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Mum's the word as Jenny juggles Harlequins' IHL hockey and motherhood

 

By John Flack

Sleepless nights haven't deterred former Irish international Jenny McAuley from playing a key role in Belfast Harlequins' revival this season after they narrowly avoided relegation from the Irish Hockey League on their debut in the competition.

McAuley came out of retirement, just four months after giving birth to her second child, and has scored twice in her team's last three outings.

The 36-year-old says she is enjoying her new lease of life, despite having to combine parenthood with the rigours of training and playing in the top-flight.

McAuley retired from international hockey in 2011 after amassing 117 caps since making her debut back in 2001.

She returned to the south Belfast club's junior ranks after giving birth to Rebecca, who is now four-and-a-half.

When baby Matthew came along five months ago, few people outside of the club would have expected her to make a comeback to the first XI.

"I'm enjoying playing and it has been nice to score some goals, although it's not without its challenges," she said.

"The sleepless nights don't make for ideal match preparation but it's lovely to see my kids at the side of the pitch cheering me on and hopefully I'm setting a good example for them.

"With it being my first year playing in the IHL, I'm finding it very physically demanding, as all the games are so fast-paced."

McAuley isn't the only star player in Harlequins' ranks as she is joined in the squad by current internationals Zoe Wilson, Lizzie Colvin along with previously-capped Gemma Frazer and Robyn Chambers.

The club's new signings have boosted Quins' chances of achieving their objective of a place in the end-of season play-offs and they are currently sixth in the table with a game in hand.

At the weekend, they were just two minutes away from inflicting a first defeat on then leaders Cork Harlequins, following a battling 3-2 loss against Railway Union the previous day.

On Sunday they continue their campaign at home to struggling Trinity, who are finding life tough in their debut season in the competition.

"The double-header at the weekend was tough and we were disappointed to come out with just one point," McAuley added.

"Sunday's game against Trinity is a great opportunity for us to get three more points on the board and maintain our unbeaten home record.

"However, we cannot underestimate them.

McAuley believes that Quins' new-found strength in depth will stand to them as they bid to climb up the ladder.

"Lizzie and Zoe have brought so much experience and they are raising the tempo both in training and on the pitch," she said.

In Sunday's other games, Ards and Pegasus, both just two points behind leaders UCD, hope to continue their winning ways.

Ards host Loreto while Pegasus should inflict more misery on Monkstown, who have still to get off the mark.

In the top Ulster Premier League game, leaders Ballymoney should have too much fire-power for Rainey while the Senior Cup finalists will be determined at Stormont when Lisnagarvey take on Victorians (1pm) and Ballymena face Raphoe (3pm).

Belfast Telegraph

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