Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 16 April 2014

Women's Hockey: All work and no play for Linda

Ireland captain Linda Caulfield last night hinted that the huge commitment required at international level prompted her decision to retire from the big stage after 151 caps for her country.

Her loss will be a big blow as Ireland prepare for next year's Olympic qualifying tournament in Canada which they will have to win to book their tickets to Beijing.

National coach Gene Muller will obviously be hoping that there are no further withdrawals from his panel which is basically a young one as seems to be the trend in Irish hockey these days.

Caulfield was one of the most experienced players in the squad yet has stepped down from the international arena at the age of 27.

Talking about her decision, she hinted that the demands on her time, like many of the other players, was instrumental in making it.

"There is a huge demand on players to increase their time on the pitch and the intensity of training as we compete at the highest level against semi professional teams," she said.

"It is excellent to see players committing more time to training as it is the only way we will enter the top 12 in the world.

"However it is very difficult to commit to the training schedule along with the demands of work.

"I have reached a point where I can no longer manage to do both at 100 percent so, unfortunately, something had to give."

At domestic level, the semi final line up for the Winemark Ulster Shield was decided at the weekend with three teams booking their places in the last four, just as they had done 12 months ago.

Holders Randalstown edged out Harlequins on goal difference after beating Ballymena 4-0 and they will be joined in the draw by Ballymoney, Armagh and Pegasus.

The latter missed out last time when they fell to a surprise defeat against Randalstown and they have qualified for the semis at Ards' expense, after the County Down outfit did so last season.

Ballymoney came from behind to beat Knock 4-2 while Armagh progressed with a 100 per cent record after trouncing Civil Service 7-0 at Stormont.

The Group A contest was the closest by far as Belfast Harlequins missed out by a single goal on goal difference despite beating Priorians 10-2 at Deramore.