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No home return for Katie due to indoor focus

By John Flack

Ballymoney's hopes of luring Ireland captain Katie Mullan back to the club where she started her hockey career have been dashed.

The Coleraine woman, who has signed a professional contract with German champions Club an der Alster, has broken with tradition by opting to also play indoor hockey for the Bundesliga outfit.

Normally, Irish players who move abroad concentrate solely on the outdoor version of the sport as the six-a-side code is relatively low-key back home.

Mullan's fellow Ulster women, Zoe Wilson and Megan Frazer, for example, return from Germany mid-season to play for Randalstown and Ulster Elks respectively when available, rather than try the indoor game when on the continent. The 24-year-old would, almost certainly, have played for Ballymoney in the Ulster Premier League, had she not decided to commit to a full season in Germany, rather than return home for the winter months.

Mullan would have been ineligible to line out for former club UCD because European Hockey Federation rules prohibit players from lining out for two top-flight clubs in the same season.

She explained: "I haven't played indoor much at all, so it will be a huge challenge for me to make the An der Alster team, who are the German champions indoors and outdoors.

"But I would like to try and take the opportunity of playing some indoor while in Germany, because I believe this can help my outdoor game.

"They also have a strong second string indoor team, so I hope to at least get some games for them."

Mullan, who led Ireland to silver medal glory at last month's World Cup in London, has made an early impact in Germany, scoring in her third outdoor game, after posting two assists in her first two outings.

She added: "I am settling in well. It is difficult with the language because I don't speak any German but most of my team mates have very good English which helps a lot."

Meanwhile, Ballymoney opened their Ulster Premier League campaign with a 3-0 win over newly promoted Ballymena on Saturday, with two goals from former international Nikki Parke and one from Ruth Sutherland.

The other top flight newcomers, Lisnagarvey, lost 3-1 to Dungannon at Comber Road while Randalstown and Rainey drew 1-1 at Antrim Forum. In the Ulster Senior Cup, there were opening wins for Omagh, Portadown and Raphoe. Omagh beat Senior One newcomers Coleraine 2-1, while the other promoted side, Castle, lost 3-0 to the Ports while Raphoe's Emma Harpur hit a hat-trick in the 5-0 victory over CI in Donegal.

Ulster Premier League: Ballymoney 3 (N Parke 2, R Sutherland) Ballymena 0; Lisnagarvey 1 (K McIlwaine) Dungannon 3 (K Cassells, J Hood, E Greenaway); Randalstown 1 (A Kerr) Rainey 1 (A Hegarty).

Ulster Senior Cup: Group A: Coleraine 1 Omagh 2 (A Buchanan, E Short); Group B: Portadown 3 (L Craig, A Black, C Dunn) Castle 0; Raphoe 5 (E Harpur 3, L Patterson 2) CI 0.

Irish Hockey Trophy 1st round (October 7): CI Ladies v Lisnagarvey, Ashton v Mossley, Raphoe v Rainey, NUIG v Castle, Avoca v North Kildare, Waterford v Weston, Belvedere v Clontarf, Kilkenny v YMCA. Byes: Mossley, Omagh, Portadown, Three Rock Rovers, Greenfields, Bray, Bandon, Our Lady's

Irish Hockey Challenge 1st round (October 20): NUIG II v Cookstown, Civil Service v Kilkenny II, Dromore v Athlone, Clonakilty v Clonmel, Mullingar v Tipperary, Botanic v Blackrock, Cork Wanderers v Greenfields. Bye: Kilkeel

Irish Junior Cup 1st round (October 20): Mossley v Cork Harlequins, UCC v Pegasus. Byes: Ballymoney, Lisnagarvey, Belfast Harlequins, Portadown, Ulster Elks, Ashton, Loreto, Monkstown, Muckross, Old Alex, Pembroke Wanderers, Railway Union, UCD, Trinity College

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