Following on the recent success of Ireland’s Over-65 Men’s Masters Hockey Team – including Galway’s Sean O’Fiacháin – in the Celtic Cup, last weekend it was the turn of the sprightly Over-55’s to take on international opposition. And they didn’t disappoint.
Ireland’s Over-55’s secured creditable draws in both their matches in a Tri-Nations Hockey Tournament. The competition, played on Saturday 11th and Sunday 12th of September, took place in Antibes Hockey Club, on the French Riviera. It was part of Ireland’s preparation for the Masters World Cup, scheduled for Cape Town South Africa in October 2022.
The Irish team was made up of players from all four provinces and the Exiles (who play their hockey in England). The great news for Connacht was that Galway Hockey Club’s Martin White was between the sticks for Ireland for the 42nd time, while Neil Kearns of Dangan notched up his fourteenth game for the Green Masters. It was the first game in the Over-55 category for the youthful Kearns.
Ireland faced two top teams in Spain and France and were not helped by the fact that both matches were played in searing heat – over 28 degrees.
Ireland got off to a great start, holding the much-fancied Spanish side to a 1-1 draw on Saturday. Ireland scored first in the second half, Pembroke Wanderers’ defender Andy Cooke blasting a shot from the edge of the circle into the roof of the net. Unfortunately, the hot conditions better suited the Spanish players, who regrouped quickly and equalised five minutes later from a short corner routine.
Ireland followed that up on Sunday with another 1-1 draw, this time against the French. The first half finished scoreless, with White in goal and Kearns chasing everything down in midfield. The Green Machine again scored first in the fourth quarter through a short corner strike from Ulsterman Ian Getty of Lisnagarvey. But, much to the dismay of the battling men in green, France was then awarded a penalty close to full time, which they duly converted.
Speaking from pitch-side, Neil Kearns said, “With hockey, it’s like we have an international family. We look forward to meeting our old rivals at these tournaments. Of course, once we get on the pitch, everybody’s playing to win! There’s also fantastic camaraderie within our own squad. After the matches, we all went for a swim in the Mediterranean, 200 metres from the pitch, which was very welcome in the heat. Not a bad way to spend the weekend.”
Martin White said, “We were delighted with the way the team played. We are building up a bit of momentum, as we plan for the World Cup. Our next outing will be in Malaga before Christmas. We expect to face hosts Spain, France, Italy and Gibraltar. Ireland will be sending two Over-55 teams, as competition for squad places hots up.”