Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 17 September 2014

Biting Back: Why does Northern Ireland not have hockey team in the Games?

Heat is on: Ireland women's Alex Speers (right) battles it out with New Zealand pair Kayla Whitlock and Emily Naylor in Dublin
Heat is on: Ireland women's Alex Speers (right) battles it out with New Zealand pair Kayla Whitlock and Emily Naylor in Dublin

Who benefits from a 14-0 drubbing at any level in sport? That was my first thought watching New Zealand's women trounce Trinidad and Tobago 14-0 at the Commonwealth Games hockey over in Glasgow last Friday.

In sharp contrast, the match I watched immediately afterwards, a 2-0 win for South Africa over Canada, was possibly the finest exhibition of hockey I've ever witnessed. It was the standard we expected and had paid good money to see.

No disrespect, whatsoever, to the girls from the Caribbean but neither they nor the Games benefited from their demolition.

I came away thinking we could have put together a team from my club side, Ards, and given a better account of ourselves.

Which brings me to my second thought. Why do we not have Northern Ireland hockey teams, men and women, gracing the Games?

Players like Alex Speers, Megan Frazer, Eugene Magee and Peter Caruth would surely do them and us justice. Likewise the brilliant Rugby Sevens would surely be enhanced by the presence of Rory Best, Andrew Trimble, Chris Henry and co.

The old argument that rugby and hockey are All-Ireland governed sports, and therefore outside the Commonwealth umbrella, is negated by the similarly administered swimmers, boxers and others.

Status and protectionism might concern the rugby and hockey blazers but it does seem harsh not to relax the rules every four years. Last Friday, I saw 14 good reasons to allow the best of the best in all our sports the opportunity to parade their talent on the Games stage and further boost our medal hopes.

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