Friday, June 14, 2024

‘An animating spectacle’: 125 years since first women’s hockey match

The Hockey Museum has unearthed newspaper reports to mark the 125th anniversary of the first ever women’s international hockey match.

The Ireland and England match in Dublin took place on March 2, 1896, the hosts running out 2-0 winners in front of 2,000 supporters.

“This match took place less than fifteen years after the formation of the first hockey club at Teddington and only one year after the first men’s international match,” The Hockey Museum revealed.

England women vs Ireland women, 2 March 1896 PIC: The Hockey Museum

“Perhaps more importantly, social opinion at the time considered women’s hockey, indeed women’s sport, to be unladylike! Contrast that with today when some one hundred nations are playing women’s hockey internationally.”

The match had been in the making for a year after the formation of the Irish Ladies Hockey Union in 1894.

However, Hockey Museum research showed that this game was almost the second in history after a match in Brighton one year earlier. Although it was publicised as an ‘international’ it was soon downgraded to ‘another match of interest’.

This was because the Irish team, although very competent, were in fact the Alexandra College team from Dublin, not a national team. Additionally, England had yet to form their national association so the England team had no official status.

The newspaper reports

The Irish Independent:
“There was little to choose between the teams, and though the combination of the Irish ladies was better than that of their opponents, and they had somewhat the better of the opening period, the English ladies pressed quite as much in the second half, and with better shooting they might have equalised.”

The Irish Times:
“When the teams took up their positions they made a pretty scene, the English players wearing red skirts and white bodices and caps, while their opponents were arrayed in green blouses and dresses of a similar but deeper hue, and as the colours mingled and co-mingled during the course of the match, the spectacle was quite animating, not to say charming.”

England women PIC: The Hockey Museum

The Daily Express:
“After the bully-off, lreland got down to the English line, and there was close work for a few minutes until the visitors brought the ball to centre along their left wing. Ireland returned to the pressure and Miss Johnson [disproved; correction: Obre] got a run to the circle where, after some scrummaging, she shot the first goal for Ireland a few minutes from the start.”

Ireland went on to score a second goal before half time.

“The visitors set about reducing the opponents’ advantage in determined style and, with the backs feeding the front division well, the latter made matters pretty warm for the Irish defence. Miss Martin in goal was equal to all the calls made upon her resources however and, after the Irish had conceded a corner of which nothing came, a penalty free gave them a much-needed relief.

“The English ladies attacked hotly and Miss Martin only Just managed to stop a fast shot sent … in the nick of time. A couple of corners gave England no material advantage and, after some give and take play, the Irish forwards, whose placing of the ball at this period was very good, gradually worked their way into the visitors’ circle. Miss Bell had an ineffectual shot at goal, following which Miss Robson raised the siege and the remainder of the play took place at midfield. Ireland thus won a meritorious victory, albeit they were hardly two scores the better side.”

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