Strong spirits as Irish women’s hockey team take World Cup by storm

You all know I’m sure where I’m going to begin this week, and it is about the women, precisely the women’s hockey team who came second in the World Cup and brought home the silver medals to Ireland.

The whole story is like a fairytale come true. Hockey has always been a somewhat marginal game in Ireland. I remember many years ago when I was a boarder in Loreto Convent in Bray, there was a choice for girls of either hockey or netball. I chose netball. Why I don’t know, but I did.

I notice in the make-up of Ireland’s women’s hockey team that the Loreto club is very prominent, and I would imagine that every Loreto school in and around Dublin at that time offered the choice between the two games.

Hence there is a very lively after-schools hockey tradition in and around Dublin. Be that as it may, several points struck me watching the various women’s hockey matches over the last week.

Firstly, there is no need for a long delay of a week or two weeks between matches. The women play one day and they’re ready to play the next day again.

Fancy the men doing that – not a bit of it and yet we are supposed to be the weaker sex!

Secondly, I was exhilarated looking at the enthusiasm, the skill and the forthright enjoyment that the Irish hockey team got out of each game they played.

They played, they fought, they won, and won again, and they played, fought and lost in the final against Holland which has a worldwide ranking.

The Irish, of course, were well beaten but they took it with such grace, such enjoyment – no scowling, no banging the ground in disgust with themselves. They just thoroughly enjoyed themselves.

And did you notice that when they stood with their hockey sticks to sing ‘Ireland’s Call’, the force and the vibrancy of their singing as they fairly belted out the words really took Ireland and anyone who was watching it by storm.

The reason of course they use ‘Ireland’s Call’ is because it is an all-Ireland hockey team, and obviously the tune is best suited to an all-Ireland team the same as the rugby, who have Ulster players in their cohort and there were at least three Ulster women in the cohort of the Irish women’s hockey team.

I am delighted that Shane Ross went out to meet them and was able to give them good news that they would get some more training money to enable them to compete for the Olympics in Tokyo in two years’ time. About time they got recognition in the financial field as well.

Then it was wonderful to look at the thousands that amassed onto Dame Street on Monday afternoon to enthusiastically and loudly shout for the team. They responded with full voice and the whole event had such a joyful tone to it that it really made the bank holiday weekend such a success.

As I always say, wasn’t it great to have the Monday and the lovely long weekend? I had my nephew Conor Lenihan with his two lovely children, Patrick aged just three and Aoife aged ten, over with me for the August weekend.

I was so pleased to have them because both of my sons were away and it meant I would miss having the young company, but here arrived Conor with his brood and it fairly livened up my weekend. They are lovely children and Aoife plays hockey in her school in the UK, so she had great viewing as well.

I thought one of the funny stories was when Conor, with his wife in the UK, was mooting that he would bring the two children over to me for the August weekend, he was originally going to just bring Aoife aged ten as at that stage Patrick was not out of nappies.

However Conor hit on an ingenious idea. He told little Patrick that babies and children in Ireland didn’t wear nappies, they were not allowed to do so by the government! So what did the bold Patrick do, but he shed the nappy in a week, and when they arrived on their visit he was nappy-less. Good for him!

I am off to Kilbeggan Races next Saturday. Every year, Paddy Dunican who runs the races, invites me and a friend or two whom I would like to bring with me.

The three of us go and we have a marvellous afternoon, a lovely lunch, great racing, and great fun and enjoyment in meeting with everyone.

I do not know anything about racing! Indeed, Kilbeggan is the only racecourse I go to, but at the same time I love this particular outing and I always enjoy Paddy Dunican’s generosity in continuing to remember me.

Saturday is also the day of the All-Ireland football semi-final between Galway and Dublin. We will be able to watch some of that on the public TVs in the room where we will be having our afternoon lunch in Kilbeggan.

I’ve been talking to a few people and they say if Galway plays at their best they have every chance of giving Dublin a good run for it.

Of course Galway are also, the weekend after next, in the All-Ireland hurling final against Limerick, and that will be something to look forward to with relish. We are having marvellous games every weekend and I gain such enjoyment from viewing or listening to them.

Yes, Roscommon were beaten by Dublin last weekend but they played with grace and verve despite the fact that they were the rank outsiders and that they lacked on the day the coaching and managerial qualities of Kevin McStay. Roscommon are a good team and they will live to fight another day, another time.

In the meantime, Monaghan and Tyrone are two unexpected arrivals into the final echelons of the football finals in this round-robin event, and we are looking forward to how they comport themselves next weekend also.

I know the weather has changed and has got a little cooler, but it is still lovely with that nice western breeze giving us all a little relief.

That’s my lot for this week. Hope to talk with you all next week.

In the meantime go safely.

Slán go fóill.

Mary O’Rourke

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