Jonny Bell has formally retired from his international playing career, after almost 10 years in green and white. With a total of 181 caps and 29 as captain the men’s senior side, he will be sorely missed.
The stalwart defender from Lisnagarvey Hockey Club says it is a natural time to step away after a superb career which included the Olympic Games in 2016.
“I can look back at all the great things we did between 2012 and 2019, it really was a magical era to be part of and I am very lucky my career coincided with that period for Irish men’s hockey,” the 34-year-old Bell said with typical modesty when reflecting on his time in green.
“There have been better players than me down the years who didn’t get that so I am very grateful. For me, it is the friendships I have taken away, getting to play with so many guys who are lifelong friends which is something I really cherish.
“There are endless coaches to thank from my early days up to the likes of Craig Fulton to Paul Revington and numerous club coaches but also the support staff – the likes of Lisa Costley, Niamh Maguire who kept my body going so long and the people in the office like Joan Morgan and Adam Grainger who booked flights and got programs organised. They don’t often get a lot of thanks but they really make an impact.
“To my own club mates who have provided that competitive edge at club training to keep me sharp over the years, Erroll Lutton who has been a source of good advice and mentorship. And, of course, to my own family, mum and dad who always helped me maintain a useful sense of perspective, and my girlfriend Ashley – who is now my wife – for her support and encouragement!”
Bell could certainly be described as a late bloomer, only making his debut for the senior team at 24, having never represented the Irish underage squads.
“Growing up, playing for Lisnagarvey was always my priority. Leaving school but staying at home, a large part of it was that. I always looked up to the guys playing for the first eleven and that was my only focus.
“I never really thought too seriously about playing internationally until I got that first call-up from Paul Revington for a training session. The first few trainings were certainly a shock to the system!”
Photo credit: Hockey Ireland
Jonny was always one for hard graft and an exemplar leader. This is highlighted by the fact he regular wore the captain’s armband in the latter half of his career.
“It was about grasping that opportunity, knowing that you had won your preparation, doing everything within your power to do the best you could, and ultimately walking away with no regrets”
“I am very proud of all the achievements we had. Getting to captain the team was an incredible privilege, something I never thought would happen.
While this brings to an end his stellar international career. We are in no doubt Jonny will continue to be a key member at Lisnagarvey and he may well step in to the role of coaching down the line.
“For me it’s time to focus on other things in my life. Work, married life, club hockey and, down the line, I wouldn’t mind getting involved in coaching and giving back to the sport in Ireland because I got an awful lot out of it and feel I can make a contribution which I am keen to do.”