Hockey Masters – Sinead Guilfoyle's World Cup report

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Whoever said “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks” had clearly never met Stuart Malcolm, Ben Epstein or Brian Cleary, coaches of the Irish Ladies Masters. The lure of the World Cup drew a new level of commitment from players and coaches alike, training twice a week all summer. And boy did we learn new tricks! I learnt to Log – who’d have thought at the age of 47 I could throw myself into the path of a rocket short corner from an ex New Zealand International; Or save yet another penalty stroke from England (that’s 3 from 4 – well it’s England after all ☺). The boys made no allowances for age in our summer torture training! And it paid off. Aerials, 3D skills and drag flicks – all part of our new repertoire.

In August, five Squads travelled to Kent in England for the inaugural FIH Masters Hockey World Cup. What an experience. It’s going to be so hard to put this into words in any meaningful way. Pembroke were well represented. I’ve already mentioned Brian Cleary, our goalkeeping coach. We also had Bernie Barry, Annie Lawlor, Ash Schute and Alison Pigot, O40 Captain and founder of the Womens Masters teams. We have plenty of other masters players in Pembroke, but unfortunately there was no O45 tournament so many of our players were ineligible for this one – Ciara Hughes, Edwina Mulcahy, Judith Hayward and Sarah Williams, were all missed.

Canterbury in Kent, was experiencing a heatwave that caught us on the hop. Packed for rain, we suddenly had to break out the Factor 50. As a goalkeeper I have never experienced anything like it. I had a wet towel around my neck during games, and soon discovered that the water cannons for the pitch were the best invention ever. Normally sheltering from the water, I was “warming up” in the torrents. Sitting on the backboard during an international match? How could I? Believe me – all I could think of was saving energy and staying cool!

The Over 40’s faced a very difficult task, given that many of us were closer to 50! We were playing teams of recent internationals and former Olympic Medallists and the difference in class showed. Having said that we lost narrowly to Wales , 1-2 in our first match on the hottest day. We bravely held England to 0-2 the same day. Two of our squad forgot to get off the train and ended up in Reading – that didn’t help our cause. The last time I played the England O40’s we lost 1-9 – that’s some improvement in two years!

We beat a new South African team to record a well deserved victory. Australia, Scotland and New Zealand overpowered us but we never gave up in any game. A great coaching call by Ben, saw us score two goals against a very experienced Scotland, when Ben called me off 5 minutes before the end. An extra forward helped win a short corner on the whistle, which was scored to rapturous celebrations (from Ben). There is hope for the future. Annie Lawlor was superb throughout the tournament, full of running she commanded midfield and ran like a teenager! Ash was her usual speedy self up front and amazingly, lasted almost the whole tournament without injury. Alison didn’t let a dodgy knee or dicky calf stop her from scoring a couple of fine goals.

Our Over 50’s with Bernie playing some of her best hockey ever, were the stars of the Irish Show. They punched well above their weight and displayed a team spirit, unity and bravery that I’ve rarely seen. Two of the key players, Carolyn Shankey (Burns) from Ulster and Dymphna Hill from Cork, battled through the pain and played with broken hands. The rest of the team were taped and strapped from head to toe, but still managed to come Third in the table! In a meaningless play off, given that there was only one pool, they lost to NewZealand to end up Fourth Overall, denied in the dying seconds by the post. Players and supporters shed tears that day – something most of us haven’t done since our youth! The competitive spirit hasn’t waned in the slightest. The passion for hockey, and winning, is stronger now than ever! The on-site physios became our new best friends.

Former Pembroke player (now Loreto) Dee Mooney managed the O50s side and looked like an Egyptian Mummy by the end – but played some great hockey. The years were well and truly rolled back – we felt 25 in our heads – if only our bodies would listen. On the last day it was hard to find our own team – Jerseys had been swapped and we were all enjoying drinks and laughs in the beer tent.

The “Après Match” was brilliant too – the Pembroke ladies would particularly like to thank the Irish O45 men for sharing their after dinner cheese and wine and commend them (well one of them!) for their excellent taste. The wine’s on us in the Europeans! We have plenty of stories to tell, but you know what they say: “What goes on tour, stays on tour”. I leave you with some photos – draw your own conclusions!

For a more serious report click here »

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