Wednesday, December 6, 2023

Ground-breaker Shirley McCay calls time on Ireland hockey career

Ireland’s Shirley McCay has ended her international career following a brilliant 14-year spell with the Green Army.

Debuting in 2007, the defender went on to play 316 times, a caps record for both hockey and for sportswomen in general in Ireland.

She said: “To every team mate I have ever had the pleasure of playing with, thanks for putting up with me. It has been an honour.

“I am indebted to a few people who without their support I wouldn’t be where I am today. My friends, family and loved ones, thanks for putting up with me being grumpy and rarely being around.”

From 2005, she played for numerous clubs including Omagh, Randalstown, Ulster Elks – winning two Irish Senior Cup crowns – KHC Dragons in Belgium, Old Alex and then to Pegasus where she became an EY Champions Trophy winner.

She debuted for Ireland aged 18 for a series in Stellenbosch. Since then, she has been virtually ever-present, missing just 37 of Ireland’s capped games in over 14 years.

Shirley McCay at Energia Park, Donnybrook PIC: ©INPHO/Morgan Treacy

“Another eye-opener was playing Argentina in Parana [in 2011] and about 10,000 people must have shown up and gave us an incredible reception,” she said on Thursday. “It’s things like that which stay with you, not always the big results but those amazing moments.”

McKay’s longevity was rewarded in 2018 when Ireland finished with their breakthrough World Cup silver in 2018, having nearly retired from the sport before the tournament.

“With the silver medal, it gave us a much better ranking and a chance to qualify for the Olympics,” she said. “I did not want to leave with any regrets for me or the team having come so far.”

Shirley McCay during the 2020 Olympic qualifiers PIC: ©INPHO/Morgan Treacy

She now aims to guide the next generation of stars through her work as an Ulster Hockey performance coach.

She added: “I am really looking forward to going all-in, committing to the job and making a difference, helping Ulster’s young talent develop and play to their potential.”

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