A sporting initiative to develop hockey players in Ireland has taken a step forward with the launch of the Connacht Hockey Academy.
Launched by former Irish international Elayne McDermott, the academy aims to nurture local talent and develop a pool of players for inter-provincial and national squads from U16 to senior level.
Top-level coaches will run weekly training sessions around the province throughout the winter, and in Galway some 140 girls, aged 11 to 16, from Galway Hockey Club, Greenfields, Renmore and Kinvara, were action in Oranmore on Sunday.
McDermottt, who represented her country 35 times at senior level, says the aim of the academy is to promote hockey in Connacht with the purpose of increasing participation, while also "creating a pathway for improvement and ultimately ensuring a greater presence of Connacht players at international level”.
“This is to be done through an environment of enjoyment while endeavouring towards excellence. It will encompass the development of not just players, but also the coaches of the future."
Adding to the excitment of this new venture was the presence of Katie Mullan, captain of the Irish hockey team, World Cup silver medalist and Olympic qualifier.
“It was the first day of the Connacht Hockey Academy, and I dropped by to say hello. There are some great people working hard to ensure these young players get the best opportunities and it's important they have the facilities and support to continue this. I have no doubt the academy will be a success and I wish them the very best of luck.”