Suzanne Ferris has announced her retirement from first-team hockey after an illustrious career, spanning more than two decades with Belfast Harlequins and Pegasus during which she won every local and national trophy on offer, racking up 40 Irish caps along the way, writes John Flack.The Pegasus striker’s decision has had an immediate effect, meaning she will miss the club’s European Trophy trip to Munich in June, having had less pitch time than she would ideally have liked in the EYHL season just finished due to her injury problems.
Ferris will, however, continue to play for the Pegasus second string but, having been dogged by back and calf issues in recent years, she has reluctantly called it a day as far as top-flight action is concerned.
The 36-year-old can look back on her 21-year stint with club, province and country with immense pride, her time having been more or less evenly split between Pegasus and Belfast Harlequins.
In earning her caps for the Ireland senior team she played in a European Championship in Barcelona in 2003, an Olympic qualifying tournament in Auckland the following year and a World Cup qualifier in Rome in 2006.
Still widely known by her maiden name, ‘Beaney’ scored around 300 goals for Pegasus, having started her career as a right-back with Harlequins, before being converted into a lethal finisher.
She posted a career-best 58 goals in one season for Pegasus a few years ago and, in another campaign, notched a tally of 56, making her one of the most prolific strikers of her day.
Only once in her 11 seasons with Pegasus did she fail to finish as leading scorer when strike-partner Vanessa Surgeoner pipped her to the post with one more goal.
One of her finest achievements came when she won the player-of-the-tournament award in the old-style Irish Hockey League in 2011, a year in which when Pegasus also lifted the Irish Senior Cup, despite having their unprecedented tally of 14 consecutive Ulster Premier League titles ended by a Ballymoney side that then included UCD and current Ireland player Katie Mullan.
Ferris scored a glorious hat-trick in the 4-1 IHL final win over Hermes in the IHL decider, a week after hitting two of the goals in the Cup final win over the same opposition.
However, the best was yet to come as she hit another treble in more difficult circumstances as Pegasus were crowned European champions when they hosted the second-tier tournament in Belfast in 2012 as a reward for their all-Ireland heroics in the previous campaign.
Ferris hit another treble as her team came back from 3-0 down to beat Ukrainian champions Sumchanka 4-3 in the final played in glorious sunshine at the Queen’s University playing fields at Upper Malone.
“That hat-trick was pretty amazing and will go down as one of my best memories in club hockey although it’s hard to choose between that and winning the Irish Cup-IHL double.” she said.
“If I’d been fit and able to go to Munich this year, that would have been my fifth European trip, having been to Germany, France, Belgium and the Netherlands previously, if you don’t count the tournament we hosted in Belfast.
“It was always my ambition to play for Ireland and I travelled the world doing it but the club is where you choose to play and Pegasus has been amazing.
“They made me a better player and playing with the likes of Arlene Boyles, Claire McMahon and Karen Humphries to name but three was an inspiration to me.
“I made several friends for life through hockey and there was also something special about wearing an Ulster shirt.
“I had the best of times under (Ulster) coaches like Graham Quincey and Stephen Watt and I will never forget the team talks from legends like Jackie McWilliams, Alison Vance and Arlene.
“Anyway I have so many happy memories of playing at the top level but now I am looking forward to next year and linking up with some of the other girls who have stepped down and are now playing with the seconds.”