain Linda Caulfield was also back in action.

In the decider with Ballymoney, Nikki Evans opened the scoring - the simplest of finishes after Anna O’Flanagan and Jill Hodgins excellent burst down the right wing.

Megan Frazer equalised early in the second half from Ballymoney’s ninth penalty corner and they were, perhaps, unfortunate not to get a penalty stroke when Sinead McDonnell appeared to be struck on the foot in front of the goal.

Liane Costello scored the vital goal – at the third try after two good save from Sammy Jo Greer – diving athletically to sweep the ball home.

Ballymoney threw everything at Hermes but could not get the two goals needed as the game reached a fractious conclusion – Jenny Kinch sin-binned for a stick-tackle.

Loreto followed up Friday night’s win over Hermes with a 2-0 win over Ballymoney and a comfortable win over Cork C of I.

The Beaufort side only qualified for this stage of the competition thanks to a late goal in the last game of the regular league season.

But with their trio of international stars – Nikki Symmons, Louisa Healy and Cathy McKean – they look a completely different prospect. Symmons scored the goal of the tournament, breaking 50 metres up the pitch before feeding Nikki Keegan. Her return ball found Symmons to fire in a stunning strike to round off a good weekend.

It sees Loreto face Leinster rivals Railway in the semi-final while Leinster and Ulster champions clash in the other encounter.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Club Championships: Day Two

Hermes got their Club Championships campaign back on track with a 5-1 win over Cork C of I, with schoolgirl Anna O'Flanagan scoring a hat-trick and Fiona Connery getting two. Loreto's 2-0 win sees them through to the semi-finals with a game to spare with Nikki Symmons and Nicky Keegan with the goals against Ballymoney.

Their second successive win means they are through while Ballymoney and Hermes have a straight decider for the second semi-final berth.

In pool A, tournament favourites Pegasus sealed their semi-final place with a 3-0 win over Railway Union - goals from Jill Orbinson, Suzanne Beaney and Claire McMahon.

Railway stay in second place in the group as Armagh drew with Cork Harlequins to register a point apiece.

Anyone of those three could still go through. Harlequins need a win against Pegasus, though, and results to go their way. The other fixture sees Mick McKinnon's charges take on his old club, Armagh.

Club Championships: Day One

PEGASUS showed their title credentials as they recovered from a 2-0 deficit against Ulster rivals Armagh in the All-Ireland Club Championships in Lisnagarvey, to win 3-2.

Armagh led through two goals from Emma Patterson but holders Pegasus recovered with the international experience of Arlene Boyles, Claire McMahon and Suzanne Beaney completing a remarkable comeback.

Elsewhere, Ballymoney enjoyed an easy 4-0 win over Cork C of I while Loreto produced an outstanding 1-0 win over Leinster champions, Hermes.

Nikki Symmons got the only goal from a penalty corner second phase as the Beaufort side welcomed back their international trio who were unavailable for much of the season due to Ireland’s involvement in Olympic qualification.

Jean McDonnell scored the only goal of the game as Railway overcame Munster champions Cork Harlequins.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

All-Ireland Club Championships preview

A fascinating weekend lies in store this weekend at Lisnagarvey as Ireland's top eight contest the women's Club Championships. The three Leinster sides go into the competition in very different shape.

Loreto - who only got their chance thanks to a late goal from Hermes against Pembroke - are hopeful they can continue their impressive form from recent friendly matches. They spent a lot of the league season without Nikki Symmons, Cathy McKean and Louisa Healy but matches against UCD, Railway and Armagh, whom they beat 3-0, show they are coming into form at the right time.

The key for Guy Garrett's side will be the opening two games, especially their opener against Leinster rivals, Hermes. The Dun Laoghaire side, in the words of coach Colin Stewart, are currently in transition as they attempt to mesh their excellent youth prospects with the wealth of experience in the club. Having said that, they produced an amazing run of form conceding just two goals since November after a sticky start.

Railway Union go into the tournament having already "met and surpassed all expectations for this season" according to Mick McKinnon. They lose American Katie Evans, who was with the side in the second half of the season, and Sarah McDonald is unavailable due to exams. 14 year-old Lisa McCarthy comes into the squad as cover.

Pegasus look the obvious favourites in the group with Harlequins and McKinnon's former club, Armagh, probably in a straight race for the second semi-final berth. But the coach admits that this year, "anything we acheive here is a bonus".
Pool A: Pegasus; Cork Harlequins ; Railway Union ; Armagh
Pool B: Hermes; Ballymoney ; Loreto ; Cork C of I

Lisnagarvey Hockey Club
Friday 16th May
6.00pm A Pegasus -v- Armagh
6.20pm B Hermes -v- Loreto
8.00pm A Ballymoney -v- Cork C of I
8.20pm B Railway Union -v- Cork Harlequins

Saturday 17th May
12.30pm B Hermes -v- Cork C of I
1.30pm A Railway Union -v- Pegasus
3.00pm B Loreto -v- Ballymoney
4.00pm A Armagh -v- Cork Harlequins

Sunday 18th May
11.00am A Armagh -v- Railway Union
12.00pm B Cork C of I -v- Loreto
1.00pm A Pegasus -v- Cork Harlequins
2.00pm B Hermes -v- Ballymoney

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Three Rock's indoor opposition known

Three Rock's opposition for their European indoor competition is known. They will face Croatian, Hungarian and Slovenian opposition as they hope to get Ireland promoted from the Men's Challenge - the third tier of indoor competition in Europe - to the Trophy. The venue is to be confirmed.

Men’s Challenge I - 13-15 February 2009
Pool A
Cambrai HC (FRA) Racing Club de Bruxelles (BEL) SK Senkvice (SVK) Swansea Bay (WAL)
Pool B
HAHK Mladost (CRO) Rosco Budapest (HUN) Three Rock Rovers (IRL) HC Pliva Lipovci (SLO)

Pegasus miss out on Euro promotion

Pegasus just missed out on promotion to EuroHockey's Club Champions Cup as they finished third in Rakovnik, Czech Republic last weekend at the Club Champion's Trophy event.

They began the weekend well, sneaking a 1-0 win over French side Lille before picking up a 2-1 win over BKS Start Brzeziny from Poland. They then drew with Dinamo Sumchanka from Ukraine to end up in second on the group on goal difference.

It meant they drew Belgium's Royal Antwerp in one of two promotion playoff matches but, despite drawing 2-2 at half-time, were unable to grab victory and promotion to the top tier, losing out 4-2 to share third place with Italy's HF Lorenzoni.

Irwin announces his retirement

After 130 caps and 36 goals, Mark Irwin has become the fourth retirement from the Irish hockey set-up since the Olympic qulaifiers.

The 31 year-old Instonians striker calls it a day along with Andy Barbour, Jason Black and Paddy Brown as Ireland have a year and a half away from major competition.

Irwin explains his reasons for stepping off the international stage “It has always been my dream to play in the Olympic Games. Like the rest squad I gave everything possible to make that dream a reality and was bitterly disappointed to miss out.

"Given the natural break in the international competition calendar I believe that now is the right time to call an end to my international career. There is a wealth of young talent coming through the system and it is essential that they are given the opportunity to experience hockey at the highest level while they have the time and energy to put that experience to good use.”

Talking about the highlights of his career one particular moment seemed to stand out “It has been an enormous pleasure and privilege to represent my country but the highlight for me personally was being given the captain’s armband during the summer of 2006 – leading your country is an honour that very few people in any sport achieve and I will treasure the memory for the rest of my life.”

Irwin who has been on the international scene the longest out of any of the current senior squad, 12 years and looking to the future, Irwin is optimistic for Irish hockey “I believe that the next few years are critical for Irish hockey. The raw talent, enthusiasm and hunger is there in abundance.

"In return for their total commitment the players deserve a set-up that gives them the best possible chance to succeed. Much has already been done but it is incumbent on all the stakeholders in Irish hockey to make sure that we provide our athletes with the opportunity to realise their full potential.”

Monday, May 12, 2008

Men's Round-up

With virtually all the domestic issues done and dusted, here's a rundown of who won what this season:

Division 2: Railway Union won the title with a bit to spare ahead of Suttonians. The key results for both sides came against Trinity with Railway recovering from 3-0 down to snatch a draw while Suttonians seemed to be closing the gap until they slipped up 4-3 to the students to all but end their title challenge.

Neville Davin Cup: Suttonians got a modicum of compensation for missing out on promotion, winning three titles. They beat Skerries 3-2 on golden goal, Mukhtar Ahmed scoring twice in normal time before David Quinn netted a winner.

Division 3 and Railway Cup: Pembroke II completed another triple this year, though they only sealed the title on the last day of the season with a 4-1 win over Corinthian. Another impressive season, they did lose for the first time over 50 matches, though. They won the Railway Cup final 6-0 after overcoming TRR on strokes.

Division 4: Glenanne retained their IIIs title, comfortably holding off the attentions of Pembroke who fell away in the second half of the season and Corinthian who had a strong finish.

Division 5: While Rovers III struggled all season, their IVs were outstanding, dropping just four points all year.

Intermediate Cup: PSBPP II claimed the cup, following a run that saw them beat TRR, Avoca, Weston and YMCA 1-0 in the final.

Division 6: Suttonians II claimed div 6 via a playoff after finishing the regular season level on 39 points with North Kildare, claiming the decider 2-1.

Division 7: Monkstown V won this league at a canter, lying almost 20 points clear of the field, winning the title in early March and suffering only one defeat when the league was already won.

Junior Cup: Clontarf III took the title 2-0 beating YMCA V after a nail-biting semi-final where they overcame UCD on penalty strokes.

Division 8: Mullingar II bagged the division, finishing well clear of Bray III, making good use of their home turf, winning seven out of seven and conceding just three times.

Division 9: Fingal IV beat the challenge of Suttonians III to gain promotion up to division 8, dropping just two points all season.

Minor Cup: Kilkenny III added to their great record in the Minor Cup as their scratch team regularly produces the goods. They denied Fingal the double with a 6-1 win in the final.

Galtrim Cup: Monkstown retained the Galtrim Cup with a 2-1 win over Glenanne with Liam Walsh scoring in his last game for the club before moving to the US.

Walters Cup: Suttonians II/III mixture picked up the Walters Cup with a 3-2 win over Pembroke. Shane Diveney scored twice and Paddy Brazel got the other.

Monkstown win in Nijmegen

Monkstown won the prestigious under-14 tournament hosted by Union HC in Nijmegen. In blistering heat, they topped their group winning four and narrowly losing one pool game.

In Sunday's semi-final, they came out on top in very tough physical game against BHV Push winning 2-1 with goals from Max Bradley and Aran Rooney.

In the final against UHC Qui Vive - the team they lost to in the final pool game - they won a hard fought contest, their efforts were rewarded with a short corner goal converted by captain David Cole.

EHL final: Iain Lewers' viewpoint

After the EHL final, I spoke briefly about his involvement with HGC and how he felt they did on the day:

“We started with a game plan and we kept to it pretty much and played well, too. Especially when we went down to 10 men for most of the third quarter and we thought it was going to be our day.

“We always knew we would get a chance, we got one [in the last minute]. Sometimes they go for you and sometimes they don’t. Today, it didn’t but you have to live with it but that’s sport.”

Lewers started the game at centre-midfield and was one of the driving forces in the game. A measure of his influence was that his opposite number Moritz Furste - named as the EHL’s MVP - did not get a touch in the game while he was dynamic going forward.

Looking back on the season, Lewers felt joining the Dutch club has been a tremendous aid to his hockey and the club has definitely appreciated him with a contract for next season already on the table.

“Its definitely improved since [the European Championships in] Manchester . It took us a wee while as a team tpo get together. By the first round of the EHL in mid-October, we really began to gel together and I reaped the benefits of that in a good team, playing with some world class players and oppositions.”

It will be a very different hockey scene should he return to Annadale as well-wishers and supporters mobbed Iain on his departure from the pitch.

Asked about how he will manage if he were to return home, he adds “sure, I was grand before all this, I should be grand after.”

Sunday, May 11, 2008

EHL Final: HGC 0 Uhlenhorst 1 (after silver goal)

Uhlenhorst claimed the inaugural EuroHockey League with a silver oal in a pulsating final against Dutch side HGC, with Benjamin Kopp’s lucky deflection winning the day.

His goal in the third minute of extra-time came as he attempted to deflect a sideline hit across the goal but it found the back of Robin de Munk’s foot to send Guus Vogels the wrong way and crash into the backboard.

It was a cruel way to end the tournament and in complete ante position to the high quality and barrage of stunning goals that have made this tournament likely to be a firm fixture on the hockey circuit, revolutionising the way hockey is marketed and presented on television.

The Hamburg side, in truth, was much the stronger side creating most of the chances after a sticky first 10 minutes. Bram Lomans needed to put in an unbelievable sliding tackle to prevent Philip Sunkel’s first chance before he hit the bar and Kopp hit the post in the closing stages of the half.

Again, the game was nip and tuck throughout the second period with Barry Middleton looking dangerous up front while Iain Lewers was in great form in the centre of the park.

But UHC made most of the clear-cut chances, Carlos Nevado’s excellent running combined with Moritz Falcke’s skills looked likely to unlock the door at any stage. Vogels also pulled off two diving corner saves from Breitenstein’s drag-flicks.

But, it was HGC who had the best chance of nicking the win in the very last minute when Rody Hofkamp dissected the defence to find Floris van der Linden’s cross run. His reverse though, caught Johnnes Blank’s in-step and the chance was gone.

It meant extra-time silver goal and the heartbreak of Kopp’s bizarre goal. HGC still had two and a half minutes to get back but they barely threatened as the German side deservedly took home the trophy.

EHL Bronze Medal match: Egara 2 Rotterdam 2 (1-2 on penalties)

Rotterdam claimed third in the EHL with a dramatic bronze-medal match, drawing rapturous applause from all around the Schiebroek ground.

They did via a penalty one-on-one shoot-out, outscoring Egara 2-1 in the best of three competition after normal and extra time could not separate the sides.

Egara started in the ascendancy with Edouard Tubau’s exceptional skills ghosting past three defenders. His attempted one-two only found a defender but the ball came back in the desired manner for the Catalan talisman to roll home from a tight angle.

Rotterdam drew level through Sohail Abbas, netting his seventh penalty corner of the tournament to tie the game up after 25 minutes. And their set-piece skills had them in front by the break when Sjoerd Gerretsen got the slightest of deflections to a free-hit from the top of the circle.

The second half proved an end to end affair, with Rotterdam finding plenty of space to exploit as Egara pushed on in numbers. It came as a bit of a surprise when only Tubau’s tidy effort was the only half’s only goal, coming just 150 seconds in.

There was almost late drama, as Egara controlled the game’s closing minutes, firstly after Abbas miscued an overhead straight into Jordi Clapes. Clapes played in Guillermo Schickendantz but his reverse flew over.

And with 15 seconds left, Tubau’s dribbling attempted to set up one last corner but Rotterdam defended solidly.

Extra-time brought huge drama as each penalty corner could prove decisive, Abbas and Schickendantz firing one wide apiece after huge nervous build-up in the stands. Australian Peter Taylor also created two good openings from right midfield setting up Wasseem Ahmed and Jeroen Hertzberger but neither could get a finish.

As it was, it went to one of the EHL’s most exciting innovations – the one-on-one shoot-out. Hertzberger scored dribbling around Cortes on his left hand side, Schickendantz attempted the same but put it wide of Daan Vismans goal.

Wasseem scored at the second attempt to put Rotterdam 2-0 up but Ramon Alegre got his team on the board after he looked to have been clipped by Vismans but stayed up and swept the ball home.

Matthe de Jong missed Rotterdam’s third effort but the star of the game, Tubau could not move the game into sudden-death, flicking into the side-netting after being forced right.

EHL: The Irish viewpoint

HGC’s win means Ireland will have three representatives in the final of the inaugural EHL with Iain Lewers and John Jermyn as players and umpiring legend Ray O’Connor acting as video referee.

And speaking about the final last night, Jermyn said he was obviously excited about the event. “it’s an amzing achievement. The first two EHL rounds were good but this is another level. Its an amazing achievement to get to the last two but no way will be settling for that”.

Lewers started the game at centre-mid, playing in a holding role and was instrumental in HGC’s third goal while Jermyn made his return after three weeks on the sidelines with injury to set up the fourth goal before half-time.

Meanwhile, O’Connor spoke about his involvement as video referee saying his task was simple enough, given the amount of cameras around the pitch. It’s made even simpler that if the video cameras cannot find a definitive angle, O’Connor is instructed not to award a goal. As yet, no decisions have been referred ‘upstairs’.

EHL Semi-finals: HGC 7 Rotterdam 4

Rotterdam and the Hague may be separated by scarcely 30 kilometres of motorway but events on the other side of the world was the key factor in dividing these two sides.

HGC made hard work of their win in what was an absolute cracker with formations and tactics thrown out the window for the sake of entertainment. In the end, they had too much class up front, with Barry Middleton and Timmo Kranstauber running riot as both sets of local supporters rocked the house.

Bram Lomans opened the scoring with a drag-flick to make it 1-0 after a fairly even first quarter before HGC pulled away in the second, when Rody Hofkamp latched onto a defensive howler before Kranstauber tapped in the third from close range.

It followed up great work from Iain Lewers who laid the ball into the path of late call-up Floris van der Linden. He danced down the end-line to set up an easy finish and it looked as if the Wassenaar club would run away with the game.

Sohail Abbas pulled one back from a corner before a tidy, tic-tac passing move saw John Jermyn play in Kenny Pereira. He laid on for Joris Elbers whose scored at the second attempt to put three goals between the side by the break.

At that point, there was a massive difference in class as Rotterdam attempted to make up for the loss of three New Zealand internationals and one Australian who are in action in the Sultan Azlan Shah cup in Malaysia. They were also rocked by the loss of two of their Hertzberger brothers and Dutch striker Tigges to injury before the game.

Only Wasseem Ahmed and Jeroen Hertzberger looked a threat, however, they made a real game of it in the second half in the sweltering heat.

Middleton created two gilt-edged chances early in the second half but it was Jeroen Hertzberger who scored next. And what a goal, he did a rake of solo work, making an opening down the right flank before punching a stunning shot over Guus Vogels’ shoulder.

Abbas nailed another drag to make it 4-3 with 22 minutes still left and recovering the game which looked as if it could have gone flat.

Chances flew back and forth as both sides took turns to chase the game.

The killer goal, though, came three minutes into the fourth quarter as captain Mike Husken was given a free run from a long-corner, working his way into the circle before rifling in a reverse. It was half-stopped but Elbers was on hand to tap home at the second attempt.

Middleton got the sixth, profiting from a scrappily-dealt with overhead that he pinged home before Perreira got the magnificent seventh, scooping in after Robin de Munk made the chance.

Michael de Vugt got a late consolation with 50 seconds to go in a spectacular game.