Wednesday, July 30, 2008

U-18 Boys pick up solid draw while girls struggle

Ireland's Under-18 girl's lost 6-1 to England, falling behind in the 16th minute after a lively start. England double their lead in the 25th minute from open play before adding two in two minutes before the break.

A dominant English side made it five soon after the break. Ireland responded within sixty seconds when Dora Gorman picked out Olivia Roycroft who deflected onto the left post for Naomi Carroll to tap in. Brief respite, England added a sixth to complete the scoring.

Coach Mary Logue said of the game: “England were a very strong team who have been together for a long time, but I am pleased by our improved performance on yesterday and spirited play displayed by our squad, despite the pressure we were under we still managed to create chances.”

The boys, meanwhile, stay in contention for their title with a 2-2 draw against England leaving both teams in pole position for a final place on Friday.

Ireland opened brightly with early deflection attempts narrowly missing the post but were stunned when Jackson's short corner made it 1-0, England, holding the lead to half-time.

The game ebbed and flowed for the remainder of the half and with both goalkeepers in top form and good short corner defence; the score-line remained 1-0 until half time.

Ireland search for an equaliser was rewarded in the 57th minute when Mark Crooks scored from second phase short corner play but were caught on the break in the 66th minute when Brooke deflected home to restore the lead.

But the Irish continued to pressurise and deservedly equalised when Ryan McCrea deflected in a Dan Hobbs drag flick.

Speaking after the match, manager Peter Jackson said “This was a good performance on the back of yesterday’s victory over Scotland . Our players stepped up to the mark and to come from behind twice shows their grit and determination to get a result”.

Mixed results for Under-18s

Ireland's boys got their Four Nations Tournament running with a 2-1 victory over Scotland in Cardiff. After a first-half of missed chances, Ireland broke the deadlock in the second when Dan Hobbs' run found Ryan McCrea. His neat slip fed Kyle Good to slap home.

Davy Carson doubled the lead with three minutes to go after a break down the right wing before Scotland pulled one back in the final minute.

Commenting on the match, John Hobbs said “It is pleasing to have won our opening game but as the players have acknowledged, greater effort and concentration will be needed in our matches against England and Wales ”.

On the girl's side, Ireland lost 2-0 to the same opposition. The Scottish started the livelier in a hastily re-arranged fixture with two goals in the first ten minutes. Scotland looked stronger throughout while Ireland provided game opposition but were unable to trouble the scorers

Speaking about the game, manager Sinead McDonnell said "We came into the game more for the last 35, they were the stronger side overall but Ireland displayed some good performances, including some excellent play by Keeper Lisa Costley."

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Men's early season fixtures announced

The provisional early-season fixtures have been released by the Leinster branch. The season opens up for the firsts for the second year running with the first two rounds of the Neville Cup on September 13 and 20 as well as two rounds of division 4.

Two eye-catching ties in the Neville, Monkstown face Pembroke while Lucas Piccioli will face his old charges straightaway as Three Rock host Corinthian.

The league begins in earnest on September 27 with the majority of ties pitching last-seasons front-runners against sides from the lower reaches with Fingal-Corinthian probably the tightest tie on paper. October 4, though, sees a huge clash with Pembroke playing Rovers in Serpentine Avenue.

Week 1 - September 13
Neville Cup Round 1:
Kilkenny vs Suttonians, Railway Union vs Dublin University, Monkstown vs Pembroke Wanderers, Clontarf vs Glenanne, UCD vs Naas, Weston vs YMCA, Three Rock Rovers vs Corinthians, Avoca vs Fingal
Division 4: Round 1
Week 2 - September 20
Neville Cup Quarter-finals
Division 4: Round 2
Week 3 September 27
Division 1:Three Rock Rovers vs Railway Union, Glenanne vs Kilkenny, Fingal vs Corinthian, YMCA vs Monkstown, UCD vs Pembroke Wanderers
Division 3: Round 1; Division 4: Round 3; Division 5: Round 1

Week 4 October 4
Division 1: Railway Union vs Glenanne; Kilkenny vs Fingal; Corinthians vs YMCA; Monkstown vs UCD; Pembroke Wanderers vs Three Rock Rovers
Division 2: Clontarf vs Naas, Skerries vs Avoca, Weston vs Dublin University, Navan vs Suttonians
Division 3: Round 2; Division 4: Round 4; Division 5: Round 2; Division 6: Round 1; Division 7: Round 1

Week 5 October 11
Division 1: Kilkenny vs Railway Union, Corinthians vs Glenanne, Monkstown vs Fingal, Pembroke Wanderers vs YMCA, UCD vs Three Rock Rovers
Division 2: Naas vs Skerries, Avoca vs Weston, Dublin University vs Navan, Suttonians vs Bray
Division 3: Round 3; Division 4: Round 5; Division 5: Round 3; Division 6: Round 2; Division 7 Round 2

Week 6 October 18
All Ireland League Round 1
Division 2: Avoca vs Clontarf, Dublin University vs Skerries, Suttonians vs Weston, Navan vs Bray
Division 3: Round 4; Division 4: Round 6; Division 5: Round 4; Division 6: Round 3; Division 7: Round 3; Division 8: Round 1; Division 9: Round 1

Friday, July 25, 2008

News in brief - Coaches on the move

* John McInroy will take on a player-coach role at Corinthian next season, moving from Pembroke after two seasons with the current Irish Senior Cup holders.

* Glenanne have signed up Arul Anthoni for the 2008/09 season. The former Malaysian international arrived in January 2007 and has been coach of Dublin University men up to this point. He will be replaced on Santry Avenue by Ronan Pelow.

* Speaking of Trinity, former player and assistant coach Johnny Harte moves across the city from his post at Bray ladies to join up with John McInerney in the coaching set-up at Fingal for the season.

* Monkstown have confirmed that Rory O'Donoghue has taken on the head-coach's role with Trevor Watkins becoming the assistant coach. Richard Mason stays with the club and will be in charge of the second team.

* Finally, the final 24-team line-up has been confirmed for next season's EuroHockey League. To see the entrants, click here. The draw and format of this year's competition will be announced on August 29.

Youtube hits the FIH

* The FIH has increased its output on YouTube with the FIH website featuring a ‘YouTube Clip of the Week’. Each week, the FIH will choose one user-generated hockey video as the clip of the week to be featured on the FIH home page.

Visitors of the site can nominate their favorite clip by e-mailing the link to The FIH Communications and Marketing Department will choose each week the best video. The first clip is online right now - the original "Feeling 4 Shinty" video, performed by Shinty hockey club members.

FIH is one of the first International Sports Federations with its own You Tube section. Matches from the WorldHockey Champions Trophy in Rotterdam (June 2008) and the ABN AMRO WorldHockey Magazine are online at The final of the WorldHockey Champions Trophy has already been watched by more than 11’000 visitors to You Tube.

To see my Youtube round-ups from earlier this season, click here for part one and here for number two.

Under-18s set for Four-Nations tournament

The Irish under-18 boys and girls depart on Monday for a Four-Nations tournament runs next week in Cardiff, Wales to run from July 29 to – August 1.

On the boys side, John Hobbs heads up the management team – in place of Arul Anthoni who is currently on leave with his family in his native Malaysia – which also includes Banbridge pair Mark and Suzanne Evans who will take on the goalkeeping coaching and video analysis roles respectively along with Peter Jackson and Edward Gash as part of an experienced coaching staff.

The squad has taken part in two three-day training camps since the end of the school exam period, taking in the Celtic Cup in Cork in early July and a three-day session in Dublin last weekend playing a Leinster selection.

Speaking about the squad, John Hobbs has been impressed by what he has seen, saying: “There is a great attitude amongst the group to work hard and demand that little bit more from each other during training sessions and that will stand to us during the Four-Nation’s tournament in Cardiff.

“We have prepared more tactically for this tournament, and whilst we would have liked more opportunities to train together during the summer unfortunately exams and other demands sometimes dictate otherwise.

“This tournament provides us with our first real opportunity for competitive hockey this summer, as we have previously played in tests against England and Belgium during the season in UCD, and I’m looking forward to seeing how the players react in this competitive environment.

“A tournament also allows us more feedback time with the group in relation to video analysis and individual action plans for the players that will help them in their quest for selection for the following season’s European Youth Nations Championships and/or progression to the Ireland A training panel.”

IHA Young player of the Year, Stuart Loughrey has been named as the team’s captain and Stuart Smith as vice-captain for the tournament as well as a number of the All-Ireland School’s winning Cookstown side.

Boys Squad:
Phillip Brown (Banbridge/Banbridge Academy), David Carson (Corinthian/St Andrews), Stephen Cole (Monkstown/St Andrews), James Corry (Raphoe/Royal & Prior) Mark Crooks (Cookstown/Cookstown High), Scott Forbes (Banbridge/Banbridge Academy), Kyle Good (Three Rock Rovers/Wesley College), Dan Hobbs (Cork Harequins/Ashton), Stephen Hunter (Lisnagarvey/Wallace HS), Stuart Loughrey (Pembroke Wanderers/St Andrews), Peter MacDonnell (Lisnagarvey/Wallace HS), Ryan McCrea (Mossley), Josh Purcell (Dublin YMCA/High School), Stephen Sloan (Cookstown/Cookstown High), Stuart Smyth (Cookstown/Cookstown High), Cian Speers (Monkstown/St. Andrews), Alastair Thom (GK) (Cookstown/Cookstown High), Stephen West (GK) (Three Rock Rovers/St Andrews)

Girls Squad:
Lisa Costley (Lurgan College/Lurgan Ladies), Emilie Molloy (Jesuits/Galway), Naomi Carroll (St Pats Comprehensive/Catholic Inst), Hannah Clarke (Belfast Royal Acad/Peagsus), Katie Codyre (Colaiste Iognaid/Greenfields), Brenda Flannery (Colaiste Iognaid/Greenfields), Orla Fox (Mount Sackville/Pembroke), Dora Gorman (Taylors Hill/Greenfields), Irene Gorman (Taylors Hill/Greenfields), Jenny Kyle (Belfast Royal Acad/Pegasus), Kirstie Lammey (Carrickfergus Grammar/Greenisland Ladies), Jessica McMickan (The Bower), Ali Meeke (High School/Corinthian), Tara Melvin (Colaiste Iognaid/Galway), Ruth Millar (Grosvenor Grammar/Belfast H'Quins), Olivia Roycroft (Bandon Grammar/Bandon), Claire Warnock (Royal School, Armagh/Armagh), Jenna Watt (Victoria College/Belfast H'Quins)

Playing Schedule:

Tuesday, July 29, Girls: Ireland v England (10am), Boys: Scotland v Ireland (12pm)
Wednesday, July 30, Boys: Ireland v England (12pm), Girls: Wales v Ireland (2pm)
Thursday, July 31 Girls: Ireland v Scotland (10am), Boys: Ireland v Wales (4pm)
Friday, August 1: Playoff Games

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Irish management come to terms with Lewers' departure

Iain Lewers declaration for Great Britain has caused shockwaves through Irish hockey in the past week. As one of Ireland’s standout players in the past year, the news has come as a big headache for the national team management.

Irish assistant-coach Craig Fulton sums up the mood."It's a huge disappointment. He's come through quite strongly in the last 18 months, and in terms of going forward for the next cycle he was always in our plans, and now he's not, so we have to go back to the drawing board and mix it up a bit.”
Fulton, though, believes that Ireland will be able to deal with the loss and become stronger as the side has a talented pool of young players coming through."We have got a strong U-21 group coming through, 10 of whom were on display in the Celtic Cup, so we're not in dire straits. There's a lot of talent out there and we've got to harness it.

"The players know what we need to do to perform, we're not that far off. If we were drastically off the money I think it would be a different scenario [regarding people declaring for Great Britain]."I think this group who have been through the qualifying tournaments know that massive changes aren't needed, it's just little details.”

Returning to Lewers, Fulton feels the former Annadale man is taking a huge step into the unknown."Iain will get his hockey in Holland, but to take three years out of international hockey at the height of his career … who knows what will happen? It's a tough decision, but you've only got one life."

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Advertising Feature: "Backcast Live" team analysis package

Fastest team video analysis package on the market, suitable for players, schools & coaches. Complete starter package €395- ex. delivery

In 1999, the Dutch ladies were still in desperate search of an illusive Olympic gold. Marc Lammers – Holland's long-term coach – had been using the latest technological gadgets for some time.

That year, he controversially introduced video glasses, using them to watch video replays and then, used hand signals to his players to tell them which corners to take.After a while, competitors started to film him to decipher his coded sign language.

His reaction was to introduce wireless earphones to communicate the corners to the captain.He explains, now, though that he has found an even better technological innovation: the TimeWarp system that transmits a video signal from the video tower to a computer in his dugout.

The computer shows the matches with a 10-second delay enabling him to spot what went wrong and ask his substitutes on what they thought went wrong, helping him to react when they enter the pitch.

He says, "You can also save the clips… no other country uses this in the way we use it". Video analysis also takes place after the game and the findings are integrated into their training sessions.

To register all the actions during the game, a 'clicker' is used to register all actions during the game. This can be done after or during the match. Players also benefit from watching specific video footage of themselves.

This innovation is not only valuable at top level but also for the youth where they can track player development and decide on specific coaching to assist their particular development.The third generation version of the product has been brought to Ireland for the first time and is available for €395.

This unique package includes the software, firewire cable and a specially programmed remote control to operate the software. This package is now available exclusively through 'The Hook'. To find out more information on ordering, email Jan-Willem at , don't forget to mention The Hook to be eligible for this offer

In short this package offers:
- Entry level for team sports (tactics and techniques).
- Simple to get started.
- Don't need to be an expert to use.
- Coach can focus on game.
- Provides the coach and players with the facts.
- Instant replay feature is ideal for analysis during games.
- Proven for hockey- Marc Lammers – Coach to Dutch Olympic Gold uses it.

All you need is a MiniDV camera, computer and €500 budget for the rest. Despite the low cost, this system provides the fastest way to analyse sport. Basic system saves and sorts ten different categories of action.

Buy the system through Jan Willem and he will provide exclusive hardware and tips and tricks to get the most from it. He will show you how flexible system is and how you can intergrate it in your training sessions.

By purchasing a licence through Jan Willem, you get access to hardware upgrades (e.g. wireless systems) and get expert advice how to use. All in all provides great technical support to coaches, players and schools

Delhi set to host World Cup

Delhi, India will host the Men's World Cup 2010 at their newly developed National Hockey Stadium it was announced this week after an agreement was made between the FIH and the IOA.

The stadium, which is presently being totally renovated, will also be the venue of the hockey competition of the Commonwealth Games in 2010. The World Cup will be organized as a joint venture between the FIH and the IOA. Both organizations have agreed that all profits will be reinvested in the project Promoting Indian Hockey.

The country will also host a Champion's Trophy in either 2011 or 2012 subject to sponsorship and other arrangements being arranged and, also, to hold a Women’s tournament in India in the next few years.

Friday, July 18, 2008

All-Ireland competitions re-structured

With the beginning of the All-Ireland league next season, there will be a number of changes to the structure of the Irish cup competitions.

Here's the basic rundown: The dates for the five rounds of the All-Ireland league are: October 18th 2008, November 29th 2008, January 31st 2009, March 7th 2009, April 4th 2009, with the finals taking place on May 2nd and 3rd 2009.

The entry for the Irish Senior Cup will now comprise of Senior 1 teams only, plus the semi-finalist from the newly introduced Irish Trophy cup with all matches to be played after Christmas. The Irish Trophy cup is open to all non-Senior 1 teams, with all stages up to the semi-finals played before Christmas.

A similar move takes place for the Irish Junior Cup. It is open to all 2nd eleven teams of Senior 1 clubs with the first round taking place in November. The Irish Challenge Cup is open to all 2nd eleven teams of Senior 2 and Junior Clubs. The first round will be in December.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Lewers declares for GB

The Irish Hockey Association announced today that star-player Iain Lewers has withdrawn from the Senior Irish Men’s team, effective immediately. Lewers has made the decision to make himself available for future selection on the Great British hockey team.

As a result, he will no longer be eligible to play any international hockey for the next three years. He will continue to play his club hockey with top Dutch club HGC in Holland.

Speaking to the Hook about his decision, Lewers said that he has taken this route in order to further his hopes of playing at the pinnacle of international hockey, namely the 2012 Olympics.

“I have ambitions and goals in hockey like everyone else, and I feel this is the best possible way to achieve these goals and aspirations.”

In doing so, Lewers is hoping to emulate two of Ulster’s finest – Jimmy Kirkwood and Stephen Martin (who is heavily involved in bringing the Olympics to London) – and compete for gold at hockey’s highest level.

But if the HGC player is successful in making the British squad for 2012, he will be the first player from this island to play in an Olympics since a ruling was made that Ulster players cannot play for both GB and Ireland.

The decision will be a major concern for the IHA, with Lewers believing that Ireland does not currently have what it takes to break into the world’s elite, despite recent improvements.

Asked whether he saw Ireland making the grade, he responded

“The answer to your question at this minute time is no, and that’s why I decided to make the decision I have. While I agree with a lot of people in Irish hockey that the current time has a lot of talent, I don't believe that at the top end of high performance in Irish hockey that the structure is there to help give these talented players the best possible chance of qualifying for major tournaments.

“Ultimately my decision can be seen as selfish, but you are not an international hockey player for too long and you have to make decisions which are best for you.”

The move is not without precedent in hockey’s recent past with Marilyn Agliotti playing initially for South Africa before taking a three-year hiatus and then getting selected for the Netherlands. Likewise, Laurence Doherty attempted to shift allegiance from Scotland to the Netherlands.

The latter spent three years attempting to naturalise, living in Holland and playing for Klein Zwitserland but found it hard to break into the Oranje squad but, after a struggle and a lot of time spent on the fringes, has now made the Dutch Olympic squad.

If all goes to plan, Lewers will qualify to play for England in international competition in three year’s time but says that this was an independent decision and was not approached by the English set-up to force his hand.

The case will, as such, mirror the break from international that cricket’s Ed Joyce took in order to qualify for an England call-up – though the fact Ireland play at the same level in hockey rather than having test status means that Lewers could well play his old colleagues sooner and more regularly.

Asked if he was concerned about the three year hiatus, playing with the European club runners-up should provide the sharpness he needs to develop.

“Basically, I will not compete on an international hockey pitch for three years, then i will become available for England. However, in order to compensate for the lack of international hockey, I will be continuing to play in the best league in the world in Holland where every week is close to playing a international game. I feel by doing this it will give me the best possible chance to re-entering the international fold.

“I think it’s the risk you take as an individual if you are going to make these decisions. As long as you are aware of the possible outcomes of your decisions, and as long as you feel you have done everything possible to ultimately be selected then I think you can always justify your decision.”

A brave decision – it ultimately raises serious questions for the IHA to deal with, especially with the recent motion from DUP and Lisnagarvey man Alaistair Ross on the issue.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Fancy some high quality midsummer hockey?

Fancy playing some high level hockey and free coaching this weekend? The Irish U-18 side is looking to play a high quality pair of challenge matches in UCD next weekend.

The games take place on Saturday, July 19, tipping off at 2pm (this match will be followed by a one hour shooting session taken by a leading Ulster coach) and on Sunday at 12pm. Contact Turloch O’Siochain if you would like to take part by emailing

Sunday, July 13, 2008

U-16 Boys secure A division spot

Ireland secured their 'A' Division European Under-16 status with a 4-2 victory over Italy in the first of their final ranking matches.

A spirited Italian side caught Ireland on the hop when they opened the score in the fourth minute with a drag flick but Ireland soon gained the upper hand in terms of possession. It took until the 20th minute, though, for Ireland to draw level with a Stephen Dowds corner goal.

Shane Madeley gave Ireland the lead in the 29th minute with great work by Darren Sweetnam inside the circle left the Rovers man with a simple tap in. Madeley added a second just before the break Ireland a 3-1 lead and make the game more comfortable.

Squandered chances let Italy back into the game, pulling one back with four minutes left but the Irish responded well to reagin their two goal advantage when Dowds scored another drag-flick to finish the game 4-2.

Coach Andy Smyth said of the performance "This was not our greatest performance but we ground out a result which has secured our 'A' Division status for 2009. This is important for future Irish U-16 teams and development. It will be a great occasion to play England tomorrow and one which we are all looking forward to."

With the pressure off, Ireland played out a lively, if eventually unsuccessful finish to the tournament with England. They lost 5-3 to end the tournament in sixth place but will probably look back to the 5-5 draw against Russia as a missed opportunity.

The Netherlands completed the double with 7-4 win over Belgium and they, like their female counterparts, qualify for the Singapore Youth Olympics in 2009. Both sides were presented with their winner's trophies by Nina Niedermeyer - a 19 year-old from Berlin won this award at the WorldHockey Promoters Festival during the recent Olympic Qualifier in Victoria, Canada

U-16 Girl's finish fourth

The Irish under-16 girl's finished with two defeats in the European Youth Championships to finish fourth despite two gutsy first half performances against the Netherlands and Spain.

In Saturday's semi-final, the Irish held the Dutch scoreless before struggling in the second period to lose 5-0 before tying 1-1 with Spain at the break in the 3rd/4th place play-off but fell to a 3-1 deficit.

The Netherlands went on to win the competition with a 2-1 win over England and are the first qualifiers for the 2009 Youth Olympics in Singapore.

Naas club member finishes third in World Youth Hockey Promoter's Festival

Naas Hockey Club’s Amy Young represented Ireland last month in Victoria, Canada at the World Youth Hockey Promoters Festival 2008 following her nomination last year by the IHA to attend the festival.

Amy produced a presentation on her ideas on how youth hockey could be developed in Ireland with her project, “Push Hit Slap, Bridge that Gap”, focusing on combating the drop out of teenage girls from the sport. It was based on the experiences of teenage girls in Naas Hockey Club last year when they played as part of a developmental team with two player-coaches within the senior section of the club.

The project looked at how to bridge the daunting gap between the junior and senior section of the club as at this stage many girls stop playing hockey. By focusing on why the youth players play hockey this initiative hoped to keep them involved in the sport at some level whether it was playing for the 1sts, coaching the juniors or playing social hockey.

It was found that girls are involved in the sport for social reasons as much as for the game itself so the club tried to bridge the gap between social and hockey with a trip away and an awards night.The festival aims to give the youth a voice, teach them about hockey leadership and create intercultural awareness and friendship and was an amazing experience.

Amy learned how diverse the hockey world is, sharing ideas with youth leaders from countries such as Barbados, Croatia, Germany and Hong Kong. During the festival the World Youth Hockey Promoter had to be selected. Amy’s presentation made it to the finals where along with the five other finalists she presented it to an international hockey jury. Nina Niedermeyer was awarded the title, with Amy finishing in third place.

Young is the second member of Naas to attend, with Jane Cronin’s project finishing in the top six finishers in Rosario, Chile in 2006. Belfast Harlequins’ Carl Allen also attended this year’s festival, finishing in top six. His presentation focussed on a comprehensive youth season plan.

Closer to home, at the recent Celtic Cup competition, held in Garryduff, Munster’s youth leaders (pictured) were honoured by the IHA for their efforts in a half-time ceremony.

Friday, July 11, 2008

The Hooks: Men's Player of the Year

It’s already on record on the site that there’s going to be some dissent to this decision but I think it has to go to Mitch Darling, based on the matches I have seen this season. A couple of others came close, especially from Pembroke. Justin Sherriff was untouchable in some games this season, scoring some absolute screamers. Alan Sothern banged in a rake load of goals while, for me, Tim Lewis was the club’s best player, developing into one of Ireland’s best players this season.

Elsewhere, David Robinson looked perfectly at home in a Leinster jersey until he picked up his shoulder injury. Filip Jaros was instrumental in setting Monkstown’s flyers free while Brendan Parsons and Alan Browne kept Glenanne’s season motoring.

Three Rock, too, had a number of heroes with Maarten Sier’s goals making up for his time spent in the sin-bin, Andy McConnell adding bite in midfield and Charlie Henderson proving his worth.
But Darling seemed to be central at all the key moments of the season, starring for Leinster, banging in five semi-final goals and ending the season with five strikes in seven internationals.

Winner: Mitch Darling

The Hooks: Goalkeeper of the Year

On the men’s side, after a pre-season of transfers, the standard of goalkeeping in Leinster is now absurdly high. It’s interesting to note that Monkstown’s Dave Fitzgerald and Corinthian’s Ross Murray are both involved with Irish development squads but barely got a look-in at the Leinster senior squad.

Iain Walker, Charlie Henderson and Stephen Doran all pulled off some stunning performances – especially Doran and Henderson against Pembroke – but David Harte is a class apart between the posts.

In a vintage year for goalkeepers, the Pembroke net-minder frequently pulls off the improbable and his performances for Ireland show immense maturity.

Winner: David Harte

The Hooks: Men's Newcomer of the Year

Leinster hockey is seemingly becoming younger and younger with the increased level of professionalism seeing a number of players in their mid to late 20s dropping to second’s level.

As such, there is a whole myriad of youngsters breaking through. Virtually YM’s whole side appeared to be competing in their first full season in division one, Kyle Good has started scoring the odd goal or two for Rovers while Glenanne starlet Shane O’Donoghue is one to watch for the future.

Monkstown’s Stephen Cole almost took the title, being incredibly assured at right-back but his St Andrews’ schoolmate, Stuart Loughrey stepped up to the top level brilliantly when Conor Harte and Ronan Flannery were ruled out, featuring in both Club Championship and Irish Senior finals.

Winner: Stuart Loughrey

The Hooks: Women's Newcomer of the Year

Similar to the men’s side, a wealth of teenagers were plying their trade in division one this year with most of the top sides featuring school’s players. Loreto’s pairing of Zara Delaney and Hannah Matthews shone but Hermes’ have a heap of youngsters. Chloe Watkins is one for the future but only featured in the Club Championships while Gillian Pinder and Niamh Atchelor will grow into the squad.

Nicola Evans scored a rake of goals but Anna O’Flanagan was an amazing force in the creative engine room for Hermes and takes the honour.

Winner: Anna O'Flanagan

The Hooks: Woman's Player of the Year

With the title race being so tight this year, it was hard to pick out a player of the year, especially with the Irish players missing out on half of the season. Nikki Symmons revitalised Loreto in the Club Championships while Railway’s players came and went while starring at different parts of the season.

Pembroke’s Natalie Fulton showed her international ability but the season was defined mainly by Hermes’ hugely improved defence and central to that was Fiona Connery who takes the Women’s Player of the Year.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

U-16 Boys knocked out on goal difference

Ireland's U-16 boys crashed out of contention for the European Youth title as Russia racked up a huge score against Austria. Their 10-1 win meant Ireland had to pull off a shock win over the hosts and tournament favourites, the Netherlands on there own patch.

And despite another goal from the prolific Stephen Dowds and one from Peter Catchpole, the Dutch were too strong, winning out 5-2. Russia, therefore took second spot with a goal difference of 5 while Ireland's was just plus one.

Ireland will look back a few decisions and pieces of luck that went against them in the Russia game where they were unable to build up a lead in the first half as they move into the 5th to 8th place play-offs. They face Italy at 12pm on Saturday in the Hague.

U-16 Girl's qualify in second

Ireland's U-16 girls were unable to build on an early lead against Spain, eventually falling 4-2 in their third match at the European Youth Nations Championship and must now face the Netherlands to keep their title dream alive.

Naomi Carroll got her third of the tournament after five minutes and Ireland had a number of opportunities to increase their lead - including several short corners - but to no avail.

Within the first minute of the second period, Spain equalised and subsequently took advantage increasing their lead to 4-1. The girls in green pulled one back in the 69th minute when Vanessa Surgeoner scored from play.

As a result, Ireland advance to the semi-finals in second spot and play group A winners and hosts, Holland, at 2pm on Saturday

Ireland U-16 draw 5-5 with Russia

Ireland U-16 boys snatched a late point against Russia in an absolute cracker to keep their hopes of a semi-final berth firmly on track.

Despite going down to ten men after only five minutes, Ireland opened the scoring in the eigth minute, when William Edgar found himself unmarked at the back post but Russia immediately equalised through a penalty corner drag flick from Zamalutdinov.

Two minutes later Russia took the lead from another penalty corner, when the ball fell kindly to Bolshakov after a great initial save from Ireland goalkeeper Collin Cleland.

The game had barely restarted when Ireland drew level through a Stephen Dowds’ drag-flick.

Ireland then laid siege on the Russian defence and their goalkeeper, Dryanitsyn pulled off two superb saves before Philip Doyle’s volley made it 3-2 in the 15th minute. It could have been even better but a netted effort two minutes later was adjudged outside the circle.

It was unfortunate as Russia equalised with a shot from outside the circle that seemed to come off an Ireland defender’s before Koryakovskiy walked the ball into net to make the half-time score a breath-taking 4-3.

Ireland missed a host of chances – including three penalty corners and a penalty stroke – before Andrew Shekleton levelled with eight minutes to go but another Zamalutdinov drag flick gave the Russians the advantage once more.

But Ireland’s endeavours were rewarded in the last 60 seconds when Tom Samuel scored from a rebound to end an entertaining affair.

Ireland now play table-toppers, the Netherlands, needing a point against the already qualified side to guarantee a semi-final place. If not, goal difference could become a vital factor – Russia would need an eight goal swing to advance.

U-16 Girls into semi-finals

Ireland's U-16 girl’s made sure of a semi-final place at the European Youth Nations Championship beating the Czech Republic 3-1. Catholic Institute’s Naomi Carroll set the Irish on their way in the very first minute but they were rocked on their heals by the Czechs who leveled barely a couple of minutes later.

From there, both sides had chances but Katie Codyre’s goal swung the balance in the Irish girl’s favour. A much more polished performance in the second half saw Carroll add her second, ten minutes from time to seal a deserved win.

Its sees Ireland top the group after two games, ahead of tomorrow’s opponent Spain with both sides guaranteed a semi-final spot. The Netherlands and England have already qualified from the other pool, meaning the third series of games will decide the semi-final match-ups.

The Hooks: End of season honours

So, with the Celtic Cup done and dusted, senior hockey goes into a well-earned break for the summer, with just a few short months until the season starts again in the Neville Cup on September 13.

Obviously, that means season reviews and getting a bit of closure on the year gone by so, over the next couple of days, I’ll be publishing my highlights of the year, starting today with the Club of the Year awards.

Friday sees the Players awards.

The Hooks: Men's Club of the Year

Setting out my pre-season predictions, I thought it was impossible to look beyond the big two of Pembroke and Glenanne. Rovers threw a Club Championship spot in 2006/07 to Monkstown and while the squad was strengthened, it was inconceivable that Pembroke’s international-laden team would be overcome.

So much of Rovers season was intertwined with Pembroke – who managed a quadruple of runners-up spots, missing out to Rovers on three occasions. Wanderers looked invincible back in late October, winning 4-1 in Grange Road. But their seemingly massive squad lost key members at key times, Conor Harte busting his shoulder in the Mills semi, Colin Kelly and Justin Sherriff before the Club Champs and missing their Irish contingent for a couple of months.

But a quadruple of titles speaks for itself and when it came to the deciding matches, Rovers found ways to get results in the league and Club Championships. The squad’s main difference proved the added grit brought in by Andy McConnell and Neil Lyons transforming a flaky side into one with a never-say-die attitude. Peter Blakeney’s emigration was easily subsumed by Maarten Sier’s drag-flicks and the arrival of Mitch Darling as an international quality striker.

Winner: Three Rock Rovers

The Hooks: Women's Club of the Year

Looking at the league table in November, Hermes looked a team in trouble. Though unbeaten, five draws saw the side languishing in mid-table as the side struggled to cope with the changing of the guard.

Coach Colin Stewart was getting used to describing his side as being in transition and was using the season to bed in a whole host of burgeoning young talent with the recently retired experience of Linda Caulfield, Fiona Connery and Jenny Burke.

A switch to a more defensive set-up – just one league goal conceded from November onwards – and Hermes claimed the most exciting league run-in in years, even without Burke, with four sides vying for the title in the last week. Again, they found themselves in trouble in the Club Champs with an early loss to Loreto but the ability of youngsters Anna O’Flanagan, Nicola Evans and Chloe Watkins was to the fore, as the side had to make do without Burke due to pregnancy and then Connery for her wedding plans.

Even without all that experience, they still prevailed thanks to Aoife Harte’s pile-driver. Throw in a Leinster Senior Cup win and it was not a bad season for a side in transition.

Winner: Hermes

The Hooks: Surprise Club of the Year

Surprise Club performance of the Year: Railway’s appearance in the semi-finals of the Club Champs was a major surprise, especially considering they had, at no point, been able to field the same side for a prolonged period with international cricket commitments, players going on year-long holidays and others returning to their homeland.

Trinity, meanwhile, made an unlikely cup final appearance under David Bane and Monkstown's epic run to the ISC final were both good moment's where the regular hegemony was broken.

But the real surprise package was Kilkenny’s presence in division 1. A year ago, Hugh Kelly told me he was not sure the club would be able to field a side in the league at all. The return of Brian Grey helped and, using a number of 1999’s All-Ireland schools winning side, added to by ‘quarterback’ Tom Manning, the Cats proved to be not just a handful of a road-trip but ruffled a number of team’s feathers on their visits to Dublin.

Winner: Kilkenny

The Hooks: Overall Club of the Year

For this honour, I felt there was only one real club in the running. Monkstown have produced some great youth teams again this year and their supporter’s club were fantastic but for developing the game while receiving results, Glenanne stood head and shoulder above everybody else.

In simple terms, the club won European, All-Ireland and Leinster honours. But the major success of the Tallaght club comes from the community and development initiatives the club puts in place. Given that the club has no direct feeder schools, unlike any of the major clubs, to keep producing top players down the club has been down to the club’s efforts to get players. This season, club members worked extensively to promote the game in Tallaght schools, bringing in outside internationals to help out.

Their European adventure showed what club’s can do with positive thinking with enough funds being raised to see over 100 fans make the trip to France and outsinging the locals.

Furthermore, the club was always prominent at putting forward candidates to take part in Youth Leadership programmes as well as producing some of the countries best umpires, all of which benefits not just the local club but Irish hockey in general.

Winner: Glenanne

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Irish U-16s make ideal start

Both the Irish under-16 boys and girls got their EuroHockey Youth Nations Championships off to flying starts, winning 5-1 and 4-0 respectively.

The girls hammered Lithuania 4-0 in their opener with Chloe Watkins opening the scoring from the stroke spot early on. Ireland continued to dominate, demonstrating stronger skills and structure and were rewarded when Galway’s Lindsey Trainor netted before her clubmate, Tara Melvin made it 3-0 by half-time.

A comfortable second half saw Ireland add a fourth from Vanessa Surgeoner. Coach Una McCarthy was pleased with the start, syaing "I am very happy with the way the girls played. We stuck to our game plan and I am very happy to come away with four goals."Ireland will now play the Czech Republic tomorrow with a win likely to see the side into the semi-finals.

On the boy’s side, Austria were the victims with Stephen Dowds putting the boys in green in front after eight minutes with a reverse from a tight angle. Glenanne’s Shane O’Donoghue doubled the lead but the Irish were forced to endure a tough spell and conceded when Sonder Bele capitalised on a defensive error to roof the ball to make it 2-1 by the break. A much better second half, though, saw Dowds net a drag-flick before playing an integral part in the fourth goal, freeing up Ian Sloan to score.

And the rout was complete when Shane Madeley played in Fingal’s Andrew Shekleton to fire in another reverse.With Holland beating Russia 5-1, a win there should see the Irish advance to the semi-finals if they beat the Russians at 6pm on Wednesday.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Eurohockey Youth Championships 2008 preview

Ireland's under-16 boys and girls have the chance of qualifying for an Olympic Games this week as they take on Europe's finest sides.
550 players plus coaches and managers will compete in the Hague at the highest level in Europe in their age category. Last played in July 2006, in Valencia(girls) and Dublin(Boys), The Netherlands won both tournaments and will go into the competitions as one of the pre-tournament favourites.
This tournament, though, sees an extra bonus as the winning nation will qualify to represent Europe at the Youth Olympics in Singapore, 2010 at ant age category to be announced by the FIH.

The Eureopean Trophy - the second tier of competition - takes place for the girls this week in Anapa, Russia while the boys are in Siemianowice Slaskie in Poland.Two teams will be promoted from those events to the Championship in 2010, with the bottom two in Ireland's competition relegated.

Speaking about the competition, the President of the EHF, Leandro Negre said "This event is the platform from which the stars of tomorrow are launched. For these young players to be playing for the chance not only to be Champions of Europe but also to be playing in an Olympic Qualification event is the pinnacle of their careers so far. It also firmly establishes hockey in the Olympic family of sport and gives these players the roadmap for learning Olympic values and the benefits of our sport."

Click here for more information on the Irish boy's and girl's team.

Large Connacht contingent in squad for U-16 Europeans

Connacht have been rewarded for winning their first ever underage interprovincials with five players involved Ireland’s girls side for this week’s Under-16 Youth Championships in the Hague. Leinster will have three players involved with All-Ireland Club Championship winners Chloe Watkins and Gillian Pinder – both involved in St Andrews’ U-16 double winning side. Alex’s Leah Lenihan is also included.

Ireland start against Lithuania today before facing Czech Republic and Spain.

Girl's squad (school/club): Sammy Jo Greer (Coleraine HS/ Ballymoney), Hilary Griffin (St Leos Carlow), Natalie Barr (Lurgan College/Lurgan), Naomi Carroll (St. Patrick’s Comprehensive/Catholic Institute), Hannah Clarke (Belfast Royal Academy/Pegasus), Katie Codyre (Jesuits Galway/Greenfields), Sinead McGirr, Dora Gorman (Taylors Galway/Greenfields), Leah Lenihan (Alexandra College/Old Alex), Edwina McGrath (Ursuline Convent, Thurles), Lucy McKee (Banbridge Academy/Armagh), Tara Melvin (Jesuits Galway/Galway), Anna Mae Morton (Royal School Armagh/Armagh), Gillian Pinder (St Andrews College/Hermes), Vanessa Surgeoner (Ballyclare High/Randalstown), Freddie Timmins (Salerno Galway/Galway), Lynsey Trainor (Salerno Galway/Knocknacarra), Chloe Watkins (St Andrews College/Hermes)

Head Coach: Una McCarthy
Manager: Siobhan Smyth
Assistant Coach: Michelle Rainey
Assistant Coach: Jonny McBride
GK Coach: Sammy Downes
Physio: Beibhinn McCann
Video: Denise McCarthy

Match Schedule:
Pool A: Spain - Ireland – Czech Republic - Lithuania
Pool B: Belgium - England - Netherlands - Italy

Tuesday July 8 (2pm) Ireland v Lithuania
Wednesday July 9 (12pm) Ireland v Czech Republic
Thursday July 10 (2pm) Spain v Ireland
Saturday July 12 Playoff stages
Sunday July 13 Final stages

U-16 Boys begin Youth Championships

Andrew Smyth’s Ireland Under-16 boys squad begins their European Youth Championships today against Austria in the Hague. The squad features nine of the Leinster side that beat Ulster to the interprovincial title and five of the Wesley side that won the under-16 schools title – Robert Fitzgerald, Neal Megarity, Shane Madeley – son of fromer international Robin – Luke Chadwick (pictured) and Tom Samuel.

There are also places for St Andrews' pair David Cole and Richard Sykes, Templeogue's Shane O'Donoghue and Dundalk's Andrew Shekleton.

Ireland will face Russia and the Netherlands later this week, attempting to gain a top two place to qualify for the semi-finals.

Boy's squad (School/club): Nicholas Burns (Midelton/Cork C of I), Peter Catchpole (Ashton/Cork C of I), Luke Chadwick (Wesley/Dublin YMCA), Colin Phillip Cleland (GK)(Friends School/Lisnagarvey), David Cole (St Andrews/Monkstown), Stephen Dowds (Banbridge Academy/Banbridge), Philip Doyle (Banbridge Academy/Banbridge), William Edgar (Ballynahinch HS/Annadale), John Edgar (Ballynahinch HS/Annadale), Robert Fitzgerald (GK)(Wesley/Dublin YMCA), Shane Madeley (Wesley/Three Rock), Neal Megarity (Wesley/Three Rock), Shane O'Donoghue (Templeogue/Glenanne), Tom Samuel (Wesley/Three Rock), Andrew Shekleton (Dundalk/Fingal), Ian Sloan (Cookstown HS/Cookstown), Darren Sweetnam (Bandon GS/Bandon), Richard Sykes (St Andrews/Monkstown)

Head Coach: Andy Smyth
Manager: Peter Jackson
Assistant Coach: Miles Warren
Assistant Coach: Paddy Grimes
Assitant Manager: Fraser Mills
Physio: Sean O'Connor

Match Schedule
Pool A: Netherlands - Ireland - Austria - Russia
Pool B: Belgium - England - Spain - Italy

Tuesday July 8 (4pm) Ireland v Austria
Wednesday July 9 (6pm) Ireland v Russia
Thursday July 10 (6pm) Netherlands v Ireland
Saturday July 12 Playoffs
Sunday July 13 finals

Monday, July 7, 2008

GB legend Mason to lead GK camp

Following the success of last year, the IHA has announced its third annual Goalkeeping Course, in association with Mercian, will take place in UCD on August 30 and 31 2008. The Mercian Schools of Hockey have designed this course to cater for the needs of the modern goalkeeper involved at school, club, county and international levels.

Each course will be led by England and GB legend Simon Mason (pictured in action and at last year's event) and the Irish National coaches, Nigel Henderson and Rudi Wortmann. Each course is aimed at keepers aged 12 and upwards and on leaving the course they will be assessed and given guidance on how to improve within their school and/or club environment. The price to take part is €135 (or £90). Single day rates are also available. Contact the IHA on 01 7163261 or email Mick McKinnon ( for further details.
On the same weekend, the IHA will be offering the chance for coaches to receive Goalkeeping Coach Accreditation for the first time as part of the annual goalkeeping course. The course will again be led by Simon Mason and will involve both on-pitch ideas and classroom sessions. It takes place in the UCD & Montrose Hotel from August 29 to 31. Application forms are available from Mick McKinnon.

Men's Celtic Cup: Darling double delight

Mitch Darling’s double was the key contribution as his amazing start to his international career, claiming the player of the tournament title, as Ireland took the Celtic Cup off Wales’ hands.
After Scotland’s twice rain-delayed 1-0 win over France, Ireland needed just a draw to take the title but ended up with a 3-1 win despite a hairy patch where they nearly relinquished a winning position for a second successive day.

A lively Irish start, with Ronan Gormley and John Jermyn flying down the right wing bore fruit in the 15th minute, with Darling banging Jermyn’s pull-back under Lee Ible. Ireland’s early momentum soon faded, though, as the Wales midfield gained the upper hand with Huw Jones and Lewis Prosser getting on top against four different centre midfield opponents.

Andy Cornick almost snuck one past David Harte, the goalie adding the save to a stunning stop from Dave Griffiths. An extended half-time break – due to another downpour for Garryduff’s excellent grounds man, Brian Cullimore, to mop up with the super-soaker borrowed from nearby Fota Golf Club – could not break the Welsh charge.

Captains Jones and Gormley were both binned for some ongoing niggle before Matt Ruxton tied the game up. He was the beneficiary of a superb move. James Hughes defence-splitter found Ben Rogers inside the full-back who laid on for Ruxton to flick in at Harte’s near post.

David Hobbs was then given an enforced rest for a second time in the tournament for delaying play which, conversely, coincided with Ireland’s best period of possession.

Entering the final ten minutes, the next goal was likely to decide the title. And so it proved when Stephen Butler’s inch-perfect overhead found Darling behind the last defender. He controlled, rounded Ible on his open side to crack in from the top of the circle for the decisive strike, though his follow-through unfortunately caught Hughes with a blow to the face, producing a nasty injury. Timmy Cockram added a third in the closing minutes from a corner to copper-fasten the title for the hosts.

Women's Celtic Cup: Scotland claim title

Scotland claimed the women’s Celtic Cup thanks to an amazing ten-goal scoring spree against sorry France, beating hosts Ireland to the title on goal difference.

With the Scots and Irish level on points and just one separating the pair, the final positions were always going to be decided by which side could perform better on another day of torrential rain, thunder, lightning interspersed by some hot sun in the Southern capital.

Scotland burst out of the traps, building up a 4-0 lead after 25 minutes, Julie Bryce, Holly Cram, Kate McKay and Fiona Donald on the mark. Charlotte Boyer pulled one back from a corner but Leigh Fawcett restored the advantage by half-time. The dominant pattern continued in the second half. Holly Cram completed her hat-trick to end as tournament top-scorer with five while Mackay netted a second.

It meant the Irish needed an eight-goal advantage to overhaul Scotland. They started in decent fashion with Eimear Cregan – who was at her marauding best all afternoon – calling Maggs Rees into action early on after a neat exchange with Lizzie Colvin.

Ireland broke the deadlock in the 18th minute when Hollie Moffett’s long corner found its way untouched all the way to the back post where Shirley McCay was on hand to tap in. Emma Clarke banged in a rebound 40 seconds later and the Irish spied a comic-book end to the tournament as a flurry of chances went a begging.

Wales, though, held out until half-time, Rees denying Roisin Flinn in a one-on-one, leaving Ireland an enormous task. Two Alex Speers’ chances were sinfully missed soon after the restart, effectively ending any chance of the unlikely. As the game began to meander, Sophie Robinson deflected in Vanessa Hawkins shot to make it 2-1 before Emma Stewart scored Ireland’s third before a hail-storm delayed the final, nigh-on meaningless, nine minutes play.

Despite missing out on the title, coach Gene Muller was pleased with how he felt new players to the squad had been incorporated. "I am very happy with our progress over the weekend we are a team with an average age of twenty one. The new girls came in and fitted in well. I was also pleased with the number of chances we created this week this week although we are still not scoring as many as I would like."

Results: France 2 (Charlotee Boyer, Geraldine Bonenfant) Scotland 10 (Julie Bryce, Holly Cram 3, Katie Mackay 2, Fiona Donald, Leigh Fawcett, Claire Scott, Laura Wrightson); Ireland 3 (Shirley McCay, Emma Clarke, Emma Stewart) Wales 1 (Sophie Robinson)

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Men's Celtic Cup: Day Two

Ireland 2 Scotland 2

Irish failings from the Setanta Trophy reappeared today at Garryduff as they let a 2-0 half-time lead slip to give a young Scottish side a share of the spoils on the second day of the Celtic Cup.
Two penalty corner goals – one deflected home by Tim Lewis and one straight from John Jermyn’s stick – saw the Irish in control with Mitch Darling looking dangerous while Ronan Gormley and Conor Harte’s long-range passes looked set to unlock the Scottish defence throughout.

But the second half was a different matter entirely. The Scots – perhaps getting used to their new equipment after half their gear did not arrive with their flight from Edinburgh – had one back within 24 seconds of Ireland’s second half restart. A steal on the halfway set Joe Simpson racing down the left wing and his sweet cross had sliding Scottish players queuing up to net, Wei Adams the grateful recipient.

Mikey Watt created a chance to restore the two-goal lead but, after creating a three-on-one with some excellent skills on the half-way, decided to shoot himself when Darling and Eugene Magee on either side would have been better options.

As the game began to open out, both sides let quality chances slip. Douglas Simpson was foiled by the save of the match from Iain Walker, Darling flashed over, soon followed by Simpson’s delicate lob dropping just too late.

That chance preluded Scotland’s leveler. Karl Burns got in a tangle on the right side and was robbed to force Ireland into a corner concession which Adam McKenzie buried for 2-2 with three minutes left.

There was still time, though, for David Hobbs to see yellow and Stephen Butler to provide an inch-perfect overhead for Eugene Magee to score an unlikely winner with mere seconds remaining. But, after a superb mazy run, the Banbridge man sliced over. It means, Ireland top the group going into the final round, needing a win over Wales to claim the title.

France 5 Wales 4

A rejuvenated France nicked a win to keep their Celtic Cup hopes in tact when Thibaut Blondel scored with just 12 seconds to go to edge a nine-goal thriller. The French looked far sharper early on, racing into a 3-1 lead by half-time. Blondel’s goal to make it 2-0 was the pick as he dribbled aerially through a packed circle before placing the ball neatly over Iwan Williams shoulder.

An exchange of drag-flicks from Frederic Verrier and Friday’s hat-trick hero, Rick Gay, brought the game to 4-2 with over 25 minutes remaining.

Wales began to dominate with Huw Jones’ skills causing all sorts of problems. His reverse, though, looked to be going wide before Maxime Wilson’s glove pulled the ball goalwards to narrow the deficit and penalty corner sweep from James Hughes leveled matters.
And in the final ten minutes, the free-running Welsh gave a master class in missing as they created numerous opportunities to win, Dave Griffiths the most culpable.

His miss from two yards after outstanding build-up play from Jones and Lewis Prosser proved their last. A Welsh sin-binning 150 seconds from the end saw the French surge forward for Blondel to net his second of the match as the French stay alive despite Friday night’s mauling.

Women's Celtic Cup: Day Two

Ireland 1 Scotland 1

Thunder and lightning came to Ireland’s rescue as a rather aimless pre-weather break performance was counter-acted by a superb battling effort once the players emerged from the dressing rooms for the second time at Garryduff.

For the second day running, a mass downpour left the Cork venue’s pitch flooded in parts, leaving the umpires little option but to put the game on hold for 15 minutes. The only consolation for the sizable crowd was that the lack of wind meant the rain was not slanting into the main stand’s face as the heaven’s opened.

Ireland had the better chances in the first half, hitting the post from a corner strike inside four minutes, but chances were few and far between. Indeed, Scotland edged general play and took the lead six minutes after the break Alisa Robertson played in Holly Cram to round Louisa Healy and scramble the ball home.

Robertson nearly doubled the advantage moments later but her reverse was smothered by Healy before Emma Stewart eventually cleared the danger as the Scots looked in rare form amid the rain. The pause broke their momentum, though, and Ireland, driven on by Shirley McCay, were rejuvenated.

Captain Eimear Cregan bashed in an angled drive from a mis-stopped corner to deservedly equalise, closing out the game 1-1.

Wales 4 France 2

In the early game, Wales turned on the style in the second half to win 4-2 against France with some stylish goals from Lucy Shepherd and Leah Wilkinson. The sides were locked at 1-1 at half-time but the Welsh produced some tidy play to build a healthy 4-1 lead before a cracking reverse from Philippine Berly salvaged some French consolation four minutes from time.

Men's Celtic Cup: Ireland 5 France 0

Ireland wrapped up a facile win against the country that has caused them untold anguish in recent tournaments, overcoming a disappointing French outfit 5-0 amid lashing rain in Garryduff.Dave Passmore’s side, indeed, missed a couple of clear-cut chances to give the scoreboard an even greater gloss.

Tim Cockram opened the scoring 11 minutes in from Eugene Magee’s cross before Three Rock’s Mitch Darling scored another for his ever expanding scrapbook – though it proved a controversial effort as he volleyed home a shoulder-high cross from Michael Watt.

The second half saw the traffic continue to flow toward the French goal. Tim Lewis deflected in Stephen Butler’s drag-flick to make it 3-0 after 41 minutes before Passmore introduced Jason Lynch for his debut cap.Alan Sothern made it 4-0 with a crashing shot past Maxime Wilson after excellent, fast build-up play between Gormley and Cockram.

The umpires discussed calling the game off the pitch due to the amount of standing water on the pitch but the captains agreed to finish the game out.It mattered little as Ireland pressed forward once more, having a corner disallowed and Magee blazing over before Butler completed the rout to extend his national goal-scoring record in a facile 5-0 win.

Earlier, Rick Gay claimed a hat-trick of penalty corner goals as Wales recorded a 3-1 win over Scotland, for whom Allan Law scored a consolation, in their Celtic Cup opener.

Women's Celtic Cup: Ireland 3 France 1

Gene Muller’s experimental Irish line-up pointed to a bright future as he handed debuts to four players as Ireland shook off the Setanta Trophy difficulties to win 3-1 against France at a sodden Garryduff.

Hermes Emma Gray started between the posts while Megan Frazer, Lizzie Colvin and Michelle Harvey all appeared off the bench to earn their first caps as Ireland dominated the opening half.
Emma Stewart opened the scoring after just 15 minutes, flicking home a rebound after Cliodhna Sargent’s initial shot was blocked. And it was debutante Harvey who doubled the advantage, driving in from another penalty corner as Ireland’s newly formed set-up at the top of the D paid instant dividends in the absence of more seasoned internationals.

Indeed, the French side grew impatient, having to wait long periods to regain possession and that frustration boiled over with Ophelie Richard yellow-carded for felling Emma Clarke and Juliette Hevin following her to the bin for a foul on Shirley McCay.

The chances continued to flow in the second period. Hollie Moffet hit the crossbar before drawing a smart save from Anabelle Got. Philippine Berly came close to opening the French account, capitalising on defensive error, beating Gray in the one-on-one but Stewart raced back to clear off the line.

It helped the French find some rhythm as Ireland began to struggle midway through the half and the hosts were reduced to nine women when both McCay and Lisa Jacob were binned. They were duly punished for their indiscrepancies on 58 minutes when Celine Oréfice dribbled into the circle, and her shot was turned home at the far post by Sunita D'Halluin.

Ireland rallied, though, and sealed the win four minutes from the end when the returning Jacob turned home Louisa Moore's cross at the near post.In the earlier match, Scotland opened their Celtic Cup campaign with a 1-0 win over Wales, Holly Cram netting the winner.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Muller announces Celtic Cup Squad

Gene Muller has six new arrivals in his Celtic Cup squad for this weekend with a number of players impressing following the Junior Celtic Cup in Edinburgh last week.

Armagh's Lizzie Colvin, Ballymoney's Megan Frazer, Victorians Michelle Harvey and Pegasus' Kate McConnell have all made the jump from the 'A' panel to take part this weekend. Emma Grey, meanwhile, steps in between the posts for the rested Mary Goode while Loreto's Niamh Small returns to the squad. UCD's Christine Quinlan retains her place.

Coach Muller was hopeful to blood new caps, saying of the upcoming tournament "The Celtic Cup provides an opportunity to a young Irish Team at the start of a new Olympic Cycle. The team includes five new caps as we also decided to rest a number of our more experienced players”.

Celtic Cup squad: Emma Clarke (Randalstown), Lizzie Colvin (Armagh), Eimear Cregan (Cork Harlequins) (Captain), Roisin Flinn (UCD) Megan Frazer (Ballymoney), Emma Gray (Hermes), Michelle Harvey (Victorians), Louisa Healy (Loreto), Lisa Jacob (UCD), Shirley McCay (Randalstown), Kate McConnell (Pegasus), Holly Moffett (UCC), Louisa Moore (Pembroke Wanderers), Christine Quinlan (UCD), Cliodhna Sargent (Cork Harlequins), Niamh Small (Loreto), Alex Speers (Pegasus), Emma Stewart (Armagh)

Rested Players
Bridget McKeever, Mary Goode, Cathy McKean, Nikki Symmons; Ciara O’Brien; Jenny McDonough and Julia O’Halloran

Friday (12.00) Scotland v Wales; (18.00) Ireland v France
Saturday (11.00) France v Wales; (15.00) Ireland v Scotland
Sunday (9.30) France v Scotland; (13.30 ) Wales v Ireland

Passmore announces Celtic Cup squad

David Passmore has made three changes and two additions to the Irish men's squad from the Setanta squad for this weekend's Celtic Cup in Garryduff as Phelie Maguire, Graham Shaw, Mark Gleghorne and Iain Lewers join Mark Black on the rested list. Johnny Jackson, meanwhile, is omitted from the official team listing.

There are returns to the national squad for Conor Harte - back after three months out with a shoulder injury - and Adam Pritchard. Cookstown's David Ames is in line for a debut having been involved in the Setanta training panel while Jonny Quigley could finally get a cap after a number of years on the fringes.

Youngsters Alan Sothern and Mitch Darling retain their places in what Passmore describes as “an exciting young group" He adds that "with several inclusions from the Ireland A squad the group are all very keen to put on a good showing on home soil and build on the performances from the Setanta Sports Trophy”

Celtic Cup squad: David Ames (Cookstown), Karl Burns (Cork C of I), Stephen Butler (Glenanne), Tim Cockram (Lisnagarvey), Mitch Darling (Three Rock Rovers), Ronan Gormley (Pembroke Wanderers) (Captain), Conor Harte (Pembroke Wanderers), David Harte (GK) (Pembroke Wanderers), David Hobbs (Cork C of I) (Vice Capt), John Jermyn (Cork C of I), Tim Lewis (Pembroke Wanderers), Eugene Magee (Banbridge), Geoff McCabe (Banbridge), Adam Pritchard (Cork C of I), Johnny Quigley (Annadale), Alan Sothern (Pembroke Wanderers), Iain Walker (GK) (YMCA), Mikey Watt (Grange , Scotland)

Rested Players
Mark Black; Mark Gleghorne; Iain Lewers; Phelie Maguire; Andy McConnell; Graham Shaw.

Friday (14.00) Scotland v Wales; (20.00) Ireland v France
Saturday (13.00) France v Wales; (17.00) Ireland v Scotland
Sunday (11.30) France v Scotland; (15.30) Wales v Ireland

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

DUP member calls for Northern Irish team

DUP Assembly Member Alastair Ross MLA has said that athletes in Northern Ireland should not be prevented from representing Great Britain at the Olympic Games, and said that hockey players in particular are put in a very difficult position as they must choose to play for either GB or the Irish team.

Commenting Mr Ross said,“When the Great Britain hockey team was at its most successful, players from Northern Ireland were always an integral part of the squad, most notably when local players Stephen Martin and Jimmy Kirkwood won the Gold medal in the 1988 Olympic Games.

"Unfortunately, over recent years, Ulster born players have been forced to choose either to play forIreland or for Team GB. Should a player aim for the British team they rule themselves out of many of the other top international competitions where GB do not compete, but rather England, Scotland and Wales compete individually. It is therefore hard for a player to play at a high enough level to maintain form.

"I have written to the Great Britain Hockey Association, the Irish Hockey Association, the Sports Minister and the Commonwealth Games Council for Northern Ireland to investigate the possibility of changing the eligibility guidelines and also to look at the establishment of a Northern Ireland hockey team which would be able to compete in the Commonwealth Games.

"A Northern Ireland team would allow many local players to compete at a higher level and compete at an international stage that at present is denied to them. The establishment of an NI team would not split the existing affiliated hockey body as there are sports which have a cross-border Ireland team for some competitions and a Northern Ireland team for others, just as other sports such as Boxing and Swimming do.

"It is pleasing that the new DCAL Minister Gregory Campbell has confirmed that he will be raising this matter with the Northern Ireland Commonwealth Games Committee and will write to the Irish Hockey Association on the issue.”

What do you think? Would this idea be feasible? Have your say...