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Legend Boyles centre stage

By John Flack

Pegasus stars Arlene Boyles and Claire McMahon are all set to pull on the green shirt of Ireland again this weekend ... but current national coach Darren Smith has no reason to be excited at the prospect.

Both women retired from international hockey several years ago but will be turning the clock back for a one-off occasion at Queen's on Saturday.

The match is hockey's equivalent of a testimonial for Boyles who hung up her stick after 25 years as a Pegasus player at the end of last season and her close friend McMahon, who was the brains behind the idea, is considering following suit.

Former Ireland winger McMahon has had a terrific response from many of her ex-international team-mates for the game with Pegasus who have been excused from their Ulster Shield commitments with their encounter with Lisnagarvey being switched to Friday night.

McMahon is still undecided as to whether she will join Boyles in retiring from club hockey but she will sit out the first few weeks of the new season while she considers her options.

However, both her and Arlene are eagerly looking forward to pulling on the green shirt once again albeit for the very last time.

"I'm utterly in the dark about this," admitted Arlene. "Claire has a habit of keeping things close to her chest!

"But it's a really lovely idea and coming from my best friend.

"I never like being the centre of attraction, but will feel confident with so many friends around me. It's lovely to celebrate my career and I'm looking forward to a few drinks and some craic with past and present colleagues and past and present adversaries."

Claire explains why she decided to arrange such a match.

"Arlene has been such a great servant for both club and country that I thought it was only right and proper that we should celebrate her career in such a manner," said McMahon.

"Alison Vance, who still plays veterans hockey for Ireland, will be keeping goal and girls like Jenny Burke, Rachael Kohler, Karen Bateman and possibly Nikki Symmons will be travelling up from Leinster and Munster to take part.

"Jeanette Gordon, Jill Orbinson and Katharine Maybin will also be playing alongside Arlene and myself and possibly Pamela Magill if Pegasus release her!

"We have the pitch at Queen's booked from 4pm until 6pm but I am not sure if many of us will last the full 70 minutes, so the game might be a bit shorter and then we will head out for a bite to eat and a bit of craic."

Whether the Boyles 'testimonial' whets McMahon's appetite enough for another season with Pegasus remains to be seen as she will take time out to consider her options.

"I haven't trained at all yet and, apart from Saturday's game, I am going to take a break this month with the aim of making a decision in October," she says.

"I will be 38 in November and sometimes I think I should be at home putting the slippers on at my age.

"But if I do go back to train then you can rest assured I will play – with me it has always been all or nothing, so it wouldn't be a matter of picking and choosing games or anything like that."

Pegasus have signed two youngsters in Hannah Grieve (ex Armagh) and Robyn Chambers (Ballymoney) ... and it's no coincidence that they favour the positions occupied by Boyles and McMahon as the Premier League champions look to the future.

Belfast Telegraph


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