Hockey in Waterford 'on the rise'

Hockey in Waterford is on the up and up, according to the Vice-President of Waterford Hockey Club Joanne Day. Joanne was speaking to WLR Sport on the occasion of the visit of two of the Ireland women's team Sarah Hawkshaw and Sarah Torrans to the club last Sunday.

The club, which is based out of Newtown School in the city, has been in existence for 80 years. Joanne says they've seen a 30% increase in membership, since Ireland's success in the World Cup in 2018. The women's team captured the attention of the nation in the London games, eventually coming home with Silver medals.

Sarah Hawkshaw, who plays with Railway Union hockey club in Sandymount came into the current senior team after the World Cup in September 2018 and got her first cap in Chile in January 2019. She says she's seen the impact of the games on the level of interest in the sport in clubs around the country:

"It's been absolutely amazing for the growth of the sport. And to see the amount of girls down here playing and boys as well has been absolutely phenomenal. We're getting clubs around the country where they have too many kids to fill the pitches. And that's amazing to see."


Sarah Hawkshaw giving tips to some of the young players at Waterford Hockey Club

The midfielder says the dominance of Leinster is being increasingly challenged by Munster players:

"I think if you saw the Interpros (interprovincial) this year, you saw Munster really coming out as the driving force of hockey. And I know they're really pushing their underage programme. So I think you're really giving Leinster a problem, which is great to see, and it's great to push all around the country of Ireland."


That's echoed by Joanne Day who says there are some really good players in Waterford:

"I just think it's only a matter of time. We've really put a huge focus on our youth development in the last few years and believe it or not, the lockdown was probably the best thing for the club because, you know, the under eighteens could continue training during some of the intermittent lockdowns. And it just meant that we could develop the players more.

"There are a number of players on Munster and Leinster Southeast development teams. We've also set up a Munster East Academy in Waterford. And, you know, hopefully we'll convert some of those provincial players into internationals in the future."

Joanne says they are looking for more investment in hockey in the county and would love to see more AstroTurf pitches in particular. Dungarvan hockey club, which is based in Abbeyside, plays off a grit pitch, and there is also a small club in Stradbally.

Sarah Hawkshaw and Sarah Torrans

Joanne is no doubt that the sport will continue to grow and develop in the county and says the current Women's team are great role models for the young girls in the club:

"They're great role models. And we do see, and I suppose every sport, we see a huge dropout in membership, from sort of 16 to 18, which is it's a pity, but I suppose, you know, kids, they take up part-time jobs and start socializing, so their sports may not be a priority, but for us, it's really important to try and retain that age group and to look at these role models who have set just such a high standard for women in sport in Ireland, it's just amazing what they've achieved over the last few years."

World Cup

And it will be a busy 2022 for those role models.

Ireland qualified in Pisa last month for next year's World Cup, and will also host a European qualifiers event next summer in Dublin.

Sarah Hawkshaw says the players are currently on a break from international duties until the new year, allowing them to go back to play for their clubs, then an intense period begins in the new year:

"And then from January on, we'll be back in to our intense enough program. Because we'll have the World Cup next year. We're hosting a European qualifier, and then we're also going to have a tournament the Nations Cup tournament in December in Spain."

Before that Ireland's U20s will compete in the Junior Hockey World Cup in South Africa next month - it's the first time Ireland will compete in the competition, no doubt signalling the growing significance of Ireland's women on the hockey world stage.