Ronan Gormley credited with changing attitude for men’s hockey
Former international defender on scoresheet in special challenge match
Ronan Gormley played 256 times for Ireland, captaining the side 121 times. Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho
Irish hockey came together at Serpentine Avenue on Saturday to pay tribute to one of the true greats of the modern era, Ronan Gormley, and celebrate his incredible career.
In total, he played 256 times for Ireland, captaining the side 121 times, with former coaches Paul Revington and Dave Passmore both heralding Gormley as the key instigator in changing the attitude of the national team to an elite sporting proposition.
Around a dozen Olympians and a cast list of 22 internationals – totalling a cumulative tally of well over 1,500 caps – lined out for a special challenge match on Saturday between a Pembroke XI and an Irish XI.
Gormley struck a rare goal with two minutes to go for the Pembroke side, sneaking a shot past Nigel Henderson, drawing the biggest cheer from an enjoyable 4-3 romp for the green shirts.
For the defensive stalwart famed for his man-marking, the open nature of the tie may not have been in keeping with his gritty style but was a fine spectacle to honour a great player, followed up by a dinner for well over 100 in the compact clubhouse hall.
So often, the sport’s big names have not been given a suitable send-off on retirement. John Jermyn’s testimonial in Garryduff last summer, though, set a template and this occasion shows the value for clubs to show their respect to their heroes.
When he made his debut in 2004, the Cork-born defender joined a side ranked outside the world’s top 20. By the end – formally announced last September – the side was ninth with a first Olympic qualification achieved in over a century to go with a first ever European bronze medal in 2015.
Passmore described Gormley as “the cultural architect” among the players in changing their approach and outlook.
“When I arrived in Ireland in 2004 we felt a bit like a pub team and one lacking direction and belief,” Passmore said in his tribute to Gormley. “We needed good young role models who would push the existing group of players (and eventually push them out), drive the standards required to progress on the international stage.
“I remember people laughing at me when I said we had the potential to be a top 12 team and I am sure many of the older players still felt that so it was the younger guys like Ronan, David Harte and co that we needed to take on board the standards, attention to detail and through hard work, build the confidence that we could break the mould.