U16 Girls – Emma Uprichard
“Interprovincial Champions 2019”, an unforgettable milestone in the hockey careers of the U16 squad of 2019. Selection for the Talent Development Program was the first step in my Ulster Hockey experience and for it all to have led to an interprovincial title is fantastic.
The squad that travelled to Cork had a few girls from last year but the majority of girls would be experiencing competitive, representative tournament hockey for the first time. We came together as a final group selected for the competition, having earned our places through the U16 development program and tough series against Wales and Scotland; every girl in the whole program pushing for a place and contributing to everybody’s progress. Those who didn’t get selected this time round or missed out through injury will be back next year pushing on through U17 and U18 routes to hopefully more Ulster success.
Our coaching and management team Davy, Christine, Adam, Caroline and Emma, with Shirley’s support did a fantastic job in preparation and bringing us all together. We set off to Cork with great enthusiasm and hopes for the tournament, although the prospect of the long coach journey was pretty daunting.
We started the tournament well with a good win against South East. Getting rid of our early nerves in the first quarter and going on to secure a 2:0 win. Saturday morning came quickly and what we thought would be the crunch match against Leinster lived up to all our expectations. We battled hard to win 1:0. Our mornings efforts had taken their toll and we had to come from behind against an up to then unbeaten Connacht eventually winning 5:2. Sunday morning, we faced hosts Munster who had had a poor tournament so far and were determined to show what they could do, after a draw in normal time we took the bonus point win on run-ins securing the title outright, an Ulster double with the U18 squad winning too!
With immaculate planning from the coaches; including a “Love Island” celebrity check-in at our hotel, everything, except a small incident with players who shall remain nameless stuck in a lift the tournament went perfectly. I have been playing hockey since I was at primary school and my journey has included so much fun, friends and memorable moments. Some of us have been selected for Irish trials and whilst hoping to progress there will never forget the 2019 Interprovincial Champions.
U16 Boys – Charlie Rowe
My Ulster journey started in April when I was selected for the Ulster Training Panel, having progressed through TDS and Ulster trials. Since then I have had many great experiences with Ulster. The excitement of the first trip to Scotland was building and all the early morning training sessions had been forgotten. We were finally getting a chance to put it into practise.
Although we did not manage a win, we definitely gave them a great weekend of competitive games before their series against Ireland U16s. The results were 2-4, 2-3, 3-4, however we felt we could have achieved more in these games but they definitely gave us something to work on. 2 weeks later we went to Wales to play their U16 side. The Scotland series had set us up well for Wales and with more confidence and unity as a team of players, we came home with two wins (3-2, 4-2) and a draw (2-2). This meant a series win overall.
Building up towards Interpros we would train three times a week sometimes incorporating a match on a Saturday. This enabled a thorough preparation and I felt I improved individually during this intense period. The commitment of the coaches to get down to most, if not all the sessions, gave everyone a chance to work on what they needed to improve on. Scott, Robin, Jordan and Gareth showed their commitment and this encouraged us all to give them our best in training. I can’t forget Hannah for organising everything behind the scenes, from kits to food, it really couldn’t have happened without her.
Now onto Interpros, what an experience. It really couldn’t have gone any better. Friday the 13th of September saw us beat Munster 8-1 in Game 1. Game 2 came shortly afterwards and required a lot of concentration especially toward the end of the match when the team was both physically and emotionally tired but we held our nerve with a 2-1 win over Leinster. Saturday saw us defeat Munster 7-0 with another top performance. This meant we were on track for the Under 16 Interpros title. One last game on Sunday saw us face a fiery Leinster side who needed nothing but a win to stay in the contest. We started strong scoring many great goals and finishing the Interpros in style with a 6-0 win against the defending champions. 23 goals in 4 matches while only conceding 2 saw us cruise to the Under 16 interprovincial title with 4 wins from 4 and a perfect 12 points. I can’t explain how happy and proud I am to say I captained this side to a Title. My team mates were a pleasure to play with and the management staff of Scott, Robin, Jordan and Hannah made the whole Interpro 2019 experience a memorable one.
U18 Girls – Zoe Kilpatrick
My 2019 Interprovincial journey started on Thursday 19th September as the U16 and U18 teams excitingly packed our bags on the bus before a long 6 hour journey to Cork. The time passed with songs, chats and complete buzz around the bus as everyone was so eager to finally play in the long awaited tournament that we have been training months for. Friday was the start of our hockey campaign with Katie Stewart leading our anxious but excited team out to play South East. We took a lead but this was soon equalised by the opposition. Everyone was on the edge of their seats till the very end as we fortunately won a short corner in the last 30 seconds. We showed our determination and grit as Hannah Buchanan scored this to secure the win and most importantly to ease our anxious supporters and coaches nerves.
On Saturday our first game was against a strong Leinster side and Charlotte Beggs led out the team. With a goal in the first half we held onto our lead and really showed character throughout the game to come away with 3 points. The celebrations were immense but all of our focus went to the game ahead, Connaught. Although soaked right through from the rain that did not stop us from playing some wonderful hockey as Jenna McCarlie led the team to a 5-0 victory.
That fantastic day called for celebrations, and manager Shirelle Wilson knew how to get our determination and competitiveness from the hockey pitch to the hotel. She split us up for some head to head games of red handed, with even Shirelle and Joel getting in on the fun. On Sunday morning the focus was on the game against home province Munster, in which we knew a draw or win would secure the tournament. Niamh McIvor led the eager team on the final day in front of a big crowd.
Fortunately, we played with great intent and an early goal kick started our campaign that day as we went on to score 4 more goals, with the final result being 5-1. As both the U16 and U18 team performed outstandingly, remaining unbeaten and securing the double the long bus journey home was incredible as the excitement filled the bus, as well as our constant signing and ‘raves’. The Interprovincials are always a great honour to play in and there are many different things that I have learnt and I hope to bring back to my school and club hockey. The scores of the games reflected the skill, passion and pride we displayed in each match.
A big thank you to our coaches Joel Cathcart (head), Alex Spears (assistant), Carolyn Burns (assistant), Zoe Jackson (goalie) and Shirelle Wilson (manager) who gave up so much time to make our dream of winning a reality. Of course a special mention to Shirley McCay for her support and experienced coaching for all Ulster teams. The friends I’ve made throughout my time with Ulster are definitely ones I’ll have for life and cherish forever!