Following the 6 Nations tournament in Eindhoven (HC Oranje-Rood) in July, two Ulster players who featured for the Irish U16 and U18 Girls squads have kindly provided us with a blog on their experience at the tournament in Holland. Sarah Kirgan (Irish U16s) and Niamh McIvor (Irish U18s) faced Holland, Belgium, Spain, Germany and England during the tournament. Both blogs are provided below and thank you to both girls for providing them:
My Irish journey started in October 2018 when I received a trial for Ireland U16’s, 10 months ago! It has been an incredible experience since being successful in phase 1,2,3 and 4 of the selection process. The friends I’ve made throughout my time with the four proud provinces of Ireland and time spent singing in ice baths are definitely ones I’ll have for life. We have laughed, cried and encouraged each other throughout.
My early mornings travelling for training in Dublin have definitely been long forgotten now that we are home, getting a rest and the opportunity to catch up with friends and family to do ‘normal’ things. I travelled to Lilleshall in February, Germany in May, Scotland in July where we stayed in Hogwarts!! and most recently the Volvo 6 Nations Tournament in Eindhoven, an experience which I will never forget! Our manager Freda’s selfie taking and endless supplies of snacks was undoubtedly the funny part of our trips, not forgetting all our endless chats with our physio Karen, about everything and anything. The scores of some of the games may not have reflected the skill, passion, pride and determination we displayed in each match, it was a great honour to wear the green and white colours and represent Ireland at this age group.
My highlight of the tournament was being 1-0 ahead against Holland until the final 10 minutes, unfortunately getting beat 4-1 also almost getting a draw against the Belgians! On the 3rd day we played Germany and were on the wrong end of a heavy defeat however this was a major learning experience for all of us all moving forward in terms of the fitness, consistency and concentration required to play at the highest tournament level. Sarah, Joel, Noelle and Adam were a brilliant coaching team who supported, guided and helped develop us throughout the journey from Mount Anville in October to Eindhoven in July, I feel I’ve been to every school hockey pitch in Leinster. The JAG Fundraising group have provided unbelievable funding for our journey and our fan base in Eindhoven was amazing deservedly winning the award for ‘Best Fans Ever’.
Ireland U16 Girls
July 2019 saw the culmination of an intensive training programme for the Volvo Six Nations tournament in Eindhoven. 18 excited Irish U18 players and their coaches headed from Dublin early on 12 July to take on our Dutch, German, Spanish, Belgian and English counterparts. I have been lucky to have previously played in the Six Nations tournament on two previous occasions with the U16 Irish squad in Terrassa and Cork but this proved an even greater challenge.
It was both tough but exhilarating to face the best of European hockey’s U18 players and even though the results didn’t go our way we enjoyed some impressive performances. Match 1 was against an English side that we had previously beaten. Unfortunately this time the English came out on top beating us 2-0. Match 2 was against the Dutch who were another level. We held them to 2-0 until the final couple of minutes with a strong performance but the match ended 4-0. Match 3 really saw us up our game and we had our strongest performance against a really competitive German side. We scored first with a sort corner from VC Olivia Mullan and went into half time 1-1 but the German team just edged us out 2-1. This match showed really impressive speed metre readings. On a positive note Laura Noble and I turned the tables later beating two German girls at a fun game after the match. In Match 4 I was awarded a stroke in the first quarter which was confidently converted by Sophia Cole. Unfortunately, the full time score after some poor luck and taking off our keeper was 3-1 to Belgium. Our final match against the Spanish was delayed when the sunshine of the previous few days gave way to a massive storm. We didn’t expect to be huddling in the dugout against the hail! Once again we competed at a high level. We had a goal disallowed and the score remained 0-0 until the final quarter when Spain scored twice in quick succession.
This has been my favourite tournament with Ireland as we knew that we were going out to compete to win and not just play games against the best of Europe. The achievements of the senior Irish women had inspired us to set our goals high and believe in success. This group of girls was special; I have made friends for life that I hope to play with again in the future. We were supported and encouraged by an amazing coaching and management team who have taken U18 Irish hockey to a new level.
I was one of four Ulster players on this team which included our team captain Olivia Berry, vice-captain Olivia Mullan and the tenacious Charlotte Beggs. We hope that we can bring our experiences back to Ulster hockey and inspire the next generation of younger players to believe in their abilities and aim high.
Ireland U18 Girls