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News for 14 February 2020

All the news for Friday 14 February 2020

2019 FIH Men's Player of the Year: Manpreet makes history

India’s Manpreet Singh is the first member of the India national team to win the Best Player award since the awards were instigated in 1999. The midfielder won the accolade ahead of Belgium’s Arthur van Doren and Lucas Vila of Argentina, who finished second and third respectively.

Manpreet has enjoyed a long career in the national squad since he made his debut in 2011. Now, with more than 260 appearances under his belt, Manpreet is leading his team in a new adventure as India competes in the FIH Hockey Pro League.

In 2019, as captain, Manpreet Singh led his team to victory in the FIH Olympic Qualifiers, thus securing a spot at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020. Manpreet represented India at London 2012 and Rio 2016.

Talking about the 2019 season, Manpreet says: “If you look at our year, we did well in every tournament we participated in. Be it the FIH Series Finals in June or the test series in Belgium where we played the hosts as well as Spain and beat them.

“Our biggest goal in 2019 was to book our berth at the Olympics.” The team achieved that goal in style, beating Russia in the Olympic Qualifiers over two legs – 4-2 and 7-2.

While Manpreet is a great midfielder in his own right, it is his skills as a captain that make him such a vital asset to the India team. His attitude towards new young players epitomises this: “We have plenty of youngsters in the side who will be flying as part of the team for the Olympics and it is important they are ready for it.”

Referring to all of the 2019 Hockey Stars Awards announcements made this week, FIH Chief Executive Officer Thierry Weil said: “On behalf of FIH, I would like to extend heartfelt congratulations from the whole hockey community to all winners of the 2019 FIH Stars Awards and also to all nominees. Thanks to their skills and performances, as well as their teammates, they invite fans all over the world to experience great emotions. We are very grateful to them. Athletes, as well as coaches, are the best ambassadors of our sport. I wish all of them every success, in particular those who are involved in the FIH Hockey Pro League and/or the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020.”

Vote results:

1st place: Manpreet Singh (IND)

    53% of all National Association votes
    19.5% of all Media votes
    15.1% of all Fans / Players votes
    35.2% of all combined votes

2nd place: Arthur van Doren (BEL)

    19.7% of all National Association votes
    22.1% of all Media votes
    17.4% of all Fans / Players votes
    19.7% of all combined votes

3rd place: Lucas Vila (ARG)

    10.6% of all National Association votes
    2.6% of all Media votes
    42.1% of all Fans / Players votes
    16.5% of all combined votes

How did Manpreet learn that he had won the award? Watch the video here!

And: here is a video interview of Manpreet after receiving the award.


FIH site

2019 FIH Women's Player of the Year: Eva de Goede - Making experience count

Netherlands women’s captain Eva de Goede has been named as the 2019 FIH Women’s Player of the Year, the International Hockey Federation (FIH) can reveal. The midfielder took the prize ahead of Argentina’s Carla Rebecchi and Janne Müller-Wieland of Germany, who finished second and third respectively.

Eva de Goede has been a fixture of the Netherlands’ national women’s team since her debut in 2006. And with each year that passes, the creative midfielder seems to just get better and better. In 2018, de Goede was part of the team that won the Vitality Hockey Women’s World Cup and just a few months later she was voted Player of the Tournament at the last Hockey Champions Trophy in China.

2019 saw de Goede continuing her great form, only now with the added pressure of wearing the captain’s armband. She led her team to victory in the inaugural FIH Hockey Pro League – where the team lost only one game – and then gold at the EuroHockey Championships in Antwerp, where they beat Germany in the final. Talking about the 2019 season, de Goede says her favourite moment was the FIH Hockey Pro League Grand Final in Amsterdam: “It was a beautiful crowd, it was beautiful weather and we won the gold, which was special. I just love to play those games.”

Over a career spanning 14 years, 30-year-old de Goede has played more than 230 matches for the Netherlands and has two Olympic gold medals (Beijing 2008 and London 2012), two World Cup gold medals and three Champions Trophy gold medals to her name.

This is the second consecutive year that de Goede has won the FIH Player of the Year award.

Vote results:

1st place: Eva de Goede (NED)

    46.9% of the National Associations votes
    21.3% of the Media votes
    19.1% of the Fans / Players votes
    33.5% of all combined votes

2nd place: Carla Rebecchi (ARG)

    20.3% of the National Associations votes
    24% of the Media votes
    50.7% of the Fans / Players votes
    28.8% of all combined votes

3rd place: Janne Müller-Wieland (GER)

    14.1% of the National Associations votes
    9.3% of the Media votes
    9.4% of the Fans / Players votes
    11.7% of all combined votes

How did Eva de Goede learn that she had won the award? Watch the video here!

And: here's a video interview of Eva de Goede after receiving the award.


FIH site

Hatrick for India after Manpreeet gets FIH Award

s2h team

Manpreet Singh won the 2019 FIH Player of the Year award, becoming the first ever from India to bag the honour ever since the inception of the awards in 1999. Its a hat-trick for India after Lalremsiami and Vivek Sagar Prasad too got the Rising Stars tags a day earlier.

The India captain and midfielder finished ahead of Belgium’s Arthur van Doren and Argentina’s Lucas Vila, the FIH posted on its website on Thursday.

He collected 35.2 percent of the votes which involved national associations, players, fans and the media. Van Doren garnered 19.7 percent while Vila finished with 16.5 percent.

Manpreet debuted for his country in 2011 and has collected 260 caps as he leads India’s challenge in the FIH Pro League.

In 2019, Manpreet led India to victory in the FIH Olympic qualifiers against Russia. India won 4-2, 7-1 in th double-leg qualifier in Bhubaneswar to book a spot in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. A fluent triumph, culminating in a 5-1 win over South Africa in the final of the FIH Series Finals, also in Bhubaneswar, enabled India make the qualifiers.

Manpreet donned India colours at the 2012 London and 2016 Rio Olympics and reflected on the year gone by. “Last year, we did well in every tournament we participated in. Be it the FIH Series Finals in June or the test series in Belgium where we played the hosts as well as Spain and beat them,” Manpreet was quoted as saying.

“Our biggest goal in 2019 was to book our berth at the Olympics,” he added.

A hardworking yet effervescent midfielder, Manpreet’s leadership skills have also done much to help India make the higher echelons of world hockey where the team currently occupy fifth place in the FIH Rankings.

He is caring and appreciative of young players in the team and has this to say: “We have plenty of youngsters in the side who will be flying as part of the team for the Olympics and it is important they are ready for it.”

Eva takes womens’ top honour

Netherlands captain Eva de Goede was voted 2019 FIH Player of the Year twice in a row. The midfielder took the prize ahead of Argentina’s Carla Rebecchi and Janne Müller-Wieland of Germany, who finished second and third respectively.

De Goede collected 33.5 percent of votes, Rbecchi 28.8 percent and Muller-Wieland 11.7 percent.

In a career over 14 years, the 30-year-old de Goede has played over 230 matches for the Netherlands and has won two Olympic gold medals (Beijing 2008 and London 2012), two World Cup gold medals and three Champions Trophy gold medals.


Manpreet Singh becomes first Indian to win FIH Player of the Year award

Indian men's hockey team captain Manpreet Singh becomes the first Indian to win the #FIH Best Player of the Year award.

Manpreet Singh made his senior-team debut in 2011 and has won 263 international caps.   -  Getty Images

Men's hockey team captain Manpreet Singh on Thursday became the first Indian to win the FIH Player of the Year award as he beat Belgium’s Arthur van Doren and Lucas Vila of Argentina to the accolade for the year 2019.

Manpreet won a total of 35.2 per cent of combined votes, which includes National Associations, media, fans and players. Van Doren, the winner of the award in 2017 and 2018, received 19.7 per cent of the votes while Villa polled 16.5 per cent in his favour.

Belgian midfielder Victor Wegnez and Australia's experienced duo Aran Zalewski and Eddie Ockenden were the others nominated for the award.

“I am truly honoured to win this award and I would like to dedicate this to my team. I also thank my well wishers and hockey fans from around the world for voting in my favour. It is truly humbling to see so much support for Indian hockey,” Manpreet said.

Manpreet, who made his international debut in 2011, has won 263 caps for the national team and has played two Olympics - London 2012 and Rio 2016. He was made the captain of the side in 2017 as India finished fifth at the 2018 Men's World Cup in Bhubaneswar, his first big assignment as captain.

In 2019, Manpreet Singh led the team to victory in the FIH Series Finals and the Olympic Qualifiers, as India secured a spot at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. During this year, India also reached the finals of the 2019 Sultan Azlan Shah Cup and won the Olympic Test Event in Tokyo while also winning five matches on the trot in Antwerp, Belgium where it played three matches against the host and two matches against Spain.

“If you look at our year, we did well in every tournament we participated in. Be it the FIH Series Finals in June or the test series in Belgium where we played the hosts as well as Spain and beat them," he said

“Our biggest goal in 2019 was to book our berth at the Olympics.” The team achieved that goal in style, beating Russia in the Olympic Qualifiers over two legs – 4-2 and 7-2.

Referring to all of the 2019 Hockey Stars Awards announcements made this week, FIH Chief Executive Officer Thierry Weil said: “On behalf of FIH, I would like to extend heartfelt congratulations from the whole hockey community to all winners of the 2019 FIH Stars Awards and also to all nominees. Thanks to their skills and performances, as well as their teammates, they invite fans all over the world to experience great emotions. We are very grateful to them. Athletes, as well as coaches, are the best ambassadors of our sport. I wish all of them every success, in particular those who are involved in the FIH Hockey Pro League and/or the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020.”

This is India's third FIH Hockey Star award after men's team midfielder Vivek Sagar Prasad and women's team striker Lalremsiami won the Rising Star of the Year awards on Monday.


Amsterdam superstar Eva de Goede the world’s best player once again.

AH&BC Amsterdam superstar Eva de Goede has been named as the 2019 FIH Women’s Player of the Year, winning the vote with Argentina’s Carla Rebecchi and Germany and UHC Hamburg’s Janne Müller-Wieland in second and third respectively.

De Goede won the title in 2018 when she was part of the team that won the Vitality Hockey Women’s World Cup and just a few months later she was voted Player of the Tournament at the last Hockey Champions Trophy in China.

She followed that up in 2019 when she led her team to victory in the inaugural FIH Hockey Pro League – where the team lost only one game – and then gold at the EuroHockey Championships in Antwerp, where they beat Germany in the final.

De Goede also captained Amsterdam to the EuroHockey Club Cup in front of her home fans at the Wagener Stadium last Easter.

Over a career spanning 14 years, 30-year-old de Goede has played more than 230 matches for the Netherlands and has two Olympic gold medals (Beijing 2008 and London 2012), two World Cup gold medals and three Champions Trophy gold medals to her name.

Euro Hockey League media release

FIH Hockey Pro League Scouting Report: USWNT vs. New Zealand

In anticipation of the U.S. Women's National Team's upcoming FIH Hockey Pro League matches, here is a scouting report you’ll want to review before the starting whistle.

Game Day: Friday, February 14 at 11:00 p.m. ET & Saturday, February 15 at 9:00 p.m. ET

Location: Nga Puna Wai Hockey Stadium, Christchurch, New Zealand

Live Stream: Don't miss a second of the FIH Hockey Pro League action and watch the USWNT take on No. 7 New Zealand this Friday. One year ago, the International Hockey Federation (FIH) signed a four-year media rights agreement with B/R Live for the territories of Canada and the United States.

FIH Hockey Pro League single games are available paid per view for $2.99 per matchor fans can purchase a Monthly Pass for $9.99 per month or Annual Pass for $79.99 per year. Click here to purchase.

B/R Live is offering two exclusive discount options to USA Field Hockey fans from now until Saturday, February 15, 2020.

    Offer 1: Get 80% off the first month of the B/R Live Monthly Pass with code FIH80
    Offer 2: Get 50% off the B/R Live Annual Pass with the code FIH50

Offer valid through Saturday, February 15, 2020. Cannot be used for any subscription renewal or combined with any other offer. Available to customers located in the United States only. For full B/R Live terms and conditions, go here.

Opponent: New Zealand

FIH World Ranking: 7

Head to Head: The last time that No. 14 USA and No. 7 New Zealand met was in the 2019 FIH Hockey Pro League. Both meetings of the inaugural season went in favor of the Black Sticks, 3-1 and 3-0, respectively. The last time USA beat New Zealand was in 2017 in pool play at the Sentinel Homes Hockey World League Final by a score of 3-1.

Last weekend, USA suffered two defeats at the hands of No. 3 Argentina and are yet to accumulate any points in the FIH Hockey Pro League. New Zealand also lost twice to No. 5 Great Britain, falling in a shootout in one of those contests, but currently sit in sixth in the League with four points.

Head to Head
(since 2013)

19 Previous Matches
4 Draws





Total Goals


What You Need to Know: The Black Sticks have been outstanding performers over the last decade, regularly getting themselves in contention for podium finishes. Fourth place finishes at the London 2012 and Rio 2016 Olympic Games split by a fifth-place finish at the 2014 Hockey World Cup has proven something of a frustration, but their gold medal success at the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games showed that they are more than capable of winning titles. The team once again found themselves sitting top of the podium in 2019, defeating host nation Australia at the Oceania Cup to guarantee their participation in the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.

Brilliant attacking midfielder and team captain Stacey Michelsen is widely regarded as the superstar of the Black Sticks squad that is blessed with seven players who have represented their country over 200 times. One of those players is Olivia Merry, who was the top scorer in the inaugural FIH Hockey Pro League with 15 goals to enhance her reputation as one of the most ruthless finishers in world hockey. The team is coached by former Ireland international Graham Shaw, the man who guided Ireland to a remarkable silver medal at the 2018 Vitality Hockey Women’s World Cup, defying all expectations with a team came into the event ranked 16th in the world. Shaw has been boosted by the return of several highly experienced former players, the most notable being four-time Olympian Kayla Whitelock (née Sharland) and three-time Olympian Gemma McCaw (née Flynn), adding even more talent and know-how to the group. It will be fascinating to see how they perform in 2020.

New Zealand's Roster: Click Here

USFHA media release

Mixed results for GB but a captain’s performance from Dixon

Great Britain men have had mixed results in their first two weekends of FIH Hockey Pro League action. A  4-4 draw with Australia [Great Britain lost the subsequent shoot-out), was followed by a 5-1 drubbing at the hands of the FIH World Number One side. A short trip across the Tasmanian Sea saw the GB team draw the first match with New Zealand [Great Britain lost the shoot-out] and then put in a sparkling performance to win 3-0.

Adam Dixon was the Player of the Match in Auckland for Great Britain’s second game. The Great Britain captain scored two goals and inspired a top class performance from his side - leaving them in sixth place in the league table and with a long break from the FIH Hockey Pro League until they face the Netherlands on 28 April.

What is the team hoping to achieve in the FIH Hockey Pro League this season?
Adam Dixon: “Obviously we want to go out and win the competition. Last year we did well to get to the Grand Finals but ultimately [this season] it is about preparing as well for the Olympic Games. So we have to make sure we are building momentum, getting some results and building good positivity around the team. 

How have your preparations for the competition gone so far?
Adam Dixon: “Yes, good. We had a nice break over Christmas but before that we had a good block of physical [training] and looking at some technical and tactical stuff. It’s been nice to come back over the past few weeks and hit the ground running off the back of the Christmas period.”

What do you need to do as a team to achieve your target for the season?
Adam Dixon: “We need to do better than we did last year. That means beating that fourth place finish and finish as high as we can up the Pro League ladder. We know with the games this year, there are a lot more ranking points available for each game so we need to have the mentality to go out and win each game, so it is quite exciting.”

What do you feel you learnt from the first season that you will take into this season?
Adam Dixon: “The benefit of the Pro League is that you have amazing competition without any breaks. There is no weak team in there so you have to bring your game when it matters, week after week. And with the added pressure now of playing back to back games there is that tournament dynamic, which is good prep for the Olympics. We just want to go out there and better ourselves from last season.”

What do you expect from your opponents and how will you mitigate the challenges they pose?
Adam Dixon: “We expect lots [of challenges]. There is so much variation, with different playing styles. It will be interesting with the inclusion of India back in the mix and what they can bring to things. Ultimately we have to keep focussed on us and make sure we are progressing in the right way. All we can do is bring our best to each game.”

What is your message to the fans?
Adam Dixon: “Get behind Great Britain, we appreciate all the support you have given us over the years but this is a big year, so come out in your droves to support us.”


Official FIH Pro League Site

Is Indian hockey on the up?

By Avtar S Bhurji

This question I am very often asked by most of the non-Asian journalists or hockey fans I meet at international hockey tournaments.

Asian hockey suffered a lot after the introduction of AstroTurf pitches at the Montreal Olympics 1976. Asians teams were not ready for this kind of surface and their style did not suit this surface.

There were no Astros Turf pitches in Pakistan or India and they were expensive to install.

Europeans, New Zealand and Australia had the resources. They quickly moved forward with artificial grass pitches and developed a new style of hockey to suit them according to the surface.

Indian Hockey declined after winning the 1980 Moscow Olympics gold medal. It was embarrassing to witness Pakistan v India playing for 11th and 12th positions

Indian Hockey started getting better when the Indian Hockey League was started under the leadership of Dr. Narinder Batra in 2013. Players from all over the world were invited to play with Indian players. The players were paid well for the six weeks-long league. The Indian players got better playing with the overseas players and adopted their style of play.

I met Dr Batra, head of Indian Hockey, some years back in London when I asked him about his vision for the future of hockey in India. He told me he is planning to take hockey to every corner of India, not only to popular states. True to his word he has reinvented hockey in India.

For the first time in India the government of Odisha is supporting the men’s and women’s hockey teams and they have signed to support the teams for the next five years.

Previously Indian hockey teams were not progressing as expected. New coaches came and went and progress was too slow. After the 2018 World Cup the then coach Harinder Singh was sacked and a few months earlier Altman was sacked. For a number of years Hockey India played musical chairs with coaches.

The present coach Graham Reid has been coaching the team since 2018. It looks like India Hockey has at last found a coach who suits the team and the management. I have seen big changes under Graham Reid`s leadership.

Physically they can compete with any team in the world. Before they used to get bullied when challenging for the ball.  Field hockey used to be considered as a non-contact sport. Rules were changed and it took Indians a long time to adjust to a new style of play.

There is now a massive improvement in coping with the Europeans leaning on the players to win the ball. Now they don’t retaliate if they are pushed or fouled, like before.

The biggest change I notice is mental toughness. In the past Indian teams used to crack in the last ten minutes and could not hold on to the lead. They lost out on many tournaments due to mental strength.

Indians are now much better in controlling the game with fewer turnovers, but they need to improve this part of their play.

Indians have maintained their style of skilful, entertaining, yet competitive hockey. They are much better at using their skills in the right areas and much sharper in the D.

They are much better than before with set plays and working their way out of tight corners.

Indians always lacked world class goal keepers but now they have two world class goal keepers. This gives confidence to the defence and the team.

The question is: is Indian Hockey on the up?

For sure, Indian hockey is on the up. Can they win a major tournament? Yes they can. How well will they do in the Olympics? They are capable of winning a medal; which colour? Not too sure.

The bottom line is: Indian hockey is on the up. This is good for the hockey world. FIH needs Indian hockey on the big stage and India needs to be there to pull in the big crowds to keep hockey alive.


East Grinstead prepare for EuroHockey indoor action

Both East Grinstead’s men and women will be on their travels this weekend as they participate in the EuroHockey Club Indoor Championships against some of Europe’s best.

Having lifted the Jaffa Super 6s trophy in both the men’s and women’s competition in 2019, East Grinstead have full representation from England in the competition.

The women’s team will be taking part in the competition’s top tier at The Hague in the Netherlands after Bowdon Hightown secured promotion from the second tier with a second-place finish in 2019.

They’ll come up against Club Campo de Madrid (Spain), MSC Sumchanka (Ukraine) and HDM (Netherlands) in Pool A, targeting a top two finish to make it to the semi-final stage.

With Club Campo de Madrid and MSC Sumchanka finishing fourth and fifth respectively in 2019’s competition, EG’s women will be coming against some seriously strong teams.

East Grinstead’s men will be taking part in the second tier of the competition in Alanya, Turkey, after finishing fourth in the 2019 event.

Facing Hockey Klub Zelina (Croatia), SCHC (Netherlands) and Three Rock Rovers (Ireland) in Pool A, the team will need to achieve a top two group stage finish and then advance through the semi-finals in order to secure promotion.

Buckingham will be competing in next year’s women’s competition whilst Surbiton’s men will also be representing England in 2021 with both teams coming out as victors in the Jaffa Super 6s.

Women’s Pool A match times:
Feb 14: Vs Club Campo de Madrid - 11:00
Feb 14: Vs MSC Sumchanka – 16:00
Feb 15: Vs HDM – 11:45

Men’s Pool A match times:
Feb 14: Vs Three Rock Rovers - 06:30
Feb 14: Vs SCHC – 13:15
Feb 15: Vs Hockey Klub Zelina – 07:15

The matches can be streamed by clicking HERE, alternatively you can view the tables and keep up with the scores for the women’s matches (HERE)  or the men’s matches (HERE).

England Hockey Board Media release

Rovers indoor side no longer “a bobsleigh team” as they take on second Euro tier for first time

Three Rock Rovers after the Leinster indoor final

In the early hours of Friday morning, Three Rock Rovers will become the first side since 1996 to contest the second tier of the men’s EuroHockey Indoor Club Championships in Alanya, Turkey.

They face English champions East Grinstead with a 6.30am start (Irish time) before going on to face Croatia’s HK Zelina later in the day (12pm).

Their group stages end on Saturday morning (6am) against Dutch side SCHC, a club Rovers were previously twinned with, before the eight-team tournament splits into promotion and relegation groups. Waiting on the other side of the draw are French, Swiss, Portuguese and Turkish opponents.

For Liam Canning’s side, it is a whole new realm following back-to-back promotions, winning the D division in Georgia in 2018 before a last-minute goal earned them second place in the C tier in 2019 in Oslo.

In that context, it makes staying up very much the target, a big ask for the lowest ranked side on paper.

“It’s obviously been many years work to actually get to this level of indoor and we are really looking forward and relishing the challenge ahead of us,” coach Liam Canning said of the weekend ahead.

“The first European side I took away was to Cambrai [in 2009] and it was a bit of a Three Rock bobsleigh team but we managed to stay up from our first experience. We have built a couple of teams since and this one has been promoted two times in a row. They’ve had a spell of unprecedented success up until last week.

“There’s a good bit of experience now in the squad and then some lads who have only played a year and a half of indoor so it’s testament to them that they are playing at this level.”

It will be the Rathfarnham club’s second Euro campaign in Turkey, the last an infamous affair back in 2012 close to the Syrian border at a snow-bound Malatya.

Rovers’ kit was initially misplaced by local baggage handlers, leaving Rovers to borrow kit from their rival sides. It left their 12-player panel with only six full length sticks and one child size one for their opening game while goalkeeper Stephen West wore a Finnish helmet along with Bulgarian kickers and leg-guards held together by reams of gaffer tape.

The first game was lost to Norway’s Sagene but, once their kit landed, Rovers swept to victory despite a hostile reception – complete with indoor fireworks – from hosts Anadolu Atesi.

Bath-based West earned goalkeeper of the tournament then and is back in the fold for this tournament along with Jody Hosking and Ross Canning from that vintage.

All their kit has arrived in tact this weekend and the setting is very different – despite driving rain – with the players enjoying a swim in the Mediterranean sea and staying on the main tourist strip.

“The hall is quick, much quicker than anything we are used to but that’s good and we like that. We had a good training session and the setup is good; it is very different from Malatya but I am sure if we arrive in the hall and are playing the hosts, the atmosphere will be as volatile.”

As for the opposition, the coach adds: “East Grinstead are the standardbearers in England, a tried and tested side who have won their national title so many times. We know we are really up against it but we know how they play and testing ourselves.

“No matter what the result, we will raise our standards for how we play and think about the game – everything will be positive.

“Against SCHC, they are a very different opposition and will play a high pressing game I think. Being a Dutch team, they play for entertainment and fun. We can only hope to learn from them and try and match them in as many areas as possible. You never know in these tournaments and there are always surprises.

Jody Hosking and Stephen West with their player and goalkeeper of the tournaments from their last trip to Turkey in 2012.

“The Croatians in our final game are an unmeasured quantity. They will probably be more structured and play more patterns. We are more reflexive and a pattern game doesn’t quite suit our Celtic passion and our want to play the game at a high pace.

“We are there to enjoy the game and maybe we aren’t always as patient as we could and should be. The vital thing is whether we go into promotion or relegation groups, we go into the next phase with a win.

“Especially if we go into the relegation group as we do intend on staying up and keeping Irish hockey at this standard, the highest it has been at for a long time, and giving Railway the chance to have a stab at it next year. We do aim to be back in future!”

** All games will be streamed live on www.eurohockeytv.org

TRR squad: Stephen West, Ross Canning, Eckart Geyer, Jack McAllister, Jody Hosking, Harry Morris, David Kane, Ali Haughton, James Walker, Dylan Shirley, Ben Walker, James Kyriakides

Coach: Ross Canning

Assistant coach: Scott Crombie

Manager: Fraser Morris

Men’s EuroHockey Indoor Club Trophy (all in Alanya, Turkey – all times Irish)

Friday: Three Rock Rovers v East Grinstead (ENG), 6.30am; Three Rock Rovers v HK Zelina (CRO), 12pm

Saturday: Three Rock Rovers v SCHC (NED), 6am; afternoon classification matches

Sunday: classification matches

The Hook

Western Wildcats play indoor in Europe while Grange and Hillhead catch-up on outdoor

Western Wildcats celebrate winning the Scottish Indoor League

This weekend sees a combination of Scottish indoor and outdoor hockey, Western Wildcats are in Varna (Bulgaria) for the indoor European Club Challenge 1 while Grange kick-start the outdoor Premiership with a catch-up game against Hillhead at Fettes.

Western Wildcats` first indoor venture into Europe indoors takes them to Varna for the Challenge 1 competition. On Friday the Auchenhowie side take on Soroksari (Hungary) and Slagelse (Denmark), then Cardiff Met (Wales) on Saturday morning, in the initial pool competition.

A top two finish would propel the Wildcats into a promotion group, otherwise they will contest a relegation dogfight.

The domestic season has been a challenge for Wildcats`coach Vishal Marwaha, the euphoria of winning the division 1 championship last season for the first time was not repeated this year. Marwaha`s charges missed out on a semi-final slot and eventually finished in fifth place.

Marwaha remarked:  “Not what we hoped for domestically. Last season we won games by the odd goal and this season we lost by the odd goal. It shows the small margins between winning and losing. The team had a bit of a reset at the Mason’s Cup in the New Year and are in a better place going into this tournament.”

On the Varna event itself, the Wildcats` coach was optimistic.

“We obviously have a young squad and all but one have never been to a European club tournament before.

“The tournament is going to be tough and there is not much between the teams. If the boys can play to their potential, I believe they have the talent to get a positive outcome in the tournament.”

However, Western Wildcats will be a couple of key players short, Andrew McConnell has had to withdraw because of injury while penalty corner expert Adam Mackenzie is unavailable due to work commitments.

Champions Grange make an early start to the second half of the Premiership campaign with a second attempt to play their Hillhead fixture, the original attempt fell foul of a frozen pitch in November.

Grange hold a two point lead over nearest rivals Western Wildcats, three points on Saturday would open up a five point cushion with the same amount of games played.

The Edinburgh side have only dropped two points this season so far – a 2-2 draw with Western Wildcats – while Hillhead are in second bottom spot with only a single victory.

In addition, manager Martin Shepherdson has confirmed that Grange will have a full squad available with only some minor injury worries.

Shepherdson said:  “We suspect it will be a tough game, as effectively it is the first game of a new season, and we have not any chance of warm-up games, so will be a bit rusty going into the game.

“We know Hillhead are a capable side and will make it difficult for us.”

But Shepherdson sees the importance of that five point gap going into the second half of the championship season.

“If we win we go five points clear, but know that we have to go away to both our main rivals later in the season, so can`t take anything for granted.”

For Hillhead a win at Fettes on Saturday would lift them above Watsonians and Kelburne to seventh in the table, and they still have another game in hand against Edinburgh University.

Scottish Hockey Union media release

PREVIEWS: Men's Hockey League

After securing an emphatic victory in the Jaffa Super 6s Indoor Championship, Surbiton return to outdoor action in the Men’s Hockey League Premier Division with a trip to Hampstead & Westminster on Sunday.

Sitting pretty at the top of the table with 12 wins from their 12 matches so far, Surbiton have already qualified for the play-offs and are looking to keep their form going for the remainder of the season.

“The Jaffa Super 6s are the only relevant way of maintaining a suitable level of fitness and sharpness during the winter break,” said Matt Jones, Surbiton’s team manager.

“It is without doubt a fundamental building block for some essential core skills that directly translate onto the outdoor pitch. It goes as no surprise that the leading European nations take their indoor hockey very seriously and it has demonstrative benefits.”

Surbiton will be without six GB internationals who have recently returned from Australia and New Zealand, and Jones added: “Clearly that will affect us and it’s a great shame, this being one of the big match ups of the regular season. But at the Jaffa Super 6s finals we competed without any of our internationals.”

Currently occupying the fourth and final play-off spot, Old Georgians play host to Beeston who are ten points behind them in fifth and will be aiming to close the ten-point gap between the two sides.

Elsewhere, the bottom two sides take each other on with the University of Exeter at home against Reading.

Just above them, Brooklands MU go to Holcombe who are four points above them in the table.

East Grinstead are taking part in the European Indoor Club Trophy in Turkey this weekend.

The top two teams in Division One North Durham University and Cardiff & Met played their match earlier in the season as Cardiff are in the European Indoor Club Challenge in Bulgaria this weekend. This leaves the door open for third-placed Bowdon to close the gap if they can win at City of Peterborough on Sunday.

Oxted play host to Brighton & Hove in Division One South as they bid to extend their lead, while second-placed Havant also have a home game with Oxford Hawks providing the opposition.

Saturday afternoon sees Chichester travel to Spencer in the Conference East with both sides wanting to potentially move up to second, while current leaders Wapping go to St Albans and second-placed Cambridge City head to bottom of the table Bromley & Beckenham.

Richmond are targeting the lead in the Conference West with a match at the University of Bristol on Sunday. Meanwhile, current leaders Old Cranleighans are two points ahead and entertain Cardiff University.

Currently third and fourth in the Conference North table, Timperley head to Lichfield on Sunday, while second-placed Belper are at home against Didsbury Northern. Leaders Deeside Ramblers will want to continue their good form with a home game against Alderley Edge.


Men’s Hockey League (Sat, 15 February 2020):

Division One North
Sheffield Hallam v Loughborough Students 18:30

Conference East
Spencer v Chichester 13:30
Old Loughtonians v London Edwardians 14:30

Conference West
Harborne v Khalsa Leamington 16:30

Men’s Hockey League (Sun, 16 February 2020):

Premier Division
Hampstead & Westminster v Surbiton 13:30
Holcombe v Brooklands MU 14:00
Old Georgians v Beeston 14:00
Univ of Exeter v Reading 14:00

Division One North
Univ of Nottingham v Olton & West Warwicks 13:00
City of Peterborough v Bowdon 14:00
Leeds v Univ of Birmingham 14:30

Division One South
Fareham v Southgate 13:30
Teddington v Canterbury 13:30
Havant v Oxford Hawks 14:00
Oxted v Brighton & Hove 14:00
Sevenoaks v Team Bath Buccaneers 14:00

Conference East
Bromley & Beckenham v Cambridge City 14:00
Harleston Magpies v Bedford 14:00
St Albans v Wapping 14:00

Conference West
Isca v Univ of Exeter 2XI 12:00
Cheltenham v Ashmoor 13:00
Univ of Bristol v Richmond 14:00
Old Cranleighans v Cardiff University 14:30

Conference North
Deeside Ramblers v Alderley Edge 13:30
Lichfield v Timperley 13:30
Belper v Didsbury Northern 14:00
Preston v Barford Tigers 14:00
Wakefield v Doncaster 14:15

England Hockey Board Media release

PREVIEWS: Investec Women's Hockey League

Buckingham’s play-off hopes face a big challenge on Saturday, as the Jaffa Super 6s indoor champions try to carry their great form into the Investec Women’s Hockey League Premier Division.

Currently fourth, Buckingham could drop out of the play-off spots if they don’t win, but face Hampstead & Westminster who are second and have won nine of their first 12 games.

“Obviously the confidence gained from performing and succeeding in a high pressure environment and the positivity of winning the club’s first ever national title has been a massive boost and will hopefully spur the girls on to want more,” said Buckingham coach Zak Jones.

"I am and have always been a huge advocate and fan of indoor. It is fast paced and pressurised environment that requires accurate basics, good decision making, high level counter attacking and goal scoring skills, as well as detailed tactical understanding, all of which are relevant to the outdoor version. So I always view indoor as a positive and wish we could play a bit more!”

Buckingham will be without injured Welsh international Eloise Laity while former England and GB international Lucy Wood is still carrying a long term injury. But they have signed Welsh international Sophie Robinson from Beeston.

Leaders Surbiton resume the outdoor fixtures with a home game against Loughborough Students, while elsewhere Bowdon Hightown play host to Holcombe and Clifton Robinsons go to Beeston.

East Grinstead are taking part in the European Indoor Club Cup in the Hague this weekend.

Leicester City will be aiming to make it 11 wins from 12 games in Investec Division One North as they go to Gloucester City.

Second-placed Swansea have a home game against Olton & West Warwicks, while at the other end of the table bottom club Leeds go to Brooklands-Poynton in search of points.

In the Investec Division One South leaders Wimbledon will be expected to maintain their 100% record so far as they go to Isca, while second-placed Reading are also on the road with a match at Trojans.

Wimbledon’s second team are similarly top of the table in the Investec Conference East, and they will want to stay there with a win against Southgate. Meanwhile, Barnes lie second and head to Canterbury to take on their second team.

Pendle Forest’s promotion hopes face a tough challenge in the Investec Conference North, as they have an away match at unbeaten University of Nottingham.

Elsewhere second-placed Sutton Coldfield go to Fylde, and Timperley could climb up to second if they win at Alderley Edge and other results go in their favour.

Surbiton’s second team are top of the Investec Conference West, and will be looking to maintain their seven-point buffer with a win over visitors Oxford Hawks.

Second-placed Exe go to the University of Bristol, while Oxford University could move up to second if they win against Team Bath Buccaneers and Exe lose.


Investec Women’s Hockey League (Sat, 15 February 2020):

Investec Premier Division
Surbiton v Loughborough Students 12:00
Hampstead & Westminster v Buckingham 13:30
Bowdon Hightown v Holcombe 13:45
Beeston v Clifton Robinsons 14:00

Investec Division One North
Brooklands-Poynton v Leeds 11:45
Swansea v Olton & West Warwicks 12:00
Univ of Durham v Stourport 12:00
Belper v Ben Rhydding 13:30
Gloucester City v Leicester City 14:00

Investec Division One South
Isca v Wimbledon 12:00
Sevenoaks v Slough 12:00
Trojans v Reading 12:00
Harleston Magpies v St Albans 13:30
Cambridge City v Canterbury 14:30

Investec Conference East
Canterbury 2XI v Barnes 12:00
Bedford v Bromley & Beckenham 13:30
Broxbourne v Ipswich 14:30
Wimbledon 2XI v Southgate 14:30
Chelmsford v Horsham 15:00

Investec Conference North
Doncaster v Beeston 2XI 12:00
Fylde v Sutton Coldfield 13:30
Alderley Edge v Timperley 14:00
Univ of Nottingham v Pendle Forest 14:00
Wakefield v Cannock 14:00

Investec Conference West
Oxford University v Team Bath Buccaneers 12:30
Univ of Bristol v Exe 13:15
Univ of Birmingham 2XI v Basingstoke 13:30
Clifton Robinsons 2XI v Cheltenham 14:00
Surbiton 2XI v Oxford Hawks 14:00

England Hockey Board Media release

UniKL on track for treble

By Jugjet Singh

UniKL players and officials celebrate after winning the MHL title on Wednesday.

Universiti Kuala Lumpur (UniKL) look set to grab a Malaysia Hockey League (MHL) treble this season as everything is going their way right now.

The university side started the season by winning the Charity Shield last month and on Wednesday, they sealed the league crown with two matches to spare.

The only title left up for grabs this year is the TNB Cup, and UniKL will face Maybank in the semi-finals.

Tenaga Nasional and Terengganu Hockey Team (THT) will battle in the other semi-final.

Good news for UniKL is that they will have the services of all four imports until the end of the TNB Cup.

Last season, UniKL lost four foreign players as they had to return home early due to a European Hockey League ruling.

Dutchmen Valentin Verga, Robert Kemperman and Martijn Havenga, as well as top Irish goalkeeper David Harte, left the club after the 4-1 win over Maybank in the semi-final first leg.

Although they won the return leg to enter final, they failed to hoist the trophy, losing 2-1 to THT.

But this time around, Harte, Dutchman Roel Bovendeert and Australians Timothy Deavin and Kieran Govers have no obligations and will play until the final of the TNB Cup.

UniKL, who have collected 26 points from 12 matches, will wrap up their fixtures against Maybank today and Tenaga Nasional on Sunday.

Tenaga are second on 28 points, followed by Terengganu (27) and Maybank (19).

FIXTURES — Today, Men: THT v HockAdemy (Batu Buruk Stadium, TNB Thunderbolts v NurInsafi (National Stadium I), UiTM v Tenaga (Tun Razak Stadium), Maybank v UniKL (National Stadium II).

Tomorrow, Women: UniTen v Sabah (National Stadium I), HockAdemy v Police Blue Warriors (National Stadium II), Mutiara Impian v Terengganu Ladies (USM Stadium) — * matches at 5pm.

New Straits Times

No let-up as UniKL now eye the double

KUALA LUMPUR: The league title is in the bag – but there will be no letting up for Universiti Kuala Lumpur (UniKL) as they are out for their first double.

Captain Mohd Marhan Mohd Jalil believes now is the time for them to sweep everything on offer in Malaysia Hockey League (MHL).

The varsity team, who made their debut in the MHL in 2011, retained the league title on Wednesday after trouncing Nur Insafi 9-1 at the Tengku Abdullah Stadium in Bangi to register their 12th consecutive win with two matches remaining.

They will play Maybank at the National Hockey Stadium today before wrapping up the fixtures against Tenaga Nasional on Sunday at the same venue.

UniKL won their first title – the TNB (overall) Cup in 2018 and bagged the league title last year. This year, they want both.

The national midfielder said their main challenge would be to stay unbeaten to win the TNB Cup on Feb 22.

“We are having a great run as this is the first time we have won the title with two matches remaining. These are great moments for us and I am proud of the performance and commitment given by every player.

“Winning the league has been our target all along but we will not let our guard down in the last two matches as we need to be sharp for the TNB Cup,” he added.

“My responsibility is to carry this team through the league and TNB Cup. Our mission has just begun. We won the Charity Shield and league and now we have to focus till the end.”

The Star of Malaysia

Tenaga hopes dim again, with poor finishing


Happier times: Tenaga forward Mohd Akhimullah Anuar Esook is mobbed by teammates after scoring in their 4-2 win over Terengganu on Jan 22. — S.S.KANESAN/The Star

KUALA LUMPUR: Some things never change. Tenaga Nasional became chokers and again, it was poor finishing that let them down in the Malaysia Hockey League (MHL).

The team, who last won the league in 2003, started the season with great optimism with 13 national players and on a winning streak for their first five games.

Then, the problems began. A 1-1 draw and a 1-0 loss to newly-crowned champions Universiti Kuala Lumpur (UniKL) saw them fall behind.

Their hopes of winning the league title is now buried after their 1-0 defeat by Terengganu at the Batu Buruk Hockey Stadium in Kuala Terengganu on Wednesday.

The defeat left them in second place with 28 points, just one point ahead of third-placed Terengganu, with two matches to go.

The bad news is Tenaga have to face UniKL in their final league match. Terengganu have an easier run-in against Hockey Academy (Hockademy) and Maybank.

If Tenaga falter against UniKL and Terengganu keep up their fine form, Tenaga are likely to settle for third place.

UniKL, meanwhile, retained the league title with maximum points from 12 consecutive wins with two matches in hand.

Tenaga coach Nor Saiful Zaini said their initial target had been to bag the double but they were let down by poor finishing in important matches.

“I am unhappy with the team’s performance against Terengganu. My juniors struggled to perform while the seniors failed to rise to the occasion,” said the former international.

“One of our attempts hit the post and we also failed to convert five penalty corners.

“The pitch in Terengganu was bumpy and my players had problems getting used to it but that is no excuse,” said the former international.

“It is really frustrating to miss chances after chances,” said Nor Saiful, who now wants to see his team fight on to stay second.

“We should have no problem getting full points against UiTM tomorrow (today). UniKL will be another proposition,” he said.

“Terengganu have a better chance of finishing second as they have two easier matches,” said Nor Saiful.

The Star of Malaysia

Tina Cullen keeps Bowdon Hightown in frame after 30 years

By The Hockey Paper

Bowdon Hightown coach Tina Cullen recalls playing in the inaugural women’s league 30 years ago

It was an exciting time and something different when the Typhoo National League launched. I had just joined Hightown as a 19-year-old and from our point of view we were travelling most weekends and experiencing different places. The league felt like it was professional, but we were still paying for Travelodges.

We wore our club colour socks and every team had Typhoo written down the back of them. At every game there was a Typhoo player of the match and every week it seemed as if Maggie Souyave won another box of tea. It was a first step up where we were playing a high standard of hockey and usually playing internationals. For someone aspiring to play for England, you were on the pitch with the best. It was a great challenge.

I made my debut for England in 1992, the year GB women went to the Olympics in Barcelona. The league was only three years in the making and it’s hard to say whether it had any bearing on Great Britain’s bronze. Before 1989, you were playing a regional division and maybe one hard weekend. The county set up was strong and most of the Hightown team was made up from the Liverpool teams, but there was never that competition on a regular basis.

As a junior growing up, you now knew how good you had to be to make it at national level. It gave you the role models and people to look up to. You didn’t just see them on the TV, you played against them.

As Hightown and Bowdon Hightown, we are the only team to maintain our top division status. For the last five years, that has been the main challenge due to the centralised programme. I have been to the Olympics and I know why the programme was created, and the gold medal is proof of that. But it has affected the clubs in the north. When you saw Sutton Coldfield, Leicester and Beeston relegated, we started to think we would be next, but we are holding on.

Players are starting to be paid to play and it is inevitable with the progress of the sport. Clubs are training two or three times per week, but due to geography we can only train once. We have five or six players who travel 100 miles just to come and train with us on a Wednesday.

We are one of the only clubs you couldn’t play for and be on the central programme. We can develop and create GB and England players, but they could never play for us. But we enjoy what we do and there is no point moaning about it.

We have youngsters coming through now who will hopefully filter through our ranks. We are also seeing some Midlands players join us, while we will also have two New Zealand players, Emma Rainey and Alex Lukin, with us this season.

As for me? I’ve got tennis elbow in my arm and I’m 50 next year. The club did a surprise retirement party for me and Michelle Liptrot. And so if I continued playing it would be a bit embarrassing to be honest. We went to Europe last season indoors, they were amazing and they didn’t need me to play. I think it’s time now to get others to do the business.

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The Hockey Paper

Demand for Bharat Ratna for Dhyan Chand

Tarak Kumar Parkar, who undertakes a padyatra, insists hockey great, Dhyan Chand, deserves the award.

Uthra Ganesan

Ashok Kumar (left) with Tarak Kumar Parkar at the National Stadium in New Delhi.   -  Special Arrangement

The demand for a Bharat Ratna for Major Dhyan Chand has been an ongoing one for several years now. Apart from concerted efforts by various groups including his own family, there have been several instances of individuals seeking the same.

On Thursday, Tarak Kumar Parkar reached the city to pay homage to the hockey legend, demanding the same after a 1,250km long padyatra from Khargone in Madhya Pradesh.

Parkar, who belongs to Burhanpur, insists that the man who was synonymous with Indian sports from pre-independence era deserves the highest civilian honour in the country.

“I had been planning this since 2010 but Ashok Kumar (Dhyan Chand’s son and World Cup winner) kept asking me to postpone it saying it was not good for my health. But I finally started on December 15th and managed around 50-60km per day to reach here,” Parkar told Sportstar.

Long journey

The journey took him through Indore, Guna, Shivpuri, Dhyan Chand’s hometown Jhansi, Gwalior, Agra and Mathura before concluding at the National Stadium here.

“I also run an NGO called Yuva Shakti that works to wean youngsters away from drugs and encourages them to get involved in sports. I keep travelling for that. During one such tour in 1978, en route to Nepal, I met Dhyan Chand in Jhansi and stayed with him. The simplicity of such a great man continues to amaze me,” said the former fingerprint expert in the forensic sciences department of MP Police.

Ashok Kumar said a delegation had managed to meet Sports Minister Kiren Rijiju on January 8 to repeat the request for a Bharat Ratna for Dhyan Chand.

“He was cordial but admitted that the PMO had the final say. Counting him, three other Sports Ministers (Ajay Maken, Jitendra Singh, Vjay Goel) over years, through both the Congress and BJP governments, have recommended the honour to PMO but there has been no response. It’s disappointing but we know he will always be an inspiration to every Indian. Still, something on record would be good,” he said.


Sports ministry dispels myth that hockey is India's national sport in RTI reply

Says Centre has not declared a national game

The Union Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports has said that the Centre has not declared any sport as the 'national game' of the country.

Sports ministry dispels myth that hockey is national sport in RTI reply, says Centre has not declared a national game

The ministry said this in response to an RTI query filed by a school teacher from Dhule district of north Maharashtra.

There is a popular perception that hockey is the national sport of India.

The RTI query had sought to know when hockey was declared as India's national game.

Mayuresh Agrawal, who teaches in VK Patil International School in Sindkheda tehsil of Dhule district, has received the reply letter from the ministry dated 15 January, 2020.

He said he had filed the query after his students asked when hockey was declared as the national game of the country.

"The government has not declared any sport/game as the National Game of the country, as the objective of the government is to encourage/promote all popular sports disciplines," the reply from the ministry stated.


Kate Billson

It is sad to note that Kate Billson died peacefully on Monday 27 January at Glenfield Hospital, Leicester following a short illness.

Kate became extremely well known in the men’s and boys’ game in the 1980s and she spent many years helping the development and progress of young players, not in a coaching capacity, but wholly as an administrator. She only played the game at school and only once was selected to represent her school.

Kate got involved with the boys’ game in the 1980s with husband Tony, initially through supporting her son Andrew who went on to play for England U21s and captained Teddington to the national league title in 1995. She set up and developed the Northampton County Schoolboys’ Association before moving on to work in the development and match planning of the Midland Schoolboys. She then went on to work with the England Schoolboys national squads acting as Chef de Mission on their home and overseas tours.

Kate with Tony planned and organized many of the key England Schoolboy national and international events bringing a new level of organization and professionalism. She was successful in securing much needed financial sponsorship for the boys’ game from the likes of NatWest Bank and Nationwide Building Society, thus ensuring that the profile of schoolboy hockey was enhanced.

After the amalgamation of England Schoolboys with the men’s Hockey Association (HA), Kate continued her involvement as Chair of the Schoolboys’ committee and was majorly involved with and sat on various HA committees.

She was involved in the organizing of several of the international hockey events at the National Hockey Stadium in Milton Keynes, including the women’s Qualifying Tournament prior to the Sydney Olympic Games in 2000.

Kate’s final key involvements with hockey were acting as Secretary to the Centenary Club and finally the Hockey Youth Trust. She engineered funding for the Trust to be able to help clubs and schools obtain financial support for the development of the boys’ and girls’ junior game at grassroots level.

Kate was also a great friend to The Hockey Museum, being one of its earliest supporters. When the first hockey museum was started at the Milton Keynes Stadium back in the ‘90s Kate arranged for the Centenary Club to purchase some splendid display cabinets, which are still in use in The Hockey Museum today. Kate also deposited the England Schoolboys records with the museum, now available to all as an archive.

Kate’s overall passion lay with helping and seeing young people have the chance to participate and develop through the opportunities afforded by the sport of hockey.

It is doubtful that any woman has ever done more for men’s hockey in England; indeed there have been few men that have accomplished as much as Kate did.

Our thoughts are with husband Tony, and Kate’s family.

Kate’s funeral will take place at 1100 am on 19th February at St Aidan's Catholic Church. Kingsthorpe, Northampton NN2 6QJ

(With grateful thanks to Mike Smith and The Hockey Museum)

England Hockey Board Media release

Hockey community mourns death of Nikki Dignam

Former Loreto captain an ‘ultimate team player’, ‘true leader’ and ‘legend of the game’

Mary Hannigan

The late Nikki Dignam (nee Lyons): “She motivated, encouraged and inspired her team-mates. She always enjoyed playing and enjoyed winning more than anyone I know. A true leader,” says Clodagh Grealy. Photograph: ©INPHO/Donall Farmer
It’s been a desperately sad week for the Irish hockey community following news of the death last Sunday of former Loreto captain Nikki Dignam (nee Lyons) at the age of just 43. 

A native of Castletroy, Limerick, Dignam initially joined Muckross when she moved to Dublin for college, but it was her time with Loreto that proved hugely successful, the club winning just about it all in her years with them. Most memorable, perhaps, was 2003 when she captained the club to both the Irish Senior Cup and gold on their European debut in the Cup Winners’ Cup in Vienna.

“When I took over the team in 2002, Nikki was the obvious choice as captain,” said former Loreto coach Tom O’Donoghue. “She was universally popular and a leader, the ultimate team player and a coach’s dream. Nikki was always setting standards, driving the group. Her inner goodness, positivity and Munster tenacity was a key element in the success that we had.”

‘An amazing woman’

“Nikki was one of the most influential people in my life,” said Louisa Healy, the former Loreto and Ireland goalkeeper. “When I left the quiet life in Wexford, she took me under her wing and looked after me like I was her own sister. She was an amazing woman, and on the pitch I’d have picked 10 Nikki Lyons to be togging out in front of me, her resilience, stamina, leadership and work rate could not be matched. A true legend of the game who probably didn’t get half the recognition she deserved at the time.”

“Nikki’s fitness and competitiveness was remarkable – if they had GPS trackers in those days, her results would have been off the charts,” said another former team-mate, Clodagh Grealy. “She motivated, encouraged and inspired her team-mates. She always enjoyed playing and enjoyed winning more than anyone I know. A true leader.”

‘Colour co-ordinated’

“She was the ultimate professional, a true competitor and the most pristine hockey player who colour co-ordinated her kit down to her hair clips,” said Loreto president Wendy Byrne, who also played alongside Dignam. “Her smile was infectious, her warmth and friendliness genuine. ‘She believed she could, so she did’ – this is a quote Nikki and her daughter Anna used all the time. It summed her up.”

After moving to Ashford in Wicklow, where she ran the Woodpecker Bar & Restaurant with her husband Alan, Dignam played for a spell with Bray Hockey Club. She passed away after a long battle with illness in recent years. She is survived by her husband Alan, children Anna, Kian and Nial, parents Ken and Renza, and siblings Jennifer, Karen and Keith. May she rest in peace.

Hockey League – Saturday: Belfast Harlequins v Old Alexandra, Deramore Park, 2.30; Loreto v Pembroke Wanderers, Beaufort, 2.45; Muckross v Catholic Institute, Muckross Park, 1.0; Pegasus v Railway Union, Queens, 4.0; UCD v Cork Harlequins, Belfield, 1.0.

The Irish Times

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