Sisters double up to do battle on unique occasion
The Irish Hockey League game today between Pegasus and Ards will feature a unique sister act with not just one but two sets of siblings in direct opposition in an important clash at the Dub.
Pegasus and Ireland player Michelle Harvey (27) will be up against her twin Kerry while Katie McKee (17) will face her older sister Lucy (21) who plays for Ards.
It will be the first time in the history of the all-Ireland league that twins will be on opposing sides and, in another unprecedented occurrence, the first time that two sets of sisters will play against each other in the same match.
Lucy returned home from university in England this season with a law degree and signed for Ards while Katie, who is a student at Banbridge Academy, joined Pegasus from Armagh in the summer.
Unlike the McKee sisters, the Harvey twins were team mates in their younger days, both at Strathearn school and at club level before Michelle left to play in Belgium a year after both picked up winners' medals with Pegasus at the 2011 Irish Cup final.
Normally, the respective mums and dads split their loyalties on a Saturday and make sure one or other is there to lend support to all four of their daughters although the McKee parents also like to follow their son Johnny, who plays for Banbridge, when logistics and the fixture-list permit.
However there will be a full compliment of four parents at Queen's University playing fields for today's historic encounter (4pm).
"It's nice that all our parents can support us at one venue rather than splitting their time between games and our mum and dad have emphasised that they are supporting both of us regardless of the outcome." Kerry explained.
"Whatever the result, mum and dad and both Michelle and I all agree that hockey and family will be the winner and it would also be nice if we both were to score on such an unusual occasion which will be repeated later in the season in the return fixture at Ards.
"We are both really looking forward to playing against each other and it should be even more interesting as it's the first time it will have happened.
"But setting aside the fact two sets of sisters are playing against each other, three points are very important to us and we are hoping to build on our last couple of performances and go into Christmas in a good position."
Kerry joined Ards from Pegasus two years ago after both started their club career at Victorians while Michelle, who has 139 Irish caps, is back home this season after three years playing as a professional with Leuven, near Brussels.
"It will be a real family affair as our cousin Sara Alexander plays with Kerry at Ards and there is a chance our 90-year-old granny might make an appearance so we won't be short of family support for this unique occasion," Michelle said.
"I am really enjoying my first experience of the IHL which definitely has improved the standard of club hockey in Ireland."
"I am nearly back to 100% fitness after being out for 10 months with an ankle injury and I've been learning to adapt with my new team mates as only a few girls remain from the last squad I played with at Pegasus.
"We got off to a good start but we had a bit of a lull for a couple of weeks due to inconsistency in our performances but a win would be ideal although Kerry would obviously not agree from an Ards perspective."
The Harveys come from a background that is steeped in sport as the girls' mum and dad, Margaret and Marcus, played hockey and rugby respectively at international level while their brother, Jason, has represented Northern Ireland at athletics.
The McKee sisters can also boast a rich sporting heritage and don't have to look too far for inspiration as their mum, Glenda, and dad, John, played senior international hockey for Ireland, earning a combined total of 170 caps.
Both girls look set to follow in their footsteps as Lucy has played for Ireland at Under 21 level and Katie is currently on the Irish U18 squad, having earlier captained the national U16 team.
The two girls say they are also looking forward to today's game immensely although, like the Harveys, securing the three points on offer will be the priority rather than the novelty of their personal head-to-head.
Lucy modestly pays tribute to her younger sister's ability and, should there be a direct confrontation between the two strikers, she will be wary of the threat posed by Katie.
"I'm looking forward to playing against Katie a lot, although she is very quick and has more pace than me so if I'm near her I will have to bear that in mind and do my best to stop her - within the rules, of course!" said Lucy.
"It will be good to have mum and dad along to watch us on the same day for once as mum usually gives Katie a lift to and from Pegasus games.
"Dad sometimes goes to see my brother Johnny playing for Banbridge but their game is on Sunday so he's free to go to our match. Mum and dad were very supportive of us when we started playing hockey and have been so ever since.
"There's been a lot of banter flying around the dinner table in the build-up to the game but I think mum and dad will attempt to stay neutral while they're watching."
Katie says she has a lot of admiration for her big sister - although that will be put on hold for 70 minutes this afternoon.
"I've watched her since I was very young when we played in our back garden and I always admired her goal scoring ability and tried to replicate that," she said.
"I'm really looking forward to playing against her as it's the first time it will have happened so it should be a good tussle and, hopefully, a Pegasus victory."