Hockey girls worse off than footballers, says Shirley
Ireland's most capped sportswoman Shirley McCay says that while she sympathises with the plight of her counterparts on the Republic's football squad, international hockey players are considerably worse off.
In a much-publicised move, members of the Republic's senior women's squad aired their grievances about pay and conditions at a press conference last week although the matter has since been resolved after mediation talks with the footballing authorities in the south.
However, Ulster Elks player-coach McCay points out that her team-mates on the Ireland hockey team can only dream about receiving remuneration for their efforts on and off the pitch and, in fact, they have to pay to play.
Every member of the squad has to fork out an annual levy of around £500 just for the privilege of representing their country and, when time off work for those who are in employment is factored into the equation, the outlay is considerably higher.
"From January to September alone this year, the women's hockey squad is being asked to take 65 days off work which is usually taken as unpaid leave," explains McCay, who has 231 caps to her name already and will add to that this week in Germany.
"This is pretty much the equivalent of a 25 per cent reduction in wages, plus our levy costs.
"I think the women's football team deserve answers and support, but I don't think they are alone in terms of the financial sacrifices - in fact there are a lot of female athletes a whole lot worse off."
It has certainly been a busy year for Ireland hockey - already they have won the World League 2 series and now the build-up has started for the next stage of the World Cup qualifying process taking place in the summer followed by the EuroHockey Championship in August.
The squad continue their preparations for July's World League 3 series in Johannesburg over the next couple of days when they face Olympic bronze medallists Germany in two internationals being staged in Dusseldorf.
McCay is one of three Ulster players in the squad, with Katie Mullan of UCD and Zoe Wilson also included while Megan Frazer and Chloe Brown weren't considered due to injury.
Wilson plays her hockey in Germany with Harvesthuder and so is familiar with the opposition and she is well aware of the task that lies ahead.
"They are two big games that I am looking forward to and I know from playing in the Bundesliga, the Germany team have a lot of talented forwards," said the 19-year-old.
"With them being Olympic bronze medallists, it will be a huge challenge for us but also gives us a good opportunity to see just exactly where we are as a team.
"I am really enjoying playing in Hamburg and although a place in the play-offs is out of reach for us as a team, I feel that my exposure to a different style of hockey has been very beneficial," she added.
"We are training four or five times per week, a combination of conditioning and pitch sessions, so it will be good to still be playing competitive league hockey into May ahead of a busy summer with Ireland."
Ironically the Irish girls will end up facing Germany in the World League series in Johannesburg as they have been drawn in the same pool - but this two-game series was arranged well before the world's governing body had confirmed which teams were going to South Africa and which to London.
WOMEN’S SENIOR FIXTURES
TONIGHT: International: Germany v Ireland (Dusseldorf, 5.30pm UK time)
President’s Cup semi-final: Randalstown v Dungannon (Antrim Forum, 8pm)
TOMORROW: International: Germany v Ireland (Dusseldorf, 2.30pm)
International Series (St Andrew’s): Ireland U16 v USA U17
FRIDAY: International Series (St Andrew’s): Ireland U16 v USA U17
SUNDAY: International Series (St Gerard’s): Ireland U16 v USA U17.