The Irish Hockey Association will induct four new members into the Hall of Fame on Friday, March 21 at the upcoming Irish Hockey Awards with Jimmy Kirkwood, Joanne Menown, John McKee and Noelle Branagan joining the list of greats of the Irish game.
Kirkwood, a Queen’s, Belfast YMCA and Lisnagarvey club man, is one of the most exciting forwards to have played for Ireland winning 130 caps and scoring 36 goals. He also won a gold medal at the Seoul Olympics in 1988 playing for Great Britain.His International career saw him represent Ireland in European Cups in 1987 (Moscow); 1991 (Paris); and 1995 (Dublin) as well as Intercontinental Cups in 1981 (Malaysia); 1985 (Barcelona); 1989 (USA) and 1993 (Poland) as well as the World Cup in Pakistan in 1990.
At that European Cup in Dublin, he helped Ireland to reach a best ever fifth place finish while he was also an ever-present in the Lisnagarvey magnificent seven side, winning the Irish Senior Cup seven years in-a-row.
Ards’ woman Joanne Menown was famed as an outstanding attacking player with excellent pace and skill and an ability to score goals from any angle. She was a member of the team that won the 1983 Intercontinental Cup in Kuala Lumpur – probably Ireland’s biggest victory in international hockey.
In 1984 she played in the first women’s European Cup in Lille and also lined out three years later in London before taking part in the 1986 World Cup in Amsterdam.
John McKee started his international career with a silver medal at the 1978 European U-21 championships in Dublin before being part of the team that finished eighth at the first U-21 Junior World Cup in Versailles.
A Belfast YMCA, Holywood 87 and Banbridge man, he made his international debut in June 1980 in a 4-Nations Tournament in Aberdeen and went on to win 108 Irish caps and 40 Indoor caps in a distinguished career.
A talented, versatile player, he was equally skilful in both defence and attack. In 1981, he was in the squad for the Intercontinental Cup in Kuala Lumpur where Ireland reached the semi-finals, the first of three of those events he would play in, taking part in Barcelona in 1985 and New Jersey in 1989 along with the 1987 and 1991 Europeans. He was another 1990 World Cup squad.
Noelle Branagan traversed the provinces on the club scene with Muckross and Pegasus in her career while also lining out with Leinster. Se won her first international cap against the Netherlands in 1981 and went on to have an illustrious international career winning 54 Irish caps. Her timing in the tackle and distribution to her forwards was top drawer.
Like Menown, she was a member of the 1983 Intercontinental Cup winning team. She captained the team in 1985 to a memorable 1-0 win over England in Dublin – their first home international match played on an artificial surface, and in 1986 to the 6th Women’s World Cup in Amsterdam.