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Shirley McCay set to bow out with record caps haul

By John Flack

Shirley McCay has indicated that she will almost certainly retire from international hockey before the next Olympic qualifying cycle in four years' time.

The Ulster Elks midfielder won her 200th cap during the World League 3 tournament in Valencia last month when Ireland's chances of booking a ticket to Rio 2016 went up in smoke.

It was an agonising penalty shoot-out defeat by China in the quarter-finals that ultimately ended the dream and the girls in green were unable to recover from that blow and subsequently lost their last two matches to finish in eighth place overall.

"I have had nine years of wonderful opportunities and three Olympic qualifying tournaments that have ended in failure so it has been bittersweet," said the 27-year-old.

"Maybe, for me, that time has gone and I am not sure if I'd be able to deal with the devastation any more.

"It takes a huge commitment, physically and emotionally, to play (international) hockey and there would be no point in doing it half-heartedly.

"I never have and never would and now I have to decide whether I am willing to put the same commitment into the next four years or let someone else take my place."

McCay revealed how the painful circumstances of the defeat by China took its toll on the players who were devastated when the winning penalty was scored.

"It was so physically and mentally draining and really hard to get over and refocus for the next game against the United States." she said. "I think it was still in everybody's head and when we went 2-0 down in the first quarter it was always going to be an uphill task after that."

Meanwhile, McCay will overtake Nikki Symmons as Ireland's most capped sportswoman if she decides to stay on for the European Championship II tournament in Prague later this month.

She currently sits on 204 caps - just four short of the record set by the former Loreto player - and with five games to come at the Euros she is set to achieve the milestone in the Czech capital if she makes herself available.

Belfast Telegraph


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