Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Mega-Hurtz strike denies dogged Ireland

Senior women's International fixture
Ireland 0 Australia 1 (Emily Hurtz)

A gritty Irish performance fell just short as Emily Hurtz’ (pictured) superbly arrowed shot two minutes into the second half settled the tie.

As befitting a world number five side, Australia played at a lively, sharp tempo but Ireland’s defence – with Sinead McCarthy coming on in the tenth minute for her debut – stemmed any flow of clear chances, especially in the closing half hour.

It was a far cry from last Sunday’s capitulation to India as Ireland rode their luck in the early stages, keeping out a couple of early corners, Cliodhna Sargent saving one off the line.

But they had their moments on the break; one outstanding interchange down the left via Niamh Small, Nikki Symmons and, finally, Emma Clarke’s superb reverse pass opened the space for Small on the left edge.

The Loreto striker was the pick of the forward line but her spectacular aerial flashed just across the face of goal with Julia O’Halloran just missing out on a shoulder-high touch.

Eimear Cregan also slipped just wide after pick-pocketing Kobie McGurk on the 25 but her reverse appeared to catch the hook of her stick to redirect the ball just off course in the 22nd minute.

Kary Chau fired a snap-shot just wide soon after for the hockeyroos while Megan Rivers brilliant break-out slipped just beyond Jade Close’s reach on the edge of the circle.

In between, Small earned Ireland’s only corner of the night but Sargent’s straight shot was comfortably saved.

The killer blow came, though, 100 seconds into the second period when Chau pinged a ball from halfway out to the right sideline where the flying Kurtz cut in unopposed and banged in a stunning low strike.

Beyond that, few chances accrued as Ireland kept the hockeyroos in front of them, blocking the 25. One incision from Hurtz popped Teneal Attard’s way but her batted volley sliced wide and was the last chance to fall Australia’s way in the 45th minute.

And Symmons almost created an equaliser seven minutes from time, flinging a stick to a ball rapidly reaching the endline. Her strike zipped back towards the flick spot but goalkeeper Rachael Lynch’s touch denied two onrushing attackers.

Speaking after the match, coach Gene Muller said: “We were composed and calm in possession today and were defensively well organised. I was pleased with the overall performance and we created some good chances. I felt Sinead McCarthy had a very good international debut.”

Ireland play again on Friday evening at 6pm before facing the Australian’s in their third and final test on Saturday at 4pm.

Ireland: E Gray, M Harvey, C Sargent, E Cregan (capt), E Clarke, B Cleland, S McCay, A Speers, A O’Flynn, E Smyth, N Small
Subs: L Jacob, J O’Halloran, N Symmons , S McCarthy, N Evans

Australia: R Lynch, K Walker, A Flanagan, M Blyth, S Liddelow, K McGurk, F Johnson, E Hurtz, J Taylor, F Boyce, K Chau
Subs: M Rivers, J Close, K Jenner, T Attard, A Korner

Belgium bounce back in U-18 ties

Ireland U-18 boys 1 (Owen Magee) Belgium 5; Ireland U-18 girls 1 (Naomi Carroll) Belgium 1

A tired-looking Irish U-18 boys – playing their fifth match since Friday – fell 5-1 this afternoon to a stylish and technically sound Belgian outfit at Belfield, coming back from an early goal deficit.

Owen Magee had given the Irish the lead but the Belgians scored a pair of neatly worked corners to turn the tables before the break and added a second half double to complete the win.

The girls, meanwhile, came away with a draw from their second of three games. A scoreless opening period initially saw Ireland on top before the Belgians took control in the second quarter.

And they stole ahead after the short whistle when they used a high press to turnover and net. But an excellent Naomi Carroll goal forged the draw.

Aisling Naughton started the move, sliding through to Deirdre Duke who squared for Carroll to deftly pop over the goalkeeper from close range.

The boys (12pm) and girls (10am) complete their three-game series with the Belgians in Belfield tomorrow morning.

* For more of Adrian Boehm’s photos from the boy’s games click here, while the girl’s photos are here.

Clean bill of health for Revington and Muller

Gene Muller has no fresh injury worries ahead of the three-game series with Australia which gets underway in Belfield this evening following a tough workout at the Four-Nations tournament in Germany last weekend.

It means the squad is as announced on June 15 with Louisa Healy coming back in for possibly her 50th cap while Sinead McCarthy could make her debut with Mary Goode sitting out the series.

Paul Revington, meanwhile, has announced a squad of 21 players to take on France in a triple header at Cookstown this weekend, starting on Thursday night, running in conjunction with the Junior Celtic Cup.

In addition to the squad of 18 used in the recent Celtic Cup, Revington has called in Peter Blakeney, Michael Maguire and Bruce McCandless.

Commenting on the upcoming fixtures, Revington said “The squad are looking forward to the games against France, especially as it will be a French team boasting more senior squad players who were absent from the Celtic Cup held this past weekend.”

Ireland beat a predominantly U-21 French side last Sunday 7-0 in Le Touquet.

Elsewhere, Ireland's U-18 boys and girls picked up decent results in the first of their three-game series with Belgium yesterday. The girls won 4-2 with Nicola Gray firing home a pair of firecracker penalty corners while Naomi Carroll and Deirdre Duke also weighed in.

The boys tied 3-3 at Belfield with Shane O'Donoghue bagging a pair while Shane Madeley was also on target. They play again this afternoon and tomorrow in UCD.

Ireland men's squad:
David Ames (Cookstown); Joe Brennan (Glenanne); Chris Cargo (Reading); Peter Caruth (Annadale); Tim Cockram (Lisnagarvey); Mitch Darling (Leuven); David Fitzgerald (Monkstown); Alan Giles (Pembroke W); Paul Gleghorne (Loughborough); Ronan Gormley (Pembroke W); Conor Harte (Pembroke W); John Jackson (Mossley); Eugene Magee (Dragons); Geoff McCabe (Dragons); Andy McConnell (Pembroke W); Alan Sothern (Pembroke W); Iain Walker (YMCA); Phelie Maguire (Leuven); Peter Blakeney (Three Rock Rovers); Michael Maguire (Three Rock Rovers); Bruce McCandless (Banbridge).

Senior international match schedule:
Wednesday, June 30:
Ireland women vs Australia, 8pm, UCD
Thursday, July 1: Ireland men vs France, 8pm, Cookstown.
Friday, July 2: Ireland women vs Australia, 6pm, UCD
Saturday, July 3: Ireland women vs Australia, 4pm, UCD; Ireland men vs France, 6pm, Cookstown
Sunday, July 4: Ireland men vs France, 6pm, Cookstown

Pembroke to Portugal; Railway in Slovakia

Pembroke face a trip to Portugal while Railway Union ladies European debut is set for Bratislava in Slovakia following the announcement yesterday of the pools for the European indoor club championships.

Pembroke will compete in the Men’s Challenge I event – the third tier of competition – and are provisionally named in a group of fours with hosts AD Lousada, Hungary’s Epitok and Slovakia’s SK Senkvice. The tournament takes place on February 18-20 2011.

On the women’s side, Railway will take on Portugal’s CF Os Belenenses, Slovakia’s KPH Raca and Serbia’s HK Bask in women's challenge though if any of those sides were to pull out Georgia’s Ukimerioni Kutaisi would step in.

They replace Galway in the competition following their maiden Irish Indoor Trophy win and will be in action on February 25 to 27, 2011.

Meanwhile, the IHA is welcoming confirmed entries to next year’s Irish Indoor Trophy competitions with 1pm on July 8 the closing date to seal your club’s place next season.

Regional rounds will take place in December and January with the finals run off on February 11 and 12, 2011 in the NBA. Venues have yet to be finalised for the group stages but initial interest in Ulster and Galway suggests there could be ladies events held outside of Dublin this year.

For more information, click here.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Irish U-18s rack up Scottish treble

Ireland’s U-18s produced a superb weekend’s work in Lisnagarvey as they notched three wins in succession against Scotland in three days.

They got off to flyer on Friday night with Shane O’Donoghue bagging a double while Tom Samuel, William Edgar and Andy Williamson completed a 5-1 rout.

Sykes bagged a double in the second game on Saturday with Cork C of I man Nick Burns on target along with Owen Magee – younger brother of senior star Eugene – notched another in a 4-0 victory.

Sunday’s was the closest tie but again O’Donoghue and Magee were on the mark to help record a 2-1 win.

The side are back in action on Tuesday night in Belfield when they take on Belgium in a three-game series. Ben Dobson (Cork C of I), Rob Fitzgerald (YMCA), Shane Madeley (TRR), Neil Gilmore (Banbridge), Matt Murphy (Lisnagarvey) and Railway’s Fiachra Maher and Mark Ingram come into the panel along with two others to be confirmed come into the panel for that series.

Ireland squad vs Scotland: Matthew Bell (Banbridge/Banbridge Academy), Robert Burke (Corinthian/Wesley College), Nick Burns (Cork C.of I/Midleton College), Luke Chadwick (YMCA/Wesley), Colin Cleland (Lisnagarvey/Friends), William Edgar (Annadale), Ciaran Kelly (Banbridge/Banbridge Academy), Niall Kelly (Banbridge/Banbridge Academy), Matthew Lecky (Raphoe/Royal and Prior), Owen Magee (Banbridge/Banbridge Academy), David McCrea (Three Rock Rovers/Wesley College), Hugh McShane (Banbridge/Banbridge Academy), Andrew Mooney (Banbridge/Banbridge Academy), Shane O’Donoghue (Glenanne/High School), Mark Ryan (Fingal/Mt. Temple), Tom Samuel (Three Rock Rovers/Wesley College), Ian Sloan (Cookstown/Cookstown High School), Robin Smyrl (Banbridge/Banbridge Academy), Richard Sykes (Monkstown/St. Andrews),Andrew Williamson (Annadale/Campbell College)

Upcoming fixtures (all at UCD):
Tuesday, June 29: Ireland vs Belgium, 6.15pm
Wednesday, June 30: Ireland vs Belgium, 6pm
Thursday, July 1: Ireland vs Belgium, 2pm

* For more of Adrian Boehm's photos from Saturday's game between Ireland U-18 and Scotland U-18, click here

French rout seals third successive title

Senior Men's Celtic Cup
Ireland 7 (Mitch Darling 3, Eugene Magee, Alan Sothern, Alan Giles, Peter Caruth) France 0
Ireland completed the perfect weekend in France as they completed their third win with a comprehensive 7-0 mauling of the host nation in le Touquet this afternoon.

Mitch Darling bagged a hat-trick to pick up the tournament’s top-scorer award and Iain Walker was named the event’s best goalkeeper, capping his weekend with a brilliant penalty stoke save.

That occurred inside the first 10 minutes of today’s game as captain Ronan Gormley – on his 100th cap – endured a tough opening, first conceding the stroke and also picking up a yellow card.

He was to come out smiling, though, as he lifted the Celtic Cup, keeping it in Ireland for a third successive year.

With that sticky early patch negotiated, Ireland hit the front when Eugene Magee dragged to the right in the 18th minute to break the deadlock.

Five minutes later, Darling got his first of the day when he touched in Geoff McCabe’s reverse-stick cross. Alan Sothern dragged Ireland’s third, this time aiming to the goalkeeper’s left and a minute before the break Joe Brennan’s long pass unleashed Darling to punch home off his back foot for a four goal half-time lead.

Alan Giles bagged the fifth – his first senior international strike – when Paul Glelghorne laid up while Darling completed his hat-trick eight minutes from time. Peter Caruth completed the rout when he finished off a fine interchange with Magee.

Speaking after the match, manager Peter Jackson said: “This was an outstanding tournament for the Irish lads who put in maximum effort throughout all games.

"It is particularly pleasing to see that we only conceded one goal in the three matches and scored 14 in total and we look forward to our encounters against the French next weekend in Cookstown.”

Those matches begin on Thursday night in Coolnafranky with three games being played from June 30 to July 4.

Ireland: Iain Walker, Ronan Gormley, John Jackson, Joe Brennan, Paul Gleghorne, Geoff McCabe, Phelie Maguire, Andy McConnell, Eugene Magee, Alan Sothern, Mitch Darling,
Subs: Conor Harte, Timmy Cockram, Peter Caruth, David Ames, Alan Giles
Not Used: David Fitzgerald, Chris Cargo

Senior Men's Celtic Cup (Le Touquet, France) results:
Sunday: Ireland 7 (M Darling 3, E Magee, A Sothern, A Giles, P Caruth) France 0; Wales 3 Scotland 2

Celtic Cup standings (points/goal difference):
1.Ireland 9pts (+13) 2. Wales 6pts (-2) 3. Scotland 3pts (-1) 4. France 0pts (-9)

* Photos from the tournament by GF Cohen/www.photopale.com can be seen here (Facebook page)

India hit Irish ladies for six

Four Nations tournament (Essen)
Ireland 0 India 6

A sub-par performance saw Ireland slump to the wooden spoon in Germany today as they were beaten 6-0 by India in 30 degree heat.

It was a disappointing end to a tournament from which Gene Muller drew plenty of positives from good performances against world top five sides Australia and Germany in the preceding days.

But there were few upbeat notes from this result as the Asian side – ranked two places above Ireland – raced into a 2-0 lead in the first quarter.

They were 4-0 down by the break when the first of three straight corner strikes went in on the stroke of half-time and while Lisa Jacob and Alex Speers were lively up front, another pair corners brought up the half dozen in the second half.

Speaking afterwards, manager Sally-Ann Fanagan said “everyone was very disappointed with this final result, especially after the team’s strong performance yesterday against the Germans”.

Australia won the tournament with a 1-1 draw against Germany and now travel to Dublin for the Irish leg of their European tour. Their three-match series begins on Wednesday night at Belfield.

Ireland: Emma Gray, Emma Clarke, Bridget Cleland, Eimear Cregan, Nicci Daly, Michelle Harvey, Lisa Jacob, Shirley McCay, Audrey O'Flynn, Julia O'Halloran, Cliodhna Sargent, Niamh Small, Emma Smyth, Alex Speers, Nikki Symmons, Nikki Evans
Not Used: Mary Goode, Lizzie Colvin

Senior Women’s Four Nations results:
Ireland 0 India 6; Australia 1 Germany 1

Final standings: 1. Australia 7pts (+8) 2. Germany 5pts (+2) 3. India 4pts (+3) 4. Ireland 0pts (-13)

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Bachmann drag double denies Ireland

Senior Women’s Four Nations
Ireland 1 (Emma Smyth) Germany 3 (Lina Geyer, Tina Bachmann 2)
Gene Muller was once again pleased with how his Irish side performed against one of the world’s top nations as the girls in green created more chances than previous encounters against Germany, in a 3-1 defeat in Essen this afternoon.

Michelle Harvey’s long ball inside 30 seconds created a great chance which Alex Speers turned Julia O’Halloran’s way but, on her 50th cap, she miscued her finish when one-on-one with Kristina Reynolds.

The Germans captialised on this let-off within a minute when an Lena Andersch overhead found Natascha Keller on the backline, behind Cliodhna Sargent and her push across goal found the waiting Lina Geyer to break the deadlock.

Germany did hold the edge in terms of goal opportunities in the early phases but Ireland’s midfield, particularly Emma Clarke fronted up well and they got back on terms in the 16th minute.

Speers earned a penalty corner which Emma Smyth got a touch to guide home from a low drag-flick to make it 1-1.

But Germany retook the lead when Tina Bachmann dragged home the first of her two corner goals before the break – she was to end with a strike rate of two goals from her side’s eight corners on the day.

She notched her second in the 50th minute as Germany upped their game in the second period and while they pinned Ireland back, the Irish defended well to keep their sheet clean for the remainder of the game with Mary Goode taking the player of the match award.

They did so in spite of Smyth’s sin-binning with five minutes to go and also skimmed the post. Speaking after the game, Gene Muller said "We performed well today and progressed since yesterday we are creating more chances in this series than in the past against these teams and our players are playing with confidence and real commitment."

Eimear Cregan earned her 167th cap on the day to pass Rachael Kohler's Irish record and Ireland play India tomorrow for the wooden spoon after Australia had too much in the tank for the Asian side, winning 6-2.

Ireland: Mary Goode, Emma Clarke, Bridget Cleland, Lizzie Colvin, Eimear Cregan, Nicci Daly, Michelle Harvey, Lisa Jacob, Shirley McCay, Audrey O'Flynn, Julia O'Halloran, Cliodhna Sargent, Niamh Small, Emma Smyth, Alex Speers, Nikki Symmons,
Not Used: Emma Gray, Nikki Evans

Senior Women’s Four Nations (Saturday results): Ireland 1 (Emma Smyth) Germany 3 (Lina Geyer, Tina Bachmann 2); Australia 6 India 2

Standings: 1. Australia 6pts (+8) 2. Germany 4pts (+2) 3. India 1pt (-4) 4. Ireland 0pts (-6)

Gormley enjoys 99 on the double

Men’s Senior Celtic Cup
Ireland 4 (Ronan Gormley 2, Paul Gleghorne, Peter Caruth) Wales 0
Ronan Gormley’s first half double set the tone for another impressive Irish performance as they beat Wales 4-0 in Le Touquet this afternoon in sweltering heat.

They took eight minutes to get up and running, racing out of the blocks when Timmy Cockram's shot was stopped illegally en route to goal.

Skipper Gormley (pictured, left) – in his 99th international – netted a rare goal from the ensuing stroke. But he soon had his sixth international goal when Mitch Darling swiveled on the ball to cross for a sliding deflection from the captain.

Iain Walker kept out Wales’ best chance of the half, a 32nd minute drag-flick, and Ireland were in total control 30 seconds after the restart when Paul Gleghorne netted.

Peter Caruth scored two minutes from time to complete the win from a narrow angle from a corner’s second phase.

Speaking after the game, manager Peter Jackson said: "This was another good team performance in extremely hot weather and it was pleasing that the defence held strong conceding no goals."

The Irish now need just a point to keep the Celtic Cup in Ireland but could conceivably lose and still take the title after Scotland fought back from 2-0 down in the first 15 minutes of their tie against France to win 3-2. Goals from Adam McKenzie, Josh Cairns and Kenny Bain turned the tide.

Ireland: Iain Walker, Ronan Gormley, John Jackson, Conor Harte, Paul Gleghorne, Geoff McCabe, David Ames, Andy McConnell, Eugene Magee, Timmy Cockram, Mitch Darling,
Subs: Joe Brennan, Chris Cargo, Alan Sothern, Peter Caruth, Phelie Maguire
Not Used: David Fitzgerald, Alan Giles

Senior Men's Celtic Cup (Le Touquet, France) results:
Ireland 4 (R Gormley 2, P Gleghorne, P Caruth) Wales 0; Scotland 3 (A McKenzie, J Cairns, K Bain) France 2

Celtic Cup standings (points/goal difference):
1.Ireland 6pts (+6) 2. Scotland 3pts (-1) 3. Wales 3pts (-3) 4. France 0pts (-2)

* Photos courtesy of GF Cohen/www.photopale.com - to see more photos from the competition, click here (Facebook page)

Hockeyroos sharpness denies Ireland

Senior Women's Four Nations:
Ireland 0 Australia 4

Ireland’s ladies were unable to snag a bout of revenge over Australia as they fell 4-0 in balmy Essen as the hockeyroos struck twice in each half to top the group after day one.

The tie ended in a similar scoreline to the 4-1 setback in Chile six weeks ago but, nonetheless, coach Gene Muller was pleased with the performance, saying: “It was a more open match than in Chile and we performed much better technically. We created good scoring chances but we were sloppy with crucial turnovers which cost us in both circles.”

Nikki Evans made her international debut on the night while Eimear Cregan (pictured, left) moved level with Rachael Kohler on 166 caps and looks set to break the national caps record against Germany on the second day of this competition.

Mary Goode was called on to make a fine early stop but Ireland’s defence settled in reasonably well as Bridget Cleland and Cliodhna Sargent performed well at the back.

But, after an Irish corner chance was blown up, the Aussies produced an excellent pitch-length break to open the scoring in the 25th minute and they doubled the advantage four minutes later.

Niamh Small and Cregan both went close before the break but it was the Australians who struck again just after the break when they dragged home a high drag-flick to make it 3-0 from the third of a series of three corners.

Emma Smyth did lay on an excellent one-on-one chance for Evans for a debut goal but found her angle closed down and the Australians completed the win in the closing stages, netting from another corner.

In the day’s other game, Germany were shocked by India who pulled back a 3-1 deficit to draw 3-3. Two goals from Lydia Haase and one from Natascha Keller (right) – on her 350th cap – had Germany in full control but the emerging Indians stormed back to take a point.

Ireland: Mary Goode, Emma Clarke, Bridget Cleland, Lizzie Colvin, Eimear Cregan, Nicci Daly, Nicola Evans, Michelle Harvey, Shirley McCay, Audrey O'Flynn, Julia O'Halloran, Cliodhna Sargent, Niamh Small, Emma Smyth, Alex Speers, Nikki Symmons
Not used: Lisa Jacob, Emma Gray

Women's Four Nations (Essen, Germany) results:Ireland 0 Australia 4; Germany 3 India 3

Standings (points/goal difference):
1.Australia 3pts (+4) 2. Germany 1pt (0) 3. India 1pts (0) 4.Ireland 0pts (-4)

Today's Fixtures (all Irish time):
Australia vs India, 2pm; Ireland vs Germany, 4pm

Tomorrow's fixtures:
Ireland vs India, 11am; Germany vs Australia 1pm

Friday, June 25, 2010

New-look Ireland ease to Scottish victory



Senior Men’s Celtic Cup
Ireland 3 (C Cargo, C Harte, T Cockram) Scotland 1 (K Bain)
A slick, fast-paced performance saw Ireland continued their hoodoo over Scotland, bringing their run to 13 games unbeaten yesterday afternoon in Le Touquet, France with a comfortable 3-1 win.

It was an impressive performance from Paul Revington’s side in his first chance to put a new-look side through their paces since last November’s World Cup Qualifiers, attempting to retain the Celtic Cup.

An overhaul in midfield saw Andy McConnell, David Ames and Geoff McCabe initially involved in a battle before finding the right strings to pull and when they did, Ireland had too much for the Scots.

First half substitutes Alan Sothern and Chris Cargo combined for the opening goal, the former laying on a delightful reverse-stick cross for the Cargo to deflect high past Great Britain goalkeeper Ali McGregor in the 19th minute.

McGregor did produce a top-drawer save to deny Ireland’s first corner but Conor Harte doubled the lead when he dragged home, aided by a defender’s stick, his first international goal in the 31st minute

The tall defender was one of a couple of corner options employed as Ireland look to replace the recently retired record goalscorer Stephen Butler, so deadly from the set-piece.

Scotland did pull one effort back in the second half through the lively Kenny Bain who used his power to beat two defenders and pummel past Iain Walker.

But Timmy Cockram scored from a set move from a corner six minutes from time, converting a switch-confirmed the win.

Ireland play Wales today (2pm, Irish time) in which a win would virtually assure the title before playing the tournament hosts France at 1pm tomorrow.

The Welsh beat France 1-0 courtesy of a Rufus McNaught-Barrington drag-flick.

Ireland: I Walker, R Gormley, J Jackson, C Harte, P Gleghorne, G McCabe, D Ames, A McConnell, E Magee, T Cockram, M Darling
Subs: J Brennan, A Giles, A Sothern, P Maguire, C Cargo

Senior Men's Celtic Cup (Le Touquet, France) results:
Ireland 3 (C Cargo, C Harte, T Cockram) Scotland 1 (K Bain); Wales 1 (R McNaught-Barrington) France 0

Celtic Cup standings (points/goal difference):
1.Ireland 3pts (+2) 2. Wales 3pts (+1) 3. France 0pts (-1) 4. Scotland 0pts (-2)

* Photos courtesy of GF Cohen/www.photopale.com - to see more photos from the competition, click here (Facebook page)

Cregan set to break Irish caps record

Fortune favours the laid-back. Or perhaps it just favours the talented as Eimear Cregan stands on the cusp of setting the new mark for Irish women’s international caps this weekend when she captains the side in the Four-Nations event in Essen, Germany.

Should the 28-year-old play two of Ireland’s three games this weekend against Australia, India and the host nation, Cregan will surpass former Cork Harlequins’ club mate Rachael Kohler’s mark of 166.

Speaking to the Hook, the Limerick woman spoke of a number of twists of fate which shaped her hockey career, possibly veering it away from what might have been a glittering life in camogie.

Coming from a family steeped in a stick-and-ball sport of another kind – her uncle Eamonn excelled in Limerick hurling green – hockey barely registered until a chance try-out aged 12 when a friend moved to her neighbourhood and coaxed her down to Lansdowne for a knock-about.

This first twist of fortune immediately had her hooked though her outlook from those times was refreshingly simple and has stayed with her.

“I didn’t have any expectations, I just went out to enjoy it and it went from there.”

“I absolutely hadn’t a clue of the rules and I was obviously from a big GAA family. My friend asked me to come down, gave me a stick and shinguards; and the minute I picked up the stick I absolutely loved it. A lot of it would transfer over from the ground hurling. I loved the smaller skills, the dodging and so on, from the very start.”

Camogie and hockey continued side-by-side during her teens as call-ups to Limerick and Munster’s underage sides came along. At this stage, she says there “no real pressure” to make a decision to focus either way but as she stepped into the adult arena something finally had to give, with the tough decision to give hockey precedence in her first year of a sport’s science degree in UL.

“In college, I tried to play both but there was a lot on. I picked up a small injury in a camogie match and was only out for a couple of weeks but it made me think. The honour of possibly playing for my country dragged me along. Its brilliant playing for your county but I really wanted to play for my country.”

She would return to the gaelic game a couple of years later, winning an Ashbourne Cup for her university during a period international hockey downtime.

By that stage, though, she had already been elevated to Riet Kuper’s national setup. Once again, fate dealt a sizable hand as the bout of foot and mouth disease in 2001 aided her passage to making a senior debut.

“I was in the Irish U-21s but a tournament was cancelled due to foot and mouth as we couldn’t travel. Because I wouldn’t have any hockey for the summer, Riet picked up on this and gave me a two week trial.

“I had no expectations, I was going to try as hard as I could but there was no pressure – I thought I was just going to enjoy the bonus. But I was kept on and we trained throughout the summer from April and got my first cap in August against Wales.”

She was one of a quartet to benefit in such a manner – Nikki Symmons, Catherine Murray and Linda O’Neill the others. While it is likely she would have been elevated to the senior squad in time, the call-up gave her an opportunity to forge her way into eventual plans for the 2002 World Cup panel in Australia.

But it was a first cap in which she admitted, in a rare display or nerves, to being “petrified” when Kuper called her to step on but an early lay-off to Irish legend Lynsey McVicker helped settle the nerves.

Another soothing influence was Kohler – her predecessor at the top of the caps tree.

“I was lucky to play with Rachael in the Munster senior squad and she was always one people looked up to. As soon as I played on Munster teams, she was the name. She’s just so unassuming, so modest but so brilliant on the pitch.

“At the time of the World Cup, I remember Rachael got her 153rd cap, passing Mary Logue and looking up to her and thinking ‘I can’t believe she has so many caps’.

“She just gets on and does her job, with no flashiness about her, working hard and doing the simple thing. She was just a really good role model and know I always looked up to her.

“She was really welcoming when I came onto the squad along with Karen Bateman. For me being 19 and them experienced Munster and international players, they really looked after me.”

Their presence helped her transition to Cork Harlequins after a brief stint with Push in Breda, playing in the Dutch Hoofdklasse – a club which reminded her very much of her roots – nabbing a quick opportunity to test herself against the best in world club hockey.

“It’s like their version of the GAA with a club in every parish. So many clubs, so many facilities, so many people willing to invest in the club and really family-orientated. It was like playing the equivalent of an international every week. The standard over there was so high so we played against a lot of the girls on the Dutch team.”

Since then, she has been part of Harlequins’ long-running dominance in Munster before moving back to Catholic Institute mid-season in her native city who now have a debut IHL season to look forward to.

Reflecting on her career, she cites that World Cup, along with the 2005 European championships held in Belfield, as highlights while a hat-trick in Korea against the host nation was a personal boon.

“To play in the World Cup in any sport is brilliant. I remember having a massive crowd when we played Australia, the whole stadium was full and I’ve never played in anything like that.

“The Europeans in Dublin, thanks to the sponsorship of ESB, really got the ball rolling. That tournament we got a lot of tv and it was great to have people afterwards talking about the game. From then on, a lot more people got more interested in hockey and a lot of people I know who are GAA followers started to take an interest.”

Asked about the influence of chance and fate on her career, though, Cregan prefers to call it ‘taking opportunities’.

“If my friend hadn’t moved house and got me to take up hockey, I know I wouldn’t have played hockey and played camogie for the rest of my career.

“The foot and mouth time, you never know. I could have gone up from the U-21s, Bridget McKeever [Cleland] came up through from there when I was shipped through with Nikki Symmons.

“I suppose you have to take your opportunities and I think I’ve done that. I always wanted to play for Ireland and that drives you on. But it does take a lot of hard work and commitment. You do put certain things on hold in your life; you miss a lot of parties but at the end of the day, you get to play for your country and see the world. We’ve been so lucky and I feel so privileged to have been able to play the last nine years of international hockey.”

Looking to the future, she believes there is more to come from the current set of players with the 2012 Olympics the big marker on the horizon.

“We’re constantly improving. I don’t think I’ve played with a squad which has been so tactically aware and technically aware due to the teaching of Gene [Muller] and Dennis [Pritchard]. We can adapt to different situations which we showed in Chile against Australia where we used completely different tactics to the other games.

“It’s great for us to have so many opportunities to play so many top games. We’re a young team, we were obviously disappointed with our performance in Chile but it’s so good to have a month off and then be able to play in a high quality tournament. Without the ESB, the Sports Council and SINI support, we wouldn’t be able to play those games.

“This team, as long as we stay together and keep improving, we really are focussing on getting an outcome from every tournament to build to getting that fourth in Europe in August 2011 where we’ll be a serious force to reckon with.”

As for breaking the caps record, she’s typically humble about that likely possibility this weekend: “I’ve been very lucky to get into the squad, selected by Riet Kuper, and to play in a World Cup and four European championships. I do still take one game at a time and every game as a bonus and never take being selected for granted. It’s just another game but I’m obviously honoured and delighted.”

*** Ireland play Australia tonight (6pm, Irish time) looking for revenge for their defeat in the World Cup Qualifiers in late April in Chile. The Ozzies are building for the Commonwealth Games but enter this competition without the injured Casey Eastham and Kate Hollywood.

On their current European tour, Australia were on top against Great Britain but have shared two results with Germany this week, losing 6-2 in the opening game.

Germany follow on Saturday while India are the opponents on Sunday. Cregan says of those challenges: “We owe Germany a good fight considering they beat us in the Europeans. India, we haven’t played them in a few years but we’d be hoping to beat them. All matches are tough and they’ll be skilful with good natural flair and it’s down to very hard work in all three games to get a couple of wins.”

McCarthy sole Leinster player in U-17 squad

Lisa McCarthy is the one Leinster name to be included in the Irish U-17 panel named on Thursday to participate at the first World Youth Olympic Games which are being held in Singapore in August.

The Mount Anville teenager has had an impressive season, making it to the edges of Railway Union’s IHL winning panel and was part of their 12 player squad who won the National Indoor Trophy.

Two places still remain to filled in the selection, a squad which IHA High Performance Director and team coach Dave Passmore says was one of the toughest he – along with Una McCarthy and Richie Malone – has had to pick.

“This was an immensely difficult selection process that included trials and many hours of video reviews.”

“This young group has a lot of potential and the World Youth Olympics tournament represents a superb stage for them to develop and perform. It will be a challenging event requiring high fitness levels. In addition, the intensity of play along with the varying playing styles we will encounter will make it even more demanding.

“Irish Hockey is delighted and very grateful that this opportunity has been provided by the Olympic Council of Ireland.”

In addition to girl’s hockey, Ireland will be represented in athletics, boxing, rowing, sailing, triathlon, tennis and modern pentathlon.

The Olympic Council of Ireland’s sports director, Martin Burke, has been appointed Chef de Mission while Cormac O’Muircheartaigh, (son of broadcaster Michael) – current medical director of the Singapore Institute of Sport – will provide medical and physiotherapy services to the team.

Ireland U-17: Rebecca Barry (Laurel Hill/Catholic Institute), Chloe Brown (Nendrum College/North Down), Lucy Camlin GK (Ballyclare HS/Pegasus), Amy Cooke (Ballyclare HS/Lisnagarvey), Leah Ewart (Royal School Armagh/Armagh), Gemma Fraser (Omagh HS/Omagh), Dora Gorman (Taylors/Greenfields), Jenna Holmes GK (Carrickfergus/Randalstown), Lisa McCarthy (Mount Anville/Railway Union), Kerri McDonald (Banbridge Academy/Dromore), Antonia McGrath (Ursuline Convent/Cork Harlequins), Lucy McKee (Banbridge Academy/Armagh), Katie Mullin (Dalriada/Ballymoney), Roisin Upton (Crescent College Comprehensive/Catholic Institute)

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Leinster U-16/18 panels host fundraiser

The Leinster U-18 and U-16 boys and girl’s teams will host a fundraising barbecue and mixed hockey tournament on Saturday afternoon in Railway Union’s Park Avenue.

The day will begin with a Leinster U-18 boy’s trial before the social side of the day gets underway with registration for the U-16/U-18 mixed tournament at 2.30pm with games getting up and running soon after.

The tournament will run for two hours before a barbecue will be fired up outside the clubhouse.

Tickets are €20 per head for hockey and food, available from the players or at the ground on the day. All players looking to take part are to bring a white playing top, gum shield and shin guards with goalies to bring their pads.

Parents are welcome to stay and watch the tournament and the club’s bar will be open.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Eight Leinster men in for Junior Celtic Cup

Eight Leinster players have been included in the 18 man Ireland A squad named by Graham Shaw for the upcoming Junior Celtic Cup, to be played in Cookstown from July 2-4.

Speaking about the selection, Ireland’s Senior men’s coach Paul Revington said “It is crucial for Irish Hockey that this group of U-21 players are able to perform together at international level, and the 2010 Junior Celtic Cup arrives at just the right time for these players.

“The squad have worked hard together over the past few weeks and it will be good for them to finish this phase of training off with a quality performance in a tournament."

Corinthian’s Brian Doherty captains the sideand is joined in the panel by Leinster U-21 players Stephen Cole, Jonathon Kane, Stu Loughrey, Davy Carson and Mark English. Stephen West and Shane O’Donoghue step up from last year’s Ireland U-18s.

Ireland A Squad for Junior Celtic Cup
Alistair Thom (GK, Instonians), Stephen West (GK, Three Rock Rovers), David Best (Cookstown), Phillip Brown (Banbridge), Drew Carlisle (Vice Captain, Banbridge), Clinton Sweetnam (Cork C of I), Mark Crooks (Cookstown), Stephen Cole (Monkstown), Jonathon Kane (Glenanne), Stuart Loughrey (Loughborough Uni), David Carson (Corinthian), Shane O’Donoghue (Glenanne), William Robinson (Instonians), Brian Doherty (Captain, Corinthian), Alistair Smith (Bandon), Mark English (Railway Union), Stephen Sloan (Cookstown), Neil Hamilton (Annadale)
Head Coach: Graham Shaw
Manager: Peter Jackson
Asst Coach: Lucas Piccioli
S&C Coach: Jonny Carren

Match Schedule (Cookstown)
July 2 (6pm): Ireland vs Wales
July 3 (4pm): Ireland vs France
July 4 (4pm): Ireland vs Scotland

Ladies masters make tournament debut

** Words from Helen Johnston **

The Irish women’s masters (over 40s) played their first tournament last weekend, taking part in the Masters Home Countries International Hockey Championships in Swansea, Wales.

Due to the sterling efforts of the men's masters co-ordinator Andy Nye and the women's co-ordinator, Alison Pigot. a squad of 13 was assembled for the competition.

Following a couple of training sessions, a team who had not played together before, faced a strong Scottish team peppered with ex-internationals.

As the English, Welsh and Scottish teams were also fielding Over 45s teams their Over 40s teams comprised players aged 40-44, so the Irish team (fielding players across the 40s decade +) felt the early pace.

The half time score was 0-2, with a full time score of 0-3 - by which time the Irish team had settled, adapted to the pace of the game and were starting to play well as a team.

This form carried into the next game against Wales, Ireland scoring their first goal through the hard running Edwina Mulcahy after good approach play by the impressively skilful Aishling Schutte.

Wales worked hard to equalise and go ahead but, despite only having one outfield sub and playing their second match of the day, the resilient Irish team raised their game in the last 10 minutes to get an equaliser through a good team goal, finished off by Schutte.

The following day Ireland took on a strong English Over 40s team, who needed to win by six goals to win the tournament ahead of the Scots.

With loud support from the Irish men and the Scots, the Irish team battled hard in the Welsh heat.

The Irish goalkeepers saved two strokes and captain Alison Pigot calmly slotted home an Irish stroke.

The final score was 5-1 to the fast and skilful English side, but it was a moral victory to the Irish in rewarding the support of the Scots and in making a credible start for the Irish Women's Masters team.

The Irish players of the tournament were goalkeepers Sinead Guilfoyle and Margie Loughran.
The next event for the Irish Women's Masters team is a Home Nations 'Plus' tournament hosted in Ireland by Lisnagarvey Hockey Club from August 21 and 23.

The Irish Women's Masters are looking for players - so if you're over 40, still playing hockey and would like to get involved go to www.irelandmasters.com where you can contact the women's co-ordinator Alison Pigot.

Ireland Ladies Masters (over 40s): Sinead Guilfoyle (GK - Pembroke), Margie Loughran (GK - Navan), Maura O'Neill (Three Rock), Bromwyn O'Donnell (Loreto), Helen Johnston (Railway), Paula Jenkins (Three Rock), Alison Pigot (Captain - Pembroke), Clare Ryan (Navan), Nikkey Cullen (Avoca), Edwina Mulcahy (Pembroke), Aishling Schutte (Pembroke), Mairead Lyons (Three Rock), Bernie Barry (Pembroke).

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Garrett names A squad for Celtic Cup

Ireland ‘A’ Women’s coach, Guy Garrett, has announced his squad to play in the Junior Celtic Cup on 2-4 July, 2010. The tournament is limited to U-21 players and so the squad selection reflects this.

Speaking of the upcoming tournament, Coach Guy Garrett, said that, “Preparation has been very intense and the players have worked hard with this specific goal in mind. We know that this will be a tough challenge, but there is a real belief that we are in the right place to produce some good performances. Arlene’s (Boyles) coaching and involvement is proving invaluable to the squad. It is at tournament time that this will be most apparent."

Ireland Junior Celtic Cup Squad:
Lauren Barr (Ballymoney), Aisling Campion (Loreto), Deirdre Duke (Hermes), Orla Fox (Pembroke Wanderers), Victoria Green (Bath), Jenny Kyle (Pegasus), Hannah Matthews (Loreto), Kate McConnell (Pegasus), Liz McInerney (UCD), Kate McKenna (Railway Union), Ali Meeke (Loreto), Anna O'Flanagan (Hermes), Grace O'Flanagan (UCD), Gillian Pinder (Hermes), Stephanie Quinn (Armagh), Katherine Steenson (Armagh)

Coach: Guy Garrett
Asst Coach: Arlene Boyles
Manager: Mike Davies

Match Schedule (Cookstown)
Friday, July 2 (4pm): Ireland ‘A’ vs Wales U-21
Saturday, July 3 (2pm): Ireland ‘A’ vs France U-21
Sunday, July 4 (2pm): Ireland ‘A’ vs Scotland U-21

O'Donoghue takes UCD reins

Rory O'Donoghue was confirmed yesterday as UCD men’s new coach for the 2010/11 coming season, making the switch from Monkstown during a stint in which he secured automatic IHL qualification three years in a row as well as two Irish Senior Cup final appearances.

O'Donoghue replaces John McInroy who returns South Africa. A spokesman for the club said of the appointment: "We are delighted to welcome Rory to the club. He brings with him a huge amount of playing and coaching success at this level as well as the knowledge of how to develop young players after his time with Monkstown and as Leinster U-18 coach. We look forward to a very successful period with Rory"

Rory said of his own appointment "I am very pleased and excited about my appointment as UCD’s Men's Hockey Coach. I have just finished three years coaching Monkstown first Team and I really enjoyed working with them.

“I hope that the experience I have gained both as a player and a coach at the highest level will be able to bring UCD hockey to the next level following on from the great foundation laid down by my predecessor John McInroy.

“It is my ambition to make UCD a centre of excellence for hockey and I have no doubt that with the excellent facilities that are at my disposal there that this is a realistic objective.

“I intend to use the high performance training facility to optimise the strength of talent that exists there at present and the talented players that are due to arrive this season. As a coach I believe in striving to be the best you can be without fear of failure and I am really looking forward to the challenge of making UCD an elite Hockey club.”

Logue to coach Hermes: Leinster coaching news

* Hermes have appointed Mary Logue as their head coach for the upcoming season, making the switch after a couple of seasons with UCD in which she helped the club win the Irish Senior Cup and return to the Irish Hockey League.

She also coached Ireland’s U-18 selection in the European A division last year and returns to a club where she enjoyed great times as a player.

Logue takes over for Dutchman Eric Fintelman who took charge of the club mid-season but now returns to Apeldoorn in his native country.

Speaking about the appointment, a Hermes club spokesman said “We are delighted to welcome Mary back to the club as coach of the first squad. It will be an exciting time for us all. Mary’s CV is so impressive both as a player with Ireland and Hermes and as coach with the Irish U-18s and UCD. The girls can’t wait for the season to start.”

* Naas Hockey Club are seeking a Ladies 1XI coach – or player-coach – for the 2010/11 season. The role includes, but is not limited, to the following:

Coaching and developing the ladies first eleven in conjunction with the club’s development plan; liasing with the selection committee regarding squad selection; organising and attending two training sessions a week; attending all 1XI matches during the season and viewing potential second eleven players; liasing with the other senior section and junior section coaches.

The candidate is required to have completed or be completing the Code of Ethics course; a Level 1 coaching course or suitable playing experience and a sense of humour is essential! For more information, contact Louise Sharpe on 0879877532.

* St Brendan's Phoenix Park are looking for two coaches for the upcoming season: one for their men's first team who currently play in Division 4 and their ladies first team in Division 7.

The club have enjoyed a successful run in the past year with the men winning the Irish Hockey Challenge and aim to build on that success while the ladies have been promoted each of the past five years.

For more information, contact Alison Kelly on 087 7830022 or dublinhockey@gmail.com.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Ireland impress at Cookstown opening

Ireland built up to next weekend's Celtic Cup in Le Touquet, France with an impressive 7-1 win over Cookstown at the official opening of the new Coolnafranky complex in Co Tyrone on Friday.

The panel featured 17 of the Irish panel who will travel to France in the green jersey. Jason Lynch stepped in to complete the 18 for Ireland with David Ames playing for Cookstown in the fixture and getting the reds only goal of the night.

Speaking about the pitch opening, meanwhile, Irish coach Paul Revington praised the setup where his side were based for a training camp in April: "Having traveled around the world and experienced many different elite hockey environments, I am pleased to say that this new Cookstown facility stands firmly at the top of the list of hockey training environments.

"The detail that has gone into designing this facility is fantastic and represents what is required at a High Performance level in sport.

"This new facility and pitch is also just reward for a really good youth program that is in operation between Cookstown High School and Cookstown Hockey Club and will no doubt serve as added motivation for youngsters in the area to play hockey.

"Ireland Hockey benefits immensely from the work being done developing hockey players in Cookstown and we are pleased to bring our Senior Squad back to Coolnafranky for this showcase event."

The evening commenced with the Cookstown Ladies’ First XI vs Jennifer Patterson’s President’s Ulster XI, a tight encounter with the visitors edging victory 2-1.

Ireland (pictured): Iain Walker, Dave Fitzgerald, Michael Maguire, Alan Giles, Conor Harte, Bruce McCandless, Chris Cargo, Phelie Maguire, Joe Brennan, Ronan Gormley, John Jackson, Jason Lynch, Eugene Magee, Timmy Cockram, Mitch Darling, Andy McConnell, Alan Sothern, Peter Caruth

Cookstown panel: Ian Hughes, Brian Hall, Stephen Cuddy, Godfrey Irwin, Gareth Cuddy (c), Simon Todd (Guest), Philip Barbour, Ian Sloan, Ewan Butler, Peter Cunningham, Andrew Barbour, Ivan Steen, Mark Crooks, David Best, Colin Donaldson, David Ames, Greg Allen, Stuart Smyth, Keith Black, Stephen Sloan, Matthew Rollins

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Revingtion forced to ring changes

A number of players have a chance to stake their claim for a midfield berth as Paul Revington named six changes to his Ireland squad for the Celtic Cup from 2009’s World Cup qualifiers.

All were enforced swaps with four of them coming in the middle of the park with Glenanne pair Stephen Butler and Graham Shaw (retirement) and Cork C of I duo David Hobbs and John Jermyn taking a summer sabbatical.

With Tim Lewis – a potential makeweight - also out injured, there is plenty of scope for a list of hopefuls to step up.

Geoff McCabe and David Ames are the two recognised midfielders from the WCQ panel while Paul Gleghorne is an option, too.

Pembroke’s Andy McConnell and Alan Giles return to tournament hockey after stints in the Champion’s Challenge and the Europeans, respectively, with 77-capped Phelie Maguire more likely to be used in the forward line.

David Harte’s injury gives Iain Walker a rare chance as the number one choice goalkeeper while David Fitzgerald could make his international debut. Peter Caruth also returns

The back four and front line retain more settled look for the tournament in Le Touquet next week, getting underway on June 25 against Wales before facing Scotland on the Saturday and concluding against France on Sunday, June 27.

Ireland are reigning champions despite using an experimental side last time around. Ames, Johnny Jackson, Fitzgerald, Walker, Giles, Peter Caruth and Chris Cargo are the ones with winner’s medals to add to their haul.

Speaking ahead of the trip, Paul Revington is pleased to be back in action after a lengthy break:

“We’re excited to be back together again and in international action.The team has a few changes to the one which last played in Argentina, changes as a result of retirements, current injuries and strategic rest.

"The pleasing aspect is that the depth of the squad allows us to send a highly motivated and skilled group of players to this event despite the various selection changes”

Ireland (club/caps):
Iain Walker (YMCA; 20) GK; David Fitzgerald (Monkstown; 0) GK; Ronan Gormley (Pembroke W; 97) Captain; John Jackson (Loughborough; 42); Joe Brennan (Glenanne; 33); Conor Harte (Pembroke W; 40); Paul Gleghorne (Loughborough; 11); Geoff McCabe (Dragons; 62); David Ames (Cookstown; 14); Andy McConnell (Pembroke W; 13);Alan Giles (Pembroke W; 7); Chris Cargo (Reading; 5); Eugene Magee (Dragons; 103); Timmy Cockram (Lisnagarvey; 95); Mitch Darling (Leuven; 41); Alan Sothern (Pembroke W; 37); Peter Caruth (Annadale; 16); Phelie Maguire (Leuven; 77)

Reserves: Billy Lynch; Adam Pritchard; Bruce McCandless; Gareth Watkins; Peter Blakeney; Jason Lynch; Gary Shaw
Unavailable: David Harte; Michael Watt; Tim Lewis; John Jermyn; Michael Maguire; David Hobbs

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Evans and McCarthy set for senior bow

Gene Muller has announced three changes from the World Cup qualifying squad for the upcoming Four-Nations event in Essen, Germany which gets underway on June 25.

Nikki Evans (left) looks set for an international debut following her inclusion for that tournament – which features high quality games against India, Germany and Australia – as well as a three-game series against Australia in early July.

Nicci Daly also comes back into the set-up to add to her two caps earned earlier in 2010. They come back into the panel at the expense of Maryland-based Megan Frazer while Roisin Flinn also makes way for the summer series.

As part of the goalkeeper rotation Louisa Healy steps out for the tournament in Germany with Emma Gray back in the squad while Mary Goode will be the netminder to sit out the home series with Australia.

For that selection, Cork Harlequins’ Sinead McCarthy is included as one an extra defender in a move that could see Nikki Symmons moved slightly further up the field.

McCarthy (right) was one of the standout performers in last month’s IHL finals and seriously impressed for Munster in the interpros, capping a fine debut season since moving to Ireland from Poynton in England.

Commenting on his selection coach Gene Muller said “We are delighted to have secured these fixtures and our players are excited at the prospect of competing against this calibre of opposition.

“Australia and Germany are traditional powerhouses in women's hockey and will be a stern test for us.

“India are the Commonwealth gameshosts and are gearing up for the World Cup later this year. They are an emerging force in Asian hockey.”

Four-Nations tournament (Essen, Germany) panel:
Emma Clarke (Leicester; 67 caps); Bridget Cleland (Ballymoney; 144); Lizzie Colvin (Loreto; 31); Eimear Cregan (Catholic Institute; 165); Nicci Daly (Loreto; 2); Nicola Evans (Railway Union; 0); Mary Goode (Bray; 67); Emma Gray (Hermes; 12); Michelle Harvey (Pegasus; 32); Lisa Jacob (UCD; 67); Shirley McCay (Dragons; 85); Audrey O'Flynn (UCC; 8); Julia O'Halloran (UCC; 48); Cliodhna Sargent (Cork Harlequins; 59); Niamh Small (Loreto; 27); Emma Smyth (Railway Union; 26); Alex Speers (Dragons; 72); Nikki Symmons (Loreto; 136)

Australia series (Belfield)
Emma Clarke (Leicester; 67 caps); Bridget Cleland (Ballymoney; 144); Lizzie Colvin (Loreto; 31); Eimear Cregan (Catholic Institute; 165); Nicci Daly (Loreto; 2); Nicola Evans (Railway Union; 0); Louise Healy (Loreto; 49); Emma Gray (Hermes; 12); Michelle Harvey (Pegasus; 32); Lisa Jacob (UCD; 67); Sinead McCarthy (Cork Harlequins; 0) Shirley McCay (Dragons; 85); Audrey O'Flynn (UCC; 8); Julia O'Halloran (UCC; 48); Cliodhna Sargent (Cork Harlequins; 59); Niamh Small (Loreto; 27); Emma Smyth (Railway Union; 26); Alex Speers (Dragons; 72); Nikki Symmons (Loreto; 136)

ESB Ireland Senior Women fixture schedule
June 25: Ireland vs Australia, 7pm, Four-Nations; Essen, Germany
June 26: Ireland vs Germany, 5pm, Four-Nations; Essen, Germany
June 27: Ireland vs India, 12pm, Four-Nations; Essen, Germany
June 30: Ireland vs Australia, 8pm, Belfield
July 2: Ireland vs Australia, 7.30pm, Belfield
July 3: Ireland vs Australia, 4pm, Belfield

Coolnafranky to host Irish challenge

Cookstown will play host to the first stage of Ireland’s men’s summer programme as they officially open their state-of-the-art water-based facilities as the club face the current Ireland men’s team at Coolnafranky (pictured, right) at 8pm on Friday night

Ireland manager Paul Revington has promised that his team will be strong one as part of the preparation for the Celtic Cup to be played a week later in Le Touquet before a series of matches against France, also at Coolnafranky in early July.

It will be part of the rebuilding process following the retirements of Stephen Butler and Graham Shaw and, with John Jermyn and Mikey Watt taking a summer break, the battle for midfield places is set to be an intriguing one.

To that end, midfield heir apparent David Ames (left) lines out for his home club along with Cookstown’s Irish U-21 stars. They will also have Reds legends Philip Barbour and Pete Cunningham, famously the first hat trickster on the water-based pitch, in tow.

The reds also hope to have ex-Great Britain captain Brett Garrard running out in a Cookstown shirt to mark the spectacular event.

This is the second time that Cookstown has been honoured with a match against the current international side following a match on their sand-filled pitch during the official opening in 1994.

Ireland come into the fixture off the back of a pair of impressive wins in training games against the Irish U-21s who are currently in preparation for the Junior Celtic Cup.

Cookstown Ladies will also grace the pitch against the Ulster President’s XI at 6.30pm in what promises to be a cracking game to excite Friday in Tyrone.

Club Vice Chairman Stephen Cuddy said of the occasion: "This is the culmination of many years hard work and we are indebted to the support shown by Sport NI,Cookstown District Council, Miller, Shearer and Black, Acheson and Glover, and Kelvatek."

Sport Northern Ireland Chief Executive Eamonn McCartan commented: “Sport Northern Ireland is dedicated to developing people in sport, particularly young people, and we are delighted to be able to fund this facility.

“The club and the new facility will increase participation levels in hockey with our young people, females, schools and the local community. Members and individuals will also benefit from improved coaching structures, so providing effective pathways for future performance, which is a great result for all concerned”.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Ireland handed Youth Olympic berth

Ireland will field an U-17 girls team at the inaugural World Youth Olympic Games in Singapore this August, it was revealed earlier today.

The Irish Hockey Association’s high performance director Dave Passmore will lead a 16-strong squad to the tournament in Asia, having officially secured its place in recent days.

They will challenge for Olympic gold against nations such as New Zealand, Argentina and South Africa at what will be a mini-Olympics Games, with over 200 nations participating in a wide range of sports.

“This is the perfect opportunity to develop a group of talented young athletes, many of whom have been through Irish Hockey’s talent ID system,” said Passmore.

“Whilst the tournament will be a challenging one in difficult climatic conditions it is the best way to test our young stars against the world’s best nations.”

The advent of a new junior age group between the traditional U16 and U18 slots suggests the squad is likely to be an amalgamation of eligible players within those squads.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Bray ladies on lookout for first team coach

Bray ladies are on the look-out for a new coach following Johnny Harte’s decision to step down from the role.

The club are looking for someone with good technical and interpersonal skills and someone who can commit fully to coaching a division one side. Candidates would preferably have coaching experience at this level.

Anyone with interest in the role can contact Lauren Kelly at lolkelso@gmail.com for more details.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Ulster trio claim Belgian national title

Success for the Irish abroad appears to be a recurring theme as Peter Blakeney’s achievements with Roma followed a week after Ulster trio Geoff McCabe, Eugene Magee and Mikey Watt helped Antwerp’s Dragons to the Belgian national title.

It comes a year after Galway girl Ciara Murphy helped La Gantoise win the women’s top honour in the country and a few years since the Glenanne trio of Stephen Butler, Joe Brennan and Graham Shaw were male top-dogs, again with Dragons.

Indeed, in Holland, the wild geese have come close to glory on a couple of occasions, too, with Phelie Maguire helping HGC to the national grand final while a year later John Jermyn and Iain Lewers reached the EHL finals with the Wassenaar club.

But far going abroad from being a shortcut to silverware, former Banbridge man McCabe told the Hook ambitions were much lower when he and his fellow Irishmen decided to agree terms last summer.

“When we first went to Dragons, our aim was to get into the top four. With seven new players in the squad, from that perspective, to win the Belgian championships and qualify for the EHL was a fantastic success.”

They ended the regular season in second place behind Racing but produced a fine second half performance against the same opposition to suck the life out of their opponents and bag two vital goals to win 4-2.

But the key moment for Dragons occurred five months earlier during the winter break. Despite high self-confidence, McCabe says that a mental block in closing out games hamstrung his side’s early rush at the season but a vital team meeting helped them overcome from whence the side never looked back.

“The first half of the season we knew we definitely had the best squad but drew six games in which all of them we were up until the last minutes.

“So we knew coming into the second half of the season after Christmas, if we could go on a decent run we’d have a chance of finishing in the top four.

“The best thing was to sit down as a team without the coaching staff and say ‘It’s up to us to take control of those final ten minutes’. We adopted a new strategy of going into a control phase, keeping the ball in the channels if we were up in games.

“That especially worked well in the second half of the final against Racing when it was 2-2. If they had gone up, it would have changed things completely but we dominated the second half, keeping the ball wide and in possession.

“We had a lot of video meetings, analysing where we conceded those goals and we definitely eliminated that fault in their team in the second half of the season.”

It’s a fascinating insight into the title-winning season, master-minded in all other parts by coach Colin Batch – the former Australian international of 175 caps who held the record for the quickest World Cup hat-trick until the latest edition of the tournament.

More recently, Batch was the assistant coach in the Aussies gold medal win in Athens 2004. And McCabe enjoyed his laid back style during the season.

“His record speaks for itself. He’s a very relaxed guy. Being involved in an Australian set-up where they don’t need someone hammering down on them to get the best out of them, he brings a calmness and really knows what he’s talking about when it comes to what he wants from the players. He lets us really drive that, especially in training with ourselves and the assistant coaches.”

It also helped the Irish contingent settle in – combined with international team mates playing at KHC Leuven (pictured, Mitch Darling tracking Eugene Magee) and Ulster ladies Alex Speers and Shirley McCay playing at Dragons – that the majority of coaching was conducted in English.

The standard of hockey in the league, meanwhile, was all McCabe hoped for as the support structures in place have helped develop the sport:

“It’s certainly a good step up from Irish league hockey. From our point of view, we had a fantastic squad of 20 players with only two who hadn’t played for Belgium so the standard of training was always at a high level.

“The top six teams were reasonably evenly matched so games were competitive. The players are a lot faster and stronger than Irish hockey.

“There’s a lot of money in the Belgian league to afford to bring in players like ourselves from outside. Even the weaker teams can bring up their standard of training and strengthen their team.

“Wellington, for example, has three Argentinian internationals and even though they didn’t finish high in the league, they’re tricky to play against. From that point of view, because of the money aspect they can bring in that experience whereas in Ireland there isn’t that money.”

And with the prospect of the EHL and the chance to link up with another Irish team-mate next year, McCabe and co have already confirmed they are on board for a second season with Dragons.

“We’ve signed for another year. With the EHL coming up, it would be too good an opportunity to miss and with Stephen [Butler] coming out as well, there’ll be the four of us. From this squad, we’re losing our drag-flicker so it will be great to have Stephen in the team.”

* To see highlights from the Belgian grand final, skip forward to 7:23 of the following video

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Bloemendaal claim Dutch national title - highlights

Suffering from hockey withdrawal symptoms? Bloemendaal began the Dutch national championships last weekend, getting the better of HGC 2-1 in the first match of the three game grand final. Here's edited highlights of the game.



* If you have seen any other good Youtube/Vimeo clips in recent times, especially ones from the Irish season gone by, drop me an email or leave a comment and I'll put up a post with the best selection.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Blakeney adds Italian title to Irish and Aussie success

Peter Blakeney became one of a rare few in world sport as a national champion in three different countries as he helped HC de Sisti Roma to the Italian ‘Serie A’ title, adding to prior victories in Australia with the West Australia Thundersticks and in Ireland as part of Three Rock Rovers club championship season in 2008.

With job opportunities scarce in Ireland, Blakeney agreed to join the Italian club in the spring for the second half of their season on a semi-professional basis.

And while he soon got a job offer that would keep him in Ireland, the Killiney man decided to fulfil that agreement and travel back and forth to games each weekend.

He scored four times on debut as Roma surged to the top of the rankings, entering last weekend’s ‘final four’ playoffs as top seeds.

They won a thrilling semi-final against city rivals Butterfly Roma 4-3 on Saturday. Bouyed by a text from Francesco Totti – part of the club’s affiliate football team – his side went on to claim national glory and an EHL place with a 2-1 win over HC Bra.

It was achieved the hard way. A rush of blood saw Roma skipper Federico Ardito give up a corner and a ten minute sin-binning which Massimo Lanzano converted to put Blakeney’s side on the back foot at half-time.

But Luca Settimi levelled matters before Blakeney played a pivotal role in assisting the winner 13 minutes from time, again converted by Settimi to secure the club’s sixth national crown.

“Australia was the highest honour, winning their national championships; beating any side with Jamie Dwyer in it was pretty good. Italy, in terms of standard, it’s probably not up there but the setup is pretty good.

“It was all on television and they create a very nice atmosphere to play in with everyone taking it pretty seriously while playing a national league means you get to travel quite a bit.”

Roma now go for a league and cup double against Lazio in the Italian Cup next Saturday. As for next season, Blakeney remains undecided as yet whether he will be around for their run at the EuroHockey Club Trophy given the heavy toll flying over to Italy every week took after a week’s work.

The travelling Irish have regularly secured national titles abroad in the past decade. Stephen Butler, Graham Shaw and Joe Brennan helped Antwerp’s Dragons to the Belgian league as well as helping Glenanne to Irish Senior and Club championship success while Pembroke’s Ronan Gormley was part of Club de Campo’s Spanish Cup winning side among his many medals.

Former Mossley man Johnny Jackson, meanwhile, is a multiple English indoor winner with Loughborough University but has yet to taste success in Irish club competition.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

International teams set for hectic summer

The international summer gets underway later this month as Ireland compete in 55 fixtures across eight squads from late June to the end of July with the boys and girls U-16 panels taking part in their major event, the European Nations Cup in Barcelona, both competing at A division level.

The women’s senior team will play nine internationals in a month, starting with a high quality four-nations tournament in Essen, Germany when they will challenge world cup finalists Australia, Germany and India.

The Aussies then follow on to play a three-game series in Belfield before Scotland come visiting in late July, giving Gene Muller plenty of scope to assess his squad’s make-up ahead of a hectic 2011 which will see the panel prepare for European championships and an Olympic tilt.

On the men’s side, Paul Revington’s side is in a similar phase of their development and will begin the task of attempting to replace the retired Stephen Butler and Graham Shaw the summer begins with the Celtic Cup in Le Touquet.

France come visiting a week later for a four-game schedule at Coolnafranky – Cookstown’s new state-of-the-art facility. The venue will also host both the men’s and women’s U-21 Celtic Cup.

Finally, the Irish U-18 boys and girls both have a busy couple of months ahead with nine fixtures each on home soil. These include series against Scotland and Belgium before taking on the Home Nations in Garryduff.

ESB Ireland Senior Women
June 25: Ireland vs Australia, 7pm, Four-Nations; Essen, Germany
June 26: Ireland vs Germany, 5pm, Four-Nations; Essen, Germany
June 27: Ireland vs India, 12pm, Four-Nations; Essen, Germany
June 30: Ireland vs Australia, 8pm, Belfield
July 2: Ireland vs Australia, 7.30pm, Belfield
July 3: Ireland vs Australia, 4pm, Belfield
July 23: Ireland vs Scotland, TBC
July 24: Ireland vs Scotland, TBC
July 25: Ireland vs Scotland, TBC

Senior Men
June 25: Ireland vs Scotland, 3pm, Celtic Cup; Le Touquet, France
June 26: Ireland vs Wales, 3pm, Celtic Cup; Le Touquet, France
June 27: Ireland vs France, 2pm, Celtic Cup; Le Touquet, France
June 30: Ireland vs France, 7.30pm/8pm, Cookstown
July 1: Ireland vs France, 6pm, Cookstown
July 3: Ireland vs France, 6pm, Cookstown
July 4: Ireland vs France, 6pm, Cookstown

Ireland Women’s A/U-21
June 29: Ireland A vs Scotland U-21, 6.30pm, Lisnagarvey
June 30: Ireland A vs Scotland U-21, 6.30pm, Lisnagarvey
July 2: Ireland vs Wales, 4pm, Junior Celtic Cup, Cookstown
July 3: Ireland vs France, 2pm, Junior Celtic Cup, Cookstown
July 4: Ireland vs France, 4pm, Junior Celtic Cup, Cookstown

Men’s Ireland U-21/A
July 2: Ireland vs Wales, 6pm, Junior Celtic Cup, Cookstown
July 3: Ireland vs France, 4pm, Junior Celtic Cup, Cookstown
July 4: Ireland vs Scotland, 4pm, Junior Celtic Cup, Cookstown
July 8: Ireland A vs Scotland U-21, TBC, Cookstown
July 10: Ireland A vs Scotland U-21, TBC, Cookstown
July 11: Ireland A vs Scotland U-21, TBC, Cookstown

Ireland U-18 girls
June 29: Ireland vs Belgium, 4.15pm, Belfield
June 30: Ireland vs Belgium, 4pm, Belfield
July 1: Ireland vs Belgium, 2pm, Belfield
July 3: Ireland vs Scotland, TBC, Jordanstown
July 4: Ireland vs Scotland, TBC, Jordanstown
July 5: Ireland vs Scotland, TBC, Jordanstown
July 17: Ireland vs Wales, 6pm, Home Countries, Garryduff, Cork
July 18: Ireland vs England, 6pm, Home Countries, Garryduff, Cork
July 19: Ireland vs Scotland, 11am, Home Countries, Garryduff, Cork

U-18 Boy’s
June 25: Ireland vs Scotland, 8pm, Lisnagarvey
June 26: Ireland vs Scotland, 4pm, Lisnagarvey
June 27: Ireland vs Scotland, 12.30pm, Lisnagarvey
June 29: Ireland vs Belgium, 6.15pm, Belfield
June 30: Ireland vs Belgium, 6pm, Belfield
July 1: Ireland vs Belgium, 4pm, Belfield
July 17: Ireland vs Wales, 2pm, Home Countries, Garryduff, Cork
July 18: Ireland vs England, 2pm, Home Countries, Garryduff, Cork
July 19: Ireland vs England, 1pm, Home Countries, Garryduff, Cork

Girl’s U-16s
July 3: Ireland vs Wales, 6.30pm, Belfield
July 4: Ireland vs Wales, 1pm, Belfield
July 12: Ireland vs Ukraine, 8pm, Euro Nations, Barcelona
July 13: Ireland vs Spain, 6pm, Euro Nations, Barcelona
July 14: Ireland vs Russia, 8pm, Euro Nations, Barcelona
July 16/17 playoffs: Euro Nations, Barcelona

Boy’s U-16s
July 12: Ireland vs Netherlands, 10am, Euro Nations, Barcelona
July 13: Ireland vs Austria, 12pm, Euro Nations, Barcelona
July 14: Ireland vs Russia, 12pm, Euro Nations, Barcelona
July 16/17: playoffs, Euro Nations, Barcelona