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Give us a job: Irish hockey heroines need help from work to reach Olympic Games

 

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Honoured: Ireland captain Katie Mullan (right) and most capped player Shirley McCay with Lord Mayor of Belfast Deirdre Hargey at a special reception for the team yesterday at City Hall

Honoured: Ireland captain Katie Mullan (right) and most capped player Shirley McCay with Lord Mayor of Belfast Deirdre Hargey at a special reception for the team yesterday at City Hall

Honoured: Ireland captain Katie Mullan (right) and most capped player Shirley McCay with Lord Mayor of Belfast Deirdre Hargey at a special reception for the team yesterday at City Hall

Ireland captain Katie Mullan has called on businesses around the country to consider employing international players to allow them to combine sport and work as they prepare for the Olympic qualifying campaign.

Mullan believes the relationship would be mutually beneficial if companies could be sympathetic to the huge commitment that will be involved.

In the build-up to the World Cup, for example, many of the Irish players who were in full-time employment had to take around 50 days off work to fulfil their commitments.

The national team played more than 20 matches ahead of the London showpiece, several of which took place outside Ireland, with trips to Spain and Germany.

Some players took unpaid leave or went part-time to commit fully to the preparations, while others took career breaks and gave up work completely.

Mullan is a case in point as she is now playing most of her hockey in Germany, having put her career on hold after graduating from UCD.

However, she is back home for a few weeks while the German season moves indoors and is eligible to play for Ballymoney, for whom she scored twice in Saturday's win over Lisnagarvey.

The 24-year old, who has been appointed as a Sport Northern Ireland 'Sport into Business' ambassador, is currently unable to fully commit to a first job with so much hockey ahead in the build-up to the Tokyo Olympics.

The Coleraine woman said: "As regards the Ireland captaincy, I'm just the lucky one who gets to wear the armband as it's such a team effort.

"There is an incredible leadership group and a vast amount of experience in the squad and we work really well together.

"I think that all of us have learned and developed valuable skills through our sporting journey that could be very useful in a lot of business environments.

"They might not be there for the same number of hours as other staff, but they would give you 110% when they are.

"It's about being able to find the balance that allows us to achieve in the sports field and in our jobs."

Belfast Harlequins midfielder Lizzie Colvin has become the latest player to pull out of an Ireland squad due to work commitments as she has had to withdraw from next week's five-day trip to Spain.

She also had to pull out of Ireland's European Championship trip to Amsterdam in the summer of 2017 for the same reason, as if to illustrate Mullan's point.

Meanwhile, Colvin's club will be in action tonight as they begin their Denman Ulster Shield campaign at Ballymoney.

Harlequins hope to have their other World Cup silver medallist, Zoe Wilson, back on board when they host Old Alex on Saturday after she missed the defeat to Loreto with a hamstring injury.

Pegasus should see off Muckross in Dublin while Ards will be aiming for a first win of the season when they host Railway.

In the IHL's second tier, Queen's will be out to make it four wins from four when they take on Corinthian, while Dungannon face their local rivals Lurgan.

Belfast Telegraph