Ireland’s 30-year wait for home indoor hockey international comes to an end as Antrim Forum sells out
While Covid-19 has spoiled much of the traditional post-Christmas schedule, Ireland’s first international indoor indoor hockey games in more than 30 years are expected to hit the boards of the Antrim Forum today and Wednesday.
Cotlande are traveling for a total of six games, three men and three women, for an event whose tickets sold out – albeit at reduced capacity – within seven hours of launching two weeks ago.
It shows a strong appetite of players and fans for the shortened format which is experiencing a sort of rejuvenation.
In 2019, Ireland fielded their first international indoor teams since the 1980s, with the women heading to South Africa for a six-game streak before placing second at the EuroHockey Challenge II in January 2020 in Bratislava. The men also made their comeback this month with a third place finish in Santander before the pandemic dampened momentum.
Nonetheless, the Irish Under-21s managed to overcome restrictions to take part in their very first European competition in Portugal, once again expanding the playing experience.
Ollie Kidd of Lisnagarvey was the star of that show, scoring 11 times in five games and, along with Jack Haycock of Cookstown, he was called up by the senior panel.
For the men’s team, seven members of the Euros 2020 panel are back in action. There are a slew of senior outdoor internationals involved including Olympian John Jackson, Neal Glassey, Callum Robson, Jason Lynch and Jeremy Duncan.
Ross Canning was the driving force behind Three Rock Rovers for a decade, with his father Liam providing a connection to the ’80s indoor scene.
Men’s coach Kenny Carroll added, “It’s really important that we bring international indoor hockey back to Ireland.
“It’s a brilliant and awesome show that we have the opportunity to play at the Antrim Forum and it’s especially great that our international male and female teams are able to play back to back in front of the same audience.”
On the women’s side, 16-year-old Mikayla Power is set to become one of Ireland’s youngest senior internationals. The daughter of Olympic referee Carol Metchette, she has had a stellar season with Old Alex, scoring glorious goals on the pitch and her cunning with the ball is well suited to the game.
The reigning Irish champions Railway also provide four players – sisters Patton Orla and Sarah; Lily Lloyd and Captain Orla Fox. Chloe Brown and Amy Benson have a lot of experience with Ards in the European club scene and will be key players alongside Sophie Barnwell who was almost always featured in the 2019/20 series.
Elsewhere, the annual St Stephen’s Day Neville Cup final in Leinster and the Peard Cup final in Munster as well as the Ulster Kirk Cup semi-finals have all been postponed after a number of cases across the various teams in competition made matches unviable.
International Indoor Series (all at Antrim Forum)
Tuesday December 28: Ireland v Scotland, 6.30 p.m.
Wednesday December 29: Ireland v Scotland, 10 a.m. Ireland v Scotland, 2 p.m.
Tuesday December 28: Ireland v Scotland, 8 p.m.
Wednesday December 29: Ireland v Scotland, 11:30 am; Ireland v Scotland, 3:30 p.m.
Irish Men’s Team: John Jackson (Bath Buccaneers), David Howard (Corinthian), Jack Haycock (Cookstown), Mark Crooks (Cookstown), Ross Canning (Three Rock Rovers), Oliver Kidd (Lisnagarvey), Callum Robson (Annadale) , Neal Glassey (Mossley / Crefelder HTC), Jason Lynch (Cork C of I), Stephen O’Keeffe (GK, Railway Union), Richard Couse (Glenanne), Jeremy Duncan (Monkstown), Jakim Bernsden (GK, YMCA), Rory Patterson (Antwerp)
Irish Women’s Team: Emma Buckley (GK, Pembroke), Becky Maye (GK, Cork C of I), Orla Fox (Railway Union), Orla Patton (Railway Union), Sarah Patton (Railway Union), Lily Lloyd (Railway Union) , Sophie Barnwell (Muckross), Amy Benson (Ards), Emilie Ryan Doyle (Old Alex), Chloe Brown (East Grinstead), Sally Campbell (Pembroke), Mikayla Power (Old Alex), Rebecca McMullen (Muckross), Laura Graham ( Limburger HC)