Former Irish captain Alex Speers has retired from international hockey after eight years with the national set-up, encompassing 164 caps and 19 goals for the national side since making her debut in 2006.
It included three years as captain of the side, leading the charge to the final of the Olympic qualifiers in Belgium in 2012 despite having broken her thumb and undergoing surgery just a few weeks before.Speaking about her contribution to the national squad, current Irish coach Darren Smith paid tribute to Speers, a graduate of Royal School Armagh.
“Alex has been pivotal in the Green Army for the past eight years, especially in recent times as captain of the team,” Smith said. “This is an athlete who not only is an extremely talented international but also a great trainer, team leader and a high quality person.
“There are many qualities that I admire in Alex one that always stands out is that she will always put the team’s interests ahead of herself.”
Among her career highlights, Speers ranked winning a Champions Challenge bronze medal in Belfield in front of a home crowd in October 2012 as the biggest. She also fondly remembers drawing with Argentina in Parana in December 2011 in front of a packed house, singing Ireland’s Call acappella when the local PA system broke down.
Speaking about her career, she acknowledged all people who helped her during her international career: “I would like to thank Riet Kuper for giving me the opportunity as an 18 year old to play for Ireland.
“I would also like to thank Gene Muller and his management team for all their work during the majority of my career, during which period I relocated to Dublin for CPP with the help of Daragh Sheridan of the Irish Institute of Sport who helped secure me employment in CBRE.
“To Darren [Smith], Megan [Frazer], all the squad and management I would like to wish you all the best for the qualification for Rio. As you showed over the last number of months, the squad is bursting with talent, they can beat anyone on any given day and the expertise is there in the management team to guide you to Rio.”
Speers returned to Pegasus in the past few weeks after a spell with Railway Union, making her first appearance for the club in four seasons last weekend and scored in a 2-0 win over Ballymoney. She is currently commuting to Belfast from Dublin before returning north full-time in the upcoming weeks.