Good sports: Our world-class women’s hockey champions dress up
‘We don’t often have a chance to wear a dress’ – fashion shoot with legends of Irish sport
Go for glam: Women from the Irish hockey team: (back row l-r) Zoe Wilson; Deirdre Duke and Nikki Evans; (seated l-r) Anna O’Flanagan, Chloe Watkins and graph
Who can forget the exhilarating success of the Irish Women’s Hockey Team world silver-medal win last August? Their achievement in reaching the World Cup final at London’s Lee Valley Hockey Stadium despite being ranked 15 out of the 16 teams in the competition inspired the country, justifying Taoiseach Leo Varadkar’s description of them as “legends of Irish sport”. All the more remarkable given that they had to take on better resourced, professional and higher-ranking countries.
More used to images of them in their green jerseys on the pitch, we asked them to dress up for a Christmas fashion shoot and six of the squad who are based around Ireland and abroad were able to find the time. On Twitter, Mariah Carey gave them a shout out after her song All I Want for Christmas is You became associated with the team when some of the younger members described the excitement as like the festive feeling of Christmas.
On a more serious note, the women find it increasingly difficult to train at the required level as most are trying to balance full-time work or study with intensive training. They have to rent pitches to train, unlike professional teams ranked in the top 10 in the world who can train on a full-time basis with commercial or university support. In June next year they begin the qualification for the 2020 Olympics.
“We don’t often get the chance to dress up and we never dress up when we are away, just when we get home” says Zoe Wilson (21) who is studying nutrition in Coleraine. Her talents were evident at an early age: at 14 she scored the winning goal in the Ulster Schools Senior Cup for Ballyclare High School and was later captain of the Irish under-18s. She won a hockey scholarship to Syracuse University in New York where she was a member of the Syracuse Orange team and later played for Harvestehuder in Germany for a year. She explains that her normal gear is trainers and leggings, that she would never wear anything red because of her colouring and what she most loves about hockey is the team aspect. Here she is wearing a Rixo black star print dress, €330, with earrings by Alexis Bittar, €135.
A trainee accountant with Mazars with a commerce degree from UCD, Chloe Watkins (26) comes from a “real hockey-playing family” in Monkstown, Co Dublin; her father and brother were both men’s field hockey internationals. She has played for clubs in Spain and the Netherlands and is currently with Dutch side Bloemendaal where her coach is the twice Olympic champion Teun de Nooijer. “I decided this was what I wanted to do when I was seven,” she says, adding that what she most loves about hockey is playing with the team and getting to travel the world. As for fashion, she likes “simple” things and buys from Cos and Zara, but not online, and opts for a more classic rather than overly patterned styles. She is wearing a red MSGM crepe dress, €520.
Elena Tice (20) from Wicklow could have been a cricket champion; at 13 she was the second youngest person in the world in the history of the game to play international cricket, and earned 40 caps before switching to hockey. She made her debut for Ireland two weeks before her 18th birthday. “I always dreamt of going to the Olympics and I always knew we had something better in us but I remember the shock when we won our first game,” she says. Currently studying economics in UCD, she coaches to earn money and played in Australia and New Zealand for three months, leaving 10 days after the World Cup match. From a sporting family – one of her older brothers, Patrick, is an Ireland under-19 cricket international while another brother, Dalton, played rugby union for Leinster. Off the pitch she loves wearing flowery dresses and colourful, pretty but simple shapes “and if there is an opportunity to wear baby blue in the summer, I always wear it”. Here she is wearing a silver pleated dress by Karen Millen, €299, with long rhinestone earrings by Brilliant, €350.
One of Ireland’s most prolific scorers, with a goal almost every three games, Anna O Flanagan (28) is a lawyer with McCann Fitzgerald but has taken time out to move to the Netherlands to play with Pinoké in Amsterdam and work for Deloitte. “Hockey is the national sport [in the Netherlands] and there are hundreds of hockey pitches wherever you go. Women are better than men, but men get paid more. I always wanted to play for Ireland,” she says, explaining how the rules of the game have changed over the decades to make it faster and look better on television. As for fashion, “we generally don’t have a chance to wear a dress but if there is ever an opportunity to wear one, we take it. I love stylish runners and tomboy fashion is so in now, so you don’t feel so out of place in leggings and runners”. She is wearing a leopard print wrap dress by Ganni, €239.
From Clonskeagh in Dublin, lawyer Deirdre Duke (26) captained the UCD team and played with the Huskies in Boston before leading UCD to Irish Cup and League success. She is an outstanding athlete who also played football in her youth. The first major sports star in her family, she started playing hockey at 11 and what she most loves about it “is the team, my closest friends and the people you meet”. Now with Düsseldorf Hockey Club in Germany, she has put her legal career with A & L Goodbody on hold for the time being: “It has been a whirlwind and because I am in law, it can open other doors for me, but how long can you put off your career?” Germans have a different style of hockey, she says, “and different ways of managing their lives, but [being there] you develop as a person”. She likes plain, sharp, boyish jackets, shops in Zara and can carry off a jumpsuit like this one from Karen Millen, €280, worn here with a lambskin wrap, €345, from Yves Salomon.
Lawyer Nicola Evans (28) has taken a year out from working with Mason, Hayes & Curran “who have been very supportive of hockey commitments though it was hard at times” to play with UHC Hamburg in Germany. She says she fell into hockey almost by accident when asked to find a stick in a shed at school which turned out to be too small for her. “I was a sports -mad kid,” she recalls. “I studied business and law. From playing sports you learn to be organised and that has stood to me. I always wanted to play abroad, to have a new challenge and give myself the best opportunity to play with the reigning champions. The hockey is going better than the German!” With such a busy lifestyle, she admits there isn’t much time to notice trends, but having a younger sister helps. “My style is quite plain and traditional rather than ‘out there’, but it is fun to dress up with your friends – it is more the getting ready, doing the hair and make-up is the best part.” She is wearing a black lace tiered dress by Self Portrait, €395.
All clothes and accessories from Brown Thomas, Dublin. Hair: Róisín Malone, Make-up artists: Thomas Johnston, Faye Miller and Jane Gilligan at Bobbi Brown, Brown Thomas. Special thanks to Niamh Molloy and her team at the Merrion Hotel.