Monday, June 24, 2024

‘Outstanding’: Scottish Hockey GK Amy Gibson hangs up pads

Amy Gibson stared out the Spanish player about to take a penalty stroke in the dying seconds of Scotland’s tense clash in the European A Division in Monchengladbach, Germany, last summer.

Seconds later, she was engulfed by jubilant team-mates after saving the penalty stroke to confirm Scotland as winners in a 2-1 game.It turned out to be her last action for the Tartan Hearts.

Dumbarton-born Gibson has hung up her goalkeeping pads after 134 caps and 15 years on the international scene and the 35-year-old admitted: “It feels like a good time to retire. Now is the time for me to move on and cheer the team as a fan.”

Gibson earned her first cap in 2008 aged 19 in the snow in Germany. The Scots all had blankets at the side of the pitch and the Germans played in trousers, Gibson recalled.

She felt destined to be a goalkeeper as she possessed a top with former Scotland and Aberdeen goalkeeper Jim Leighton’s name on the back as a child.

Gibson’s first tournament was in the Champion’s Challenge in Dublin. She said: “Gordon Shepherd was the coach and it had been decided beforehand that I’d play two of the games – a group game and a knockout game. I played against the USA and my heart rate monitor went through the roof.

“It was another awesome experience. We won the bronze medal, which was incredible. It wasn’t normal for us to win something like that. The whole experience drove me on to try and become No 1. That brought pressure, but when you’re young, the pressure doesn’t feel like it does when you’re older.”

Glasgow 2014 saw Gibson play in her first Commonwealth Games having been a travelling reserve for the previous Games in Delhi. The hockey in Glasgow was frustrating and it ended badly as she finished with an MCL injury. 

Gibson always wanted to playing for GB and it happened. She said: “Working with Maddie Hinch who was wonderful. It was thrilling to be there, and I learned a lot.”

She played in the 2018 Commonwealth Games in the Gold Coast, her favourite Games. She said: “The weather and the vibes. The women’s and men’s teams grew up together and there was a good bond between the squads.”

Gold Coast was quickly followed by another home tournament when Women’s EuroHockey Championship II came to Glasgow. She said: “Winning the tournament was incredible, I’ll never forget it.”

Amy Gibson lines up for Scotland PIC: Nigel Duncan

Covid struck and Gibson was stuck in Germany. The Scots were given approval to compete at the EuroHockey Championships in Amsterdam, and when the squad met up in the Netherlands it was the first time Gibson had seen her teammates since before the pandemic. 

She explained, “I drove to Amsterdam from Hamburg and there were new players in the team that I’d never actually met before. We just stepped out onto the pitch and got on with it, though it didn’t help that we were up against the Dutch.”

Amy’s final Commonwealth Games arrived the following year when Birmingham 2022 and Scotland women finished up sixth after some fantastic performances.

Looking back, Gibson said, “I knew it was going to be my last Commonwealth Games, and I also knew it was possibly my last matches for Scotland. I ended up not retiring but the awareness that it was probably my last chance to do something in the Commonwealth Games was on my mind. 

“I felt a lot of pressure. We all knew we had the opportunity to achieve something, and, other than one game, we did really well.”

Gibson was glad she didn’t retire after Birmingham. The EuroHockey Championships in Monchengladbach saw her end her career with that outstanding performance in her final match for Scotland.

Gibson recalled: “She just stared into my eyes. So, I just stared into her soul. To beat a top ten nation in Spain was incredible and shows what we can do.

“It was a shame that we had a couple of poor performances earlier in the tournament, which cost us. In the end, we were so happy to win that last game, and I think it sets the team up for the qualifiers and a chance to go back to the A Division.”

Chris Duncan, Scotland’s women’s head coach, said, “When you reflect upon the international career of Amy Gibson, there are not enough superlatives to do justice to her impact. 

“Her personality, humour, passion and performance have been quite simply exceptional. Her knowledge and hunger to learn more about the game, the ability to drive others to demand better on the training pitch, to her cheeky grin after pulling off another ridiculous save are characteristics which made her one of the best goalkeepers of her generation.

In a career spanning an incredible 14 years, three Commonwealth Games, five EuroHockey Championships, she became a leading member of the national side. She was also goalkeeper of the tournament in the victorious home side in 2019 in Glasgow, as Scotland secured EuroHockey B Division victory in front of a sell-out crowd at Glasgow Green and captained Scotland against France in summer 2023.

Duncan added: “She was vice-captain of Scotland through her final tournament and, in true Amy Gibson style, ended on a quite simply out of this world performance against Spain in her final game.

Amy Gibson produced several memorable matches for Scotland women PIC: WORLDSPORTPICS ADY KERRY

“She kept Spain at bay with save after save, alongside a masterclass of penalty corner defensive calls, and saved a last gasp penalty stroke to secure an historic victory for Scotland against a top ten side in tournament competition.

“Amy has been an outstanding performer, passionate leader, standard setter, and confidante to many, but above all, represented Scotland with pride and a desire to constantly improve. 

“We will miss her greatly in the group but know that she has set the standard for others to follow and wish Amy all the luck in the world in her future career.”

Total Hockey

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