Meet Ireland's history-making World Cup hockey heroes

Johnny Watterson profiles the 18 hockey players and their coach

 

Ireland's women's hockey edged out India 3-1 in a shootout on Thursday which gave them a World Cup semi-final spot. 

Graham Shaw's side have made history by making it to this stage of the competition. But who are Ireland's hockey heroes?

Ayeisha McFerran

Ireland goalkeeper Ayeisha McFerran in action against England. Photograph: Kate McShane/Getty Images
Ireland goalkeeper Ayeisha McFerran in action against England. Photograph: Kate McShane/Getty Images

Position: Goalkeeper
Club: University of Louisville
Age: 22 Caps: 76
Occupation: Student
First-choice net minder. Started all three games so far. From Larne she became the youngest goalkeeper to play for Ireland against Spain in 2014, a day after her 18th birthday. A great shot-stopper, particularly in shootouts. Playing since she was nine-years-old.

Grace O’Flanagan

Grace O’Flanagan (centre) and here team-mates applaud the Irish fans after the England game. Photograph: Joe Toth/Inpho
Grace O’Flanagan (centre) and here team-mates applaud the Irish fans after the England game. Photograph: Joe Toth/Inpho

Position: Goalkeeper
Club: Railway Union
Age: 29 Caps: 34
Occupation: Doctor
The Royal College of Surgeons graduate was pivotal in South Africa during Ireland’s qualification for this World Cup. With McFerran in the sin-bin in the World League semi-finals, O’Flanagan saved a penalty with her first touch against India. Schooled in Loreto Foxrock.

Shirley McCay

Ireland’s Shirley McCay in action against England’s Alex Danson. Photograph: Sean Dempsey/EPA
Ireland’s Shirley McCay in action against England’s Alex Danson. Photograph: Sean Dempsey/EPA

Position: Defence/Midfield
Club: Pegasus
Age: 30 Caps: 270
Occupation: Ulster Hockey Development Officer
The most capped female in Irish sport and in her 11th year as an international player. Part of the team that narrowly missed out on Olympic qualification for 2012 and Rio 2016, the Omagh player will retire after London. Watch for the long pass from defence.

Zoe Wilson

Zoe Wilson of Ireland in action against England. Photograph: Jack Thomas/Getty Images
Zoe Wilson of Ireland in action against England. Photograph: Jack Thomas/Getty Images

Position: Defence
Club: Belfast Harlequins
Age: 21 Caps: 76
Occupation: Student
Came from the Syracuse University in New York and played for Harvestehuder in Germany for a year. A captain of the Irish Under-18s, she cemented her current position in 2016. Scored the winner in the Ulster Schools Senior Cup for Ballyclare HS at 14-years-old.

Róisín Upton

Ireland’s Róisín Upton in action against India’s Navneet Kaur. Photograph: Adam Davy/PA Wire
Ireland’s Róisín Upton in action against India’s Navneet Kaur. Photograph: Adam Davy/PA Wire

Position: Defence/Midfield
Club: Cork Harlequins
Age: 24 Caps: 43
Occupation: Postgraduate Student
A relative newcomer, the Limerick player made her debut in 2016 after a hip injury and stress fracture delayed progress. She then nailed down roles in midfield and defence. Another who went through the US college system, winning two NCAA titles with UConn Huskies.

Elena Tice

Ireland’s Elena Tice (right) in action against India. Photograph: Christopher Lee/Getty Images
Ireland’s Elena Tice (right) in action against India. Photograph: Christopher Lee/Getty Images

Position: Defence
Club: UCD
Age: 20 Caps: 71
Occupation: Student
The dual international made her debut in cricket at 13-years-old and won 40 caps in T20 and ODIs before focusing on hockey. She was precocious there too, debuting for Ireland two weeks before her 18th birthday in 2016. An ever-present on the team since.

Yvonne O’Byrne

Ireland’s Yvonne O’Byrne turns away from Jo Hunter of England during the Pool B game. Photograph: Christopher Lee/Getty Images
Ireland’s Yvonne O’Byrne turns away from Jo Hunter of England during the Pool B game. Photograph: Christopher Lee/Getty Images

Position: Defence
Club: Cork Harlequins
Age: 26 Caps: 116
Occupation: Postgraduate Student
Hugely consistent performer, she has played over 30 consecutive internationals matches since June of last year. The Cork player made her debut in 2016 having played on the Mount Mercy senior schools team as a 14-year-old. Hobbies include tag rugby and soccer.

Megan Frazer

Megan Frazer of Ireland holds off the challenge of England’s Hollie Pearne-Webb. Photograph: Jack Thomas/Getty Images
Megan Frazer of Ireland holds off the challenge of England’s Hollie Pearne-Webb. Photograph: Jack Thomas/Getty Images

Position: Midfield/Defence
Club: Mannheimer, Germany
Age: 27 Caps: 131
Occupation: Hockey Player/Student
The former captain came through a complicated cruciate knee injury to make the squad. A key player for Shaw and one of the most talented players Ireland has produced. Played for Ireland while still as school in Derry and was voted best player at University of Maryland.

Hannah Matthews

Hannah Matthews in action against England. Photograph: Jack Thomas/Getty Images
Hannah Matthews in action against England. Photograph: Jack Thomas/Getty Images

Position: Defence
Club: Loreto
Age: 27 Caps: 111
Occupation: Teacher
A primary school teacher with an international bloodline from father Philip, a former Irish rugby captain. Handles pressure well, which is a huge asset for today’s World Cup quarter-final. She earned her 100th cap in June against Canada at Serpentine Avenue.

Gillian Pinder

Ireland’s Gillian Pinder in action against USA’s Amanda Magadan. Photograph: Sean Dempsey/EPA
Ireland’s Gillian Pinder in action against USA’s Amanda Magadan. Photograph: Sean Dempsey/EPA

Position: Midfield
Club: Pembroke
Age: 26 Caps: 140
Occupation: Business and law graduate/coach
A deceptively quick player who has the ability and confidence to breeze past opponents. A veteran of the Rio Olympic campaign, she along with Chloe Watkins were central to St Andrew’s College winning the All-Ireland title in 2010. A graduate of UCD and Syracuse.

Chloe Watkins

Chloe Watkins in action against Nicole Woods of the USA. Photograph: Joe Toth/Inpho
Chloe Watkins in action against Nicole Woods of the USA. Photograph: Joe Toth/Inpho

Position: Midfield
Club: Bloemendaal, Netherlands
Age: 26 Caps: 197
Occupation: Hockey player/student
If Ireland do the unthinkable and reach the final, she will earn her 200th Irish cap. Brother Gareth and father Gordon were both capped. Monkstown born and now with Dutch side Bloemendaal, where she is coached by twice Olympic champion Teun de Nooijer.

Lizzie Colvin

Ireland’s Lizzie Colvin battles for possession with England’s Anna Toman. Photograph: John Walton/PA Wire
Ireland’s Lizzie Colvin battles for possession with England’s Anna Toman. Photograph: John Walton/PA Wire

Position: Midfield
Club: Belfast Harlequins
Age: 28 Caps: 163
Occupation: Lawyer
A corporate lawyer in Belfast, she has come back from 18 months out with a cruciate knee injury in 2013. A tough, robust midfielder, she regained her spot in 2015. Her goal against India last summer earned Ireland their World Cup place. Another capped as a schoolgirl.

Ali Meeke

Ireland’s Ali Meeke in action against India. Photograph: Joe Toth/Inpho
Ireland’s Ali Meeke in action against India. Photograph: Joe Toth/Inpho

Position: Midfield
Club: Loreto
Age: 27 Caps: 117
Occupation: Coaching/S&C
An intelligent, tidy operator, who came from Dublin’s Corinthians HC, she can float between midfield and defence. Made her debut at 22 against India and was part of the group from the Rio qualifying campaign group who have clearly bounced back this year.

Nicci Daly

Ireland’s Nicci Daly and Anna Toman of England in action. Photograph: Joe Toth/Inpho
Ireland’s Nicci Daly and Anna Toman of England in action. Photograph: Joe Toth/Inpho

Position: Midfield
Club: Loreto
Age: 30 Caps: 166
Occupation: Motor racing engineer
Great pace around the pitch and delightful stick work to match. A natural athlete, who never stops running, she previously played for the Dublin football team and is a niece to former F1 racing driver Derek Daly. Overcame a foot injury to make the squad.

Nikki Evans

Ireland’s Nikki Evans in action against India’s Nikki Pradhan. Photograph: Joe Toth/Inpho
Ireland’s Nikki Evans in action against India’s Nikki Pradhan. Photograph: Joe Toth/Inpho

Position: Forward
Club: UHC Hamburg
Age: 28 Caps: 166
Occupation: Lawyer
The lawyer has taken a year out to play with UHC Hamburg in Germany, where she will return to work and play after London. A great athlete and high work rate makes her an always busy player in the forward line and leading the press. Has 36 goals.

Katie Mullan

Ireland’s Katie Mullan in action against India. Photograph: Joe Toth/Inpho
Ireland’s Katie Mullan in action against India. Photograph: Joe Toth/Inpho

Position: Forward/midfield
Club: UCD
Age: 24 Caps: 154
Occupation: Postgraduate Student
She successfully took over the captaincy after Frazer’s injuries kept her out of the team. Natural aggression and a strong competitive streak, the former camogie player with Coleraine’s Eoghan Rua is now studying for a Masters in biomechanical engineering in UCD.

Anna O’Flanagan

Anna O’Flanagan celebrates scoring against India. Photograph: Christopher Lee/Getty Images
Anna O’Flanagan celebrates scoring against India. Photograph: Christopher Lee/Getty Images

Position: Forward
Club: Pinoké, Netherlands
Age: 28 Caps: 171
Occupation: Lawyer
After her winning deflection against India she is on 64 goals and one of Ireland’s most prolific scorers with almost a goal every three games. Running out on defensive corners, where she takes the ‘body line’ on the drag flick has been as brave as it is effective in Ireland’s progress.

Deirdre Duke

Ireland’s Deirdre Duke scores a goal in the game against the USA. Photograph: Steven Paston/PA Wire
Ireland’s Deirdre Duke scores a goal in the game against the USA. Photograph: Steven Paston/PA Wire

Position: Forward
Club: UCD
Age: 26 Caps: 106
Occupation: Lawyer
The UCD captain was out with a shoulder injury in 2017. Prior to that she played with the Huskies in Boston before leading UCD to Irish Cup and league success in recent seasons. A quality athlete, she also played with the Irish soccer and Dublin underage teams.

Graham Shaw (Coach)

Ireland coach Graham Shaw on the sidelines during the India game. Photograph: Joe Toth/Inpho
Ireland coach Graham Shaw on the sidelines during the India game. Photograph: Joe Toth/Inpho

The Irish coach grew up on hockey, GAA and soccer. He played alongside childhood friend Damien Duff at Lourdes Celtic and Dublin’s Collie Moran before concentrating on hockey. In 2010 he famously coached Loreto to the Irish Senior Cup title and won the men’s title playing with Glenanne the same day. Has 151 Irish caps.

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