Next in our Belfield to Tokyo series, Christine Coffey breaks down the journey of UCD current and former students on Team Ireland’s Women’s Hockey team on their way to this summer’s Olympics.
The Women’s Hockey Team burst onto the Irish screens during the 2018 World Cup, arriving in London as rank outsiders and returning to Dublin with silver medals and the attention of the nation. With the increased following, Donnybrook was packed in support of the ‘Girls in Green’ for both nights of the two-legged Olympic qualifiers against Canada, despite some terrible weather conditions. After two scoreless draws in as many days, the team were in familiar penalty shoot-out situation, where the calm assuredness of goalkeeper Ayeisha McFerran and midfielder Chloe Watkins were key to the Irish victory. 8 current or former UCD students are part of the squad travelling to Tokyo. After a devastating 1-0 loss to India in their last group game, the Girls in Green have it all to do against reigning Olympic champions Team GB in their final group game if they are to progress to the next stages of the competition.
UCD student Michelle Carey travels to the Games as a P-Accredited reserve after winning the Irish Senior Cup with UCD in 2020 against Belfast side Pegasus. Michelle is currently studying Biomedical Engineering in UCD. Carey comes from a Gaelic football background, and having represented Dublin at underage levels, turned her focus to hockey and was part of the Irish squad for the series of games against Spain in January and the recent EuroHockey Championships. Unlike many of her fellow teammates, the Dublin midfielder didn’t go through the schools’ hockey pathway, instead playing camogie and football in her time at Coláiste Íosagáin and hockey with Sandymount-based club Railway Union.
Captain Katie Mullan quickly became a household name after the success of the World Cup in 2018. Mullen was part of the 2010 Youth Olympic Games squad and represented Ireland at underage level, before making her senior debut back in 2012. The 27-year-old has been a prominent feature of the side ever since and earned her 200th cap for the senior team in the second of those Olympics. The Derry native now plays her club hockey for Antrim side Ballymoney but won no less than 3 Irish Hockey League titles (2013–14, 2016–17 and 2017–18) during her time with UCD, along with 3 Irish Senior Cups (2014, 2017, 2018). In her days as an Eoghan Rua camogie player, Mullen enjoyed much success, including Derry senior championship final wins (2013, 2014) over Slaughtneil, a club that need no introduction in camogie circles given their recent All-Ireland successes. Hockey was not her only pursuit in UCD, as the Ad Astra athlete balanced sports with her studies in engineering, before pursing work in that field.
Defender Lena Tice not only has over 100 international caps in Hockey to her name, but represented Ireland 60 times in cricket, having made her debut in at just 13 years of age before her hockey bow in 2016. The Wicklow native won the Leinster Senior Cup with her school, St. Gerard’s, and then went on to win the Irish Hockey league and Irish Hockey Cup with UCD in 2016/17 and 2017/18. The multi-sport star has juggled international commitments with spells in the Australian and New Zealand Hockey Leagues over the last few seasons and was part of the Irish squad in the 2018 World Cup.
UCD student McLoughlin made her senior international debut in 2018 and was part of the EuroHockey Championships squad earlier this year. She is a strong distributor of the ball and an assured young defender, having represented Ireland at underage level and won the EY Champions Trophy with Loreto. The 22-year-old played a key role in UCD’s Senior Cup final last year, balancing on-field pursuits with Economics & Finance studies.
You can’t move for hockey stars in the Watkins household. The Monkstown flier played her Schools hockey in St. Andrew’s College, where she won her first Leinster Senior Cup at just 13 in 2006, then again in 2009, before captaining the side to victory in 2010 and adding the Kate Russell All-Ireland Schoolgirls Championships in the same year. Watkins also won the All-Ireland Ladies' Club Championships with Hermes before the move to UCD, where she won the Irish Senior Cup (2011-12). The BComm International student made full use of her Erasmus in Spain, linking up with Club de Campo de Madrid, with whom she won Division de Honor Femenina and Copa de la Reina (League and Cup double), before returning to Hermes-Monkstown to win the Irish Hockey League.
Another season abroad playing with HC Bloemendaal in the Netherlands culminated with winning the Gold Cup, before playing a key role in Ireland’s World Cup run in 2018 and Olympic Qualification for Tokyo. Watkins has shown a cool head in the many important shoot-out situations Ireland have found themselves in over the past few years and has shouldered the responsibility in high-pressure moments for the side.
With more than 80 goals in over 200 games, Muckross Park College’s O’Flanagan is a key part of this Irish side and contributes important goals at crucial moments for the team. Incidentally, O’Flanagan has shared the pitch with teammate Watkins for a lot of her career, including the All-Ireland Ladies' Club Championships with Hermes, the Irish Senior Cup in 2012 with UCD, the Irish Hockey League title and the EY Champions Trophy in 2015 with Hermes-Monkstown, the Gold Cup win with HC Bloemendaal in the Netherlands and various international ocompetitions and matches. O’Flanagan also won the Irish Senior Cup and Irish Hockey League in 2014 with UCD, where she studied Law and Economics.
Duke attended Alexandra College, where she won the Leinster Schools Senior Cup in 2011. She also represented Dublin at underage level, as well as playing for the Republic of Ireland U-17 team during her school teams. The Law with Social Justice student had a very successful UCD career, winning the Irish Senior Cup (2012, 2014, 2017, 2018) the Irish Hockey League (2014, 2017, 2018) and the EY Champions Trophy (2017), and captaining the side in 2016-17 and 2017-18 seasons.
The 29-year-old, like many of her teammates, has played for brief spells abroad, including the Northeastern Huskies in America and Düsseldorf in Germany. Like O’Flanagan, Duke stepped up to the mark when it mattered the most in the 2018 world cup run and will be looking to do the same in Tokyo this year.
McAuley attended Muckross Park for her secondary school education, where she won the 2017 Leinster Schoolgirls Senior Cup. The Social Policy and Sociology Student in UCD continues her club hockey with Muckross, and previously played with Avoca. McAuley is an assured defender and a key member of the team. The 19-year-old was part of the EuroHockey Championships squad last month and played in the series of games against GB in Queen’s earlier this year.
Results So Far
Ireland 2-0 South Africa
Ireland 0-4 The Netherlands
Ireland 2-4 Germany
Ireland 0-1 India
Remaining Pool Fixtures
Ireland vs Great Britain 12.45 (Irish Time) Sat 31st of July.