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Dromore's young stars are set to go Dutch after sealing Irish title success

 

Big stage: Dromore’s Under-14 girls will represent Ireland at next year’s European Championship
Big stage: Dromore’s Under-14 girls will represent Ireland at next year’s European Championship

By John Flack

Dromore's Under-14 girls hockey team are looking forward to the trip of a lifetime next April after being crowned Irish champions for the first time at the weekend.

Their reward is a visit to Amsterdam over Easter when they will represent Ireland at the European Under-14 Championship against the top teams on the continent in their age-group.

Not only that but players and coaching staff will have a chance to watch some of the finest club sides in action at the top-tier of the men's and women's EuroHockey League, which will be running in tandem with the youth tournament.

Pegasus are among the teams taking part, so the All-Ireland women's champions will have their support base increased by the Dromore youngsters, who will be able to witness club hockey at its highest level when relaxing between their own games.

The Dutch showpiece will be staged over two days, first on a round-robin basis before a series of classification matches, with the top-two teams playing off for gold and the third and fourth for bronze.

Dromore were nominated by Ulster Hockey to represent the province in the All-Ireland series, which was held at University College Dublin on Sunday, and the team excelled themselves once again after winning the local Under-13 tournament for the past two years.

Their success is the culmination of several years of hard work by the club's volunteers, headed up junior coordinator Andrea Wilson.

On Sunday, Dromore opened with a 1-0 win over Connacht side Greenfields, thanks to a penalty corner conversion from Emma Frazer.

After a 0-0 draw with Dublin side Corinthian, everything rested on the final game of the day against Munster's Catholic Institute.

The Co Down girls trailed early on but Rebekah Baker scored a priceless equaliser in the second-half to secure the draw and the title.

Dromore coach Jonny McBride was immensely proud of his team's efforts in the face of tough opposition across the event.

He said: "The girls played with great skill and commitment throughout the tournament.

"Five schools from the local area were represented on the squad and they bonded together extremely well.

"The trip to Holland will be a great experience for the players and, for some of them, it will probably be the highlight of their hockey careers.

"To be able to take in some of the European games will also be a fantastic opportunity for them to see a terrific standard of hockey."

It is hoped that Dromore's Under-14s will go on to play club hockey for the first team in the years to come and plans are already afoot to blend them into the set-up.

McBride added: "We play in Senior One, and there is always the risk that the top players will go on and play at a higher level but, obviously, we want them to stay with Dromore.

"The plan will be to keep most of them together on the club's third XI when they reach 15 and after that promote them to the seconds and then, hopefully, they will graduate to the senior team."

Dromore Under-14 squad: Rebekah Baker, Charlotte Bradfield, Katie Bradshaw, Evie Callaghan, Danniella Crookshanks, Emma Frazer, Rebecca Glass, Mya Gray, Lottie Heggarty, Anna Hedley (vice-captain), Ellen Jack (vice-captain), Mariella Mackay, Eva McAlister, Katie McCullough, Leah Rodgers, Rebecca Walker, Pippa Wilson (captain), Ruby Wilson.

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