Senior Girls Hockey Tour 2017


The squad of girls, 20 in all, assembled early but not so bright on Thursday morning last week to begin the Senior Girls Hockey Tour. Well two of the squad didn't actually make the start time head girl Lauren and ‘deputy dog’ Olivia. They paid the penalty by being in charge of the not so light stick bag all the way to Hamburger Polo Club for the first training session. Lauren inadvertently had a second forfeit when she tipped her coffee and christened her lovely white sweatshirt!

All the girls would have had experience of playing in Europe having toured Amsterdam and Barcelona but Germany was a whole new venture for a sports tour from Friends’. After the morning training session and a welcome from host Toby, the girls were treated to a nourishing meal at the Polo Club, set in the most prestigious area of Hamburg. The match was scheduled at 6.30 against TTK Sachsenwald HC U17 team. From the warm up the Friends’ could see the very high standard of ball skills and shooting. Cara McEwen would be busy!! Under pressure from the whistle, Friends weathered the storm and then shocked their opponents when from, an attack which started from a left defensive position resulted in Rachel Kennedy running on to a through ball which she then crashed into the bottom left corner. The dominance of Rachel Barnes at the heart of the Friends defence allowed the girls to hold the scoreline at 1-0 for the first quarter.

The coach’s words clearly jolted TTK into action. Stepping up a gear, they soon equalized - a point blank shot which gave GK Cara McEwen no chance. Despite a second goal shortly afterwards, Friends’ steadied and held the 2-1 score line until the final ¼. Coaches Mrs Rodgers and Mrs Kirkpatrick had given every one of the 19 outfield players pitch time. Only in the final 15 minutes did the pressure on the Friends’ defensive circle tell when TTK slotted in 4 more goals, the most spectacular being a drag flick into the top righthand corner. The final score of 6-1 did not reflect the amount of possession Friends’ girls had in a fast-flowing game, more the taking of chances in the circle. A lesson learnt. Not surprising Cara McEwen was player of the match with the most touches on the ball!!

The tour squad were again treated to an after-match meal where they had the opportunity to mix and chat with their opponents all of whom spoke excellent English! Sorry Mrs Barron!

“Sprechen nicht deutsche”.

 After a long day which had begun at 4am the girls reached their hotel and a very welcome bed. It was up again the next morning and back to the Polo Club grounds, this time the session was taking by more attractive and male coaches. Pau and Bart were Austrian international players who like a number of Irish players move over to Germany to improve their skills in the Bundeslig. Conditions at the pitch were excellent for the squad to practice the 3D and shooting techniques led by the guys.

The main training was however of the retail kind as the party launched into the shops in the centre of Hamburg. As usual McDonald, Subway and Dunkin Donuts took an immediate hit although a few took the healthier option. Two hours later with some hefty shopping bags (furry coats or dressing gowns, as Mrs Kirkpatrick observed! were the rage, started by Rachel Geddis) It was then back to the Club to face hosts Hamburger Polo HC U18’s.

Friends’ got off to a flying start when Rachel Geddis scored from a well struck penalty corner. This was followed with a great 2nd goal set up by Erin Aiken. Her precision pass found Kate Gourley who rifled the ball home. Hambuger replied to leave the half time score 2-1. The best goal of the tour came next when Kate Hamill drove out of defence and in a flowing move found Jessica Sandford who then slipped the ball to Erin. With screams from you know who in the dugout to pass and beat the keeper 2 on 1, Erin simply ignored the advice and roofed the ball into the net herself!

In the last ¼ the retail therapy told, as the squad tired and allowed Hamburger to score twice and finish the game with a 3-3 draw. However, such was the enthusiasm, Hamburger asked for an extension to the game and the girls played on for another 15 mins.

By the time another great meal was finished at the Club house the Friends’ contingent was running a little late! Things then went from bad to worse for the already humpy driver, when a squeaky voice from the back said “I left my phone at the pitch”. Rachel Geddis was then treated to a running session led by CK back to the pitch. All was good, if not sweaty, when the phone was retrieved and the group headed back to the hotel.

The next morning and early afternoon was spent relaxing on a bus tour of the city. Patrick the driver from the night before softened as he was treated, whether he liked it or not, to a chorus of the tour spotify collection from the back of the bus. Brigette the guide, joined the bus on the edge of the city which had been built on reclaimed land. She explained how important Hamburg was as a port for not for all of Germany but many of the neighbouring countries; how, the Speicherstadt, where historic red brick warehouses hover above the water on stilts, were now used for housing…. There were plans for 15,000 more residents in the next few years with major rejuvenation of the buildings which had been warehouses for tea and coffee imported from India, South America and Asia. Not to be unkind Hamburg is no Amsterdam with its canals and architecture but it was nevertheless interesting and impressive as to how the infamous German engineering was holding back the floods which had devastated the city in the past. The bus stopped at the largest Lutheran church in Hamburg, St Michael’s, built in the baroque style and boasting 5 magnificent organs. This was followed by a walk down one of the oldest streets in Hamburg, Kramer Witwen-Wohnung, a tiny alleyway lined with small houses built for the widows of merchants in 1670. Another stop and the group exited the bus and travelled down the massive lift into the Elbtunnel, a small but impressive forerunner to the Eurotunnel. Again, impressive engineering.

The bus also travelled through the red light district, where like Amsterdam prostitution is legal and the narrow street where the Star Club once welcomed the Beatles. Then there were 5 members of the band even before the addition of Ringo Star when they were labelled the ‘Fab Four’. Who were the Beatles? Was heard from the back of the bus!!!! The bus tour ended, guess where…. In the best shopping area where more euros vacated purses.

The action-packed day finished with a trip to Grossflottbecker HC who were playing Harvestheuder HC. Again, everyone was met with friendly, welcoming faces and an invitation to be ball girls at the match. Green club T shirts were distributed so that they could be clearly identified. However, at the end of the match Mrs Kirkpatrick was on guard to make sure the t shirts were presented back to the club……. despite the best efforts of the helpers to slip out quietly whilst still wearing them! They did get a free ice-cream at least.

The last night, Saturday, was given over to enjoying the hotel pool followed by and evening meal and some chillax time.

Sunday, it was journey to the airport, flight back to Dublin and eventually home. Much was learnt from the tour in terms of hockey and sets both the the 1stXI and 2ndXI up well for the season. The tour had more than met expectation, Hamburg and Germany now comes highly recommended.

L Rodgers

Girls Hockey Report 2017-18

Over 40 Year 8 girls practised twice a week under the guidance of a team of coaches. The competitive season began with 8 a-side matches versus Wallace, Methody, Ballymena academy and Armagh Royal when everyone played. The girls then progressed rapidly to 11 –a-side with flair and skill. Talent is clearly evident at this level as the A squad finished runners up in the prestigious Grosvenor Tournament by the smallest of margins in March.

The U13’s coached by Mrs McQueen and Miss Adams played some great hockey throughout the season and continue to develop their potential. The A’s captained by Emma Knox and the B’s captained by Lucy worked with tremendous enthusiasm throughout the year. Along with the U12’s they can look forward to the Bi-annual tour to Holland in September.

The U14A’s captained by Ella Brown and Darcy McGall had high hopes for the Junior Cup. However, a nervous performance away to Cookstown resulted in a penalty shoot-out, which they narrowly lost.

They had a long wait for their Plate competition. Their first match against Grosvenor saw them return to winning ways with a 4-0 away win. However, in the next round versus Royal School Armagh they went in front only to be pegged back to a 1-1 draw and unfortunately were again on the wrong side of a penalty stroke competition.

The U14 BXI, captained by Kate Monaghan, had some convincing wins throughout the season and can feel pleased their progress. The girls cannot be faulted for their commitment to training and matches as there was a full turn out most days.

For the seniors, the early season training began in August in preparation for the senior tour to Hamburg in September, a new venue, for any Friends’ hockey squad. Our experience of excellent Dutch hospitality was easily matches by our German hosts. The Hamburg Polo Club could not have more welcoming. The high standard of hockey was the perfect start to what would be a truly successful season for Girls’ hockey and matched the accommodation, food and shopping.

Having reached the semi-final of the Super League last season, the aim was to go one step further at least. The campaign began well with wins over Regent House, Down High and an exciting high scoring match against Sullivan. 4-0 up at half time and playing superb passing hockey, swiftly changed to 4-3 until Jessica Sandford settled the win to make it 5-3. Despite a draw against Ballymena Academy, Friends’ topped their section to be awarded a quarter final against neighbours Wallace.

The match ended in a draw, but superior stroke taking by our girls and more importantly full length saves by Cara McEwen meant Friends’ had indeed reached another semi-final. Sadly, on that day the 1stXI were no match for Rainey Endowed losing 3-0, with the knowledge that they could be so much better.

The structure of the more prestigious Belfast Telegraph Senior Schools Cup is such that Friends’ were ranked in the top 8 and entered at the 3rd Round stage. This campaign began well with a 4-0 win over Coleraine Grammar to then be drawn in the quarter final against………… Wallace again for second consecutive season. It was a fast-flowing even encounter and with 6 minutes to go, Wallace appeared to have snatch the win. However, Friends’ kept their cool and two goals in two minutes by captain Rachel Barnes and Olivia Reid earned them a semi-final place, repeating the success of the 2015 squad.

As with that year Friends’ were drawn against the favourites and their opponents at the same stage in the Super League, Rainey. The preparation was good and armed with their’ red roses’ they took centre stage at Playball. Whilst the game went the same way as before the team lead by captain Rachel Barnes, who was majestic, put up a strong contest. No defence could have prevented the first goal, and with Friends’ effort hitting the post, the game was over when Rainey got the scrappy winner. Obviously disappointed, Friends’ could have done no more.

With the promotion of several players to the 1stXI, the 2nds had an altogether new look. Hannah Erskine who had made her way up from 2BXI proved to be a committed and worthy captain of a very young side. Their attitude and willingness in training from the outset paid dividends, meaning the 2nd XI began their McDowell Cup campaign, as an unbeaten team. 1st and 2nd round wins against Sullivan and Ballyclare HS drew them against local rivals, Friends’ found it hard to break down a resolute Wallace defence with the final score 2-1. Victoria College were the long-awaited semi-final opponents, with half term and snow playing their part. This proved to be the most competitive match of the campaign. It took superb performances from Thea Wilson and Hannah Erskine in midfield to lead the line. Friends’ finished much the stronger as they pressed in the latter stages, but Ella Agnew got the vital goal to seal the match victory.

If it wasn’t Wallace in the path of Friends’ cup runs this year it was Rainey, and so it proved for the 2ndXI. Confident after their Schools Cup victory, Rainey underestimated Friends’. With ‘yellow roses’ held high Hannah lead them onto the pitch. Playing the classy hockey with passing throughout the team Friends’ dominated the game. Penalty corners told, and Thea Wilson scored. However, the tactic of blasting balls into the circle in hope did pay off and Rainey evened the match. Undaunted, Friends’ launched attack after attack. A swift move down the right saw Ella cross the ball. In true ‘Aiken’ form Erin hit the ball on the half volley to score a magnificent goal, the winner.

This set the tone for what was the be an historic hockey week for Friends’. The 2BXI captained by Ella Hickland, began their Gibson Cup campaign scoring 16 goals as they swept aside Foyle College, Carrick Grammar and Methody B team to win their section. They defeated Methody A team 2-1 in the quarter final and a superb attacking display by Sarah Sandford saw them reach the final with a 3-1 win over Strathearn. Clutching their ‘white roses’, they confidently took to the field at Playball the day after the 2ndXI. The water-based pitch was to become a second home for Friends’. They dominated the game winning 2-0, Imogen Erskine got the first goal with a neat deflection on the back post and for the second goal again Sarah Sandford delighted the crowd with a mesmerising run for the winner. As the wonderful supporters, poster stated, ‘It is meant 2B’.

The 3rdXI, captained by Keri Anderson just missed out on qualification from the group stage of the Gibson Cup with wins over Larne Grammar and Lagan College. However, Ballymena Academy A team proved too strong. A loyal group of girls trained throughout the season, playing both midweek and on Saturday. The highlight was to come in the Helen Martin Trophy in their final match.

That left the Helen Martin Trophy. Split over 2 days due to the congested end of season success at Friends’ the six Junior teams played on Thursday. As a result of these six matches, Friends’ trailed by 11 points to 5. That meant the four senior teams required 3 wins and a draw. In Baltic conditions on Saturday the 1stXI began at Wallace and secured a draw. It was up to the others to gain the 9 points needed. Mr Moore was literally ‘on his bike’ peddling the track between the two schools keeping parents and players alike updated with the tally. A well deserved 3-1 win by the 2nds and 2-0 by the 2BXI meant it was up to the last game. Lead by Keri Anderson the 3rdXI came up trumps winning emphatically 5-0. Friends’ had retained the trophy for a 5th season in a row with a 15-12 points margin. As important was the camaraderie in which all games were played, credit must go to the staff and players of both schools.

At the end of the season the U12s and 13s travelled to Wesley College, this yearly event being the highlight for the younger girls. Over the two day they played matches against their hosts and Muckross. Friendships were rekindled and a festival of hockey was greatly enjoyed by all.

At representative level, Kate Hamill, Cara McEwen, Rachel Geddis, Rachel Kennedy and Cathy Fox were selected to train with the Ulster U18 Development Squad. Cara and Rachel Kennedy have played for Ulster at U18 and U16 respectively in the Inter Provincials in October. Cara and Rachel Geddis were then selected to play against an U18 England squad at Lilleshall. Following that Cara and Kate played against Wales in a series of matches representing Ulster U18 in late June. Rachel Geddis and Ella Agnew are reserves.

At Ulster U16 level Ella Brown and Darcy McGall were selected to play for an Ulster U16 squad in the Holland Elite Club competition in Schiedam. As a follow on to this they have again been selected to play for Ulster against Scotland in Glasgow in June.

Seven U13 players, Elsa McGall, Emma Fraser, Sophie Kidd, Charlotte Kennedy, Anna Sullivan, Anna White and Ella Latuske are currently training with an U13 TDS squad.

Thanks go to all the parents who supported throughout the year and coaches- ex players Beth Ravey and Sophie Glass, Hannah Grieve, new recruit Alana Doyle, Mrs McQueen and Ms McMillan, Mrs Kirkpatrick and Mrs Rodgers. New addition Miss Adams with one season one trophy, must realise 2017-18 has set the standard and the pressure is on!


L Rodgers