Stewart aims to go out with a bang

Colin Stewart leads his Hermes’ side into action for the last time this weekend as he looks to cap a glittering four year spell with a tenth trophy.

His team gets their EuroHockey Club Champion’s Trophy campaign underway this afternoon against Glasgow Western in Wettingen, Switzerland looking to maintain an incredible record in European competition for the Booterstown club.

In six European adventures, Hermes only finished outside the medals in their first attempt back in 1998.

Since then, victories in the B-division in Dublin (2005 Club Champions), Villafranca (2006 Cup Winner’s Cup) and Swansea (2007, Club Champions) have been achieved.

The highlight, though, came in 2000 when the club achieved Irish club hockey’s best ever finish – third place in the Cup Winner’s Cup A division, trailing only German and Dutch opposition.

And Stewart expects that pedigree to transmit itself to the new generation of players rising through the Hermes’ ranks.

Five schoolgirls make the trip but will be guided by the experience of Jenny Burke, Linda Caulfield, Jill Hodgins and Jenny Kinch; all of whom have plenty of prior knowledge of these events.

Indeed, Burke has been part of the panel for every one of the club’s European adventures though missed out in ’98 due to injury.

His side goes into the tournament, though, without their IHL semi-final game-breaker Nikki Evans (pictured, left) due to exams while Emma Gray misses the Friday game for the same reason. Fiona Connery joins the squad in Evans’ stead, the international returning 12 weeks after giving birth to add her wealth of class and experience, too.

The scheduling, as such, is something Stewart is none too pleased about. “I have to say one thing about this tournament. I don’t how it affects other countries but it is too late in the year very late, a really awkward time for anyone who studies. I can’t speak for other teams, some teams might have broken up for indoor but, for us, it’s certainly not great.”

Hermes will need to negotiate a group including Belarus and Switzerland’s national champions as well as Glasgow, needing a top two finish to reach Monday’s crossover finals.

Stewart says of the opposition: “The Scottish team will probably be the rivals but that’s not to degrade any of the other teams. I don’t really know much about them to be honest. Realistically, if we play well enough we should do well. We’ll look after ourselves rather than worrying too much about what they play like until we’re over there.”

The tournament will be the Tasmanian’s swansong with the club and while he remains coy over his future, he says the memories from his time will be cherished for a long time.

“People have asked me why I’m leaving. Well, it’s time to move on.

“I think you can have a voice for four years, it’s time to move on. You don’t want to be stale and boring the players.”

The initial plan was to step down at the end of last season but the team’s progression convinced Stewart to stay for an extra year. The whole club knew quite early [that I would be moving on] but because of the success last year, I wanted to finish off going to Europe.

“Initially, I was a bit sceptical going to women’s hockey just for a change because, originally, I was either going to have three years out of hockey or find a new challenge but it’s just been fantastic.

“I’d like to just have a public forum to say the club has been, the word I had in my head was ‘fortunate’, fortunate to be with a team for four years – this sounds a bit braggy but… – a side that has won nine trophies and we hope to finish off with ten.

“But also our seconds and thirds both won cups this year so the club has been really progressive. The coaching and organisation in the background has been superb and you look at the fillies… any club would be so envious to have kids like that coming through.

“Joan Morgan, Joan Moran and Susan Spence… they are just outstanding, absolutely brilliant. Those three ladies and all the other people in Hermes have made my life really good. I’ve really enjoyed it.”

Inevitably many will ask whether he has anything lined up in the near future but he says he won’t be making any snap decisions.

“I want to enjoy this weekend and then go as far away from a hockey field as I can for three or four weeks because I’m knackered, mate, it’s been a long season.”

Squad: Emma Gray, Yvonne Kenny, Linda Caulfield, Jenny Kinch, Jenny Burke, Sinead McDonnell, Aoife McCarthy, Jill Hodgins, Aoife Harte, Christine Quinlan, Anna O’Flanagan, Fiona Connery, Shelly Sloan, Gillian Pinder, Niamh Atcheler, Chloe Watkins, Sarah Greene, Deirdre Duke.

Pool A: Siauliai Gintra Universitetas (LTU), HC Mori Villafranca (ITA), SK Slavia Praha (CZE), Swansea LHC (WAL)
Pool B: HC Ritm Grodno(BLR), Hermes HC (IRL), Glasgow Western (SCO), HC Rotweiss Wettingen (SUI)

Match Schedule
Friday, May 29 (3pm, GMT) Hermes v Glasgow Western
Saturday, May 30 (4pm, GMT) Hermes v HC Rotweiss Wettingen
Sunday, May 31 (3pm, GMT) HC Ritm Grodno v Hermes
Monday, June 1 Crossover finals

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