Belfast Harlequins have made a massive declaration of intent, writes John Flack, by signing Irish internationals Lizzie Colvin and Zoe Wilson to boost their chances of becoming the leading Ulster side in next season’s EY Hockey League.
Quins struggled on their debut in the all-Ireland competition and had to rely on beating Lurgan in a play-off to avoid relegation.
Midfielder Colvin, 27, who has 130 Irish caps, has returned home to take up a new job after playing for Loreto since 2008.
Wilson, who has made 39 appearances in defence for Ireland, spent last season playing for German side Harvestehuder but is also back in the province to continue her studies at Ulster University in Coleraine.
Both players are currently in Johannesburg as the national team prepares for the World League 3 tournament which is also a qualifier for the 2018 World Cup.
Wilson, 19, says it was a difficult decision not to stay at her home club Randalstown but she is looking forward to linking up with her new team-mates.
“As we seek World Cup qualification, it is important to be playing my domestic hockey in the EYHL but it was with a heavy heart I made the the decision to not to play for Randalstown in the new season.” she said.
“It was a difficult call as I had been a member of the club since I was nine-years-old but the girls there have been very understanding of my decision.
“Taking a year out to play club hockey in Germany was an exciting and rewarding experience which I thoroughly enjoyed. Joining Harlequins will be a fresh start and a chance to build new friendships in an ambitious club.
“I respect the hard work that went into maintaining their status in the EYHL and know that they were just on the wrong end of some results and next season they have a desire to not only stay up but push for a play-off spot.”
Harlequins’ EYHL rivals Ards and Pegasus will be disappointed to have missed out on signing the two internationals and Colvin implied that she did consider other offers.
“It was a very difficult decision considering the calibre of coaches and players in the the other EY clubs,” she said.
“However, I really admired Harlequins’ tenacity and determination during the EYHL promotion playoffs last year and their desire to play free-flowing attacking hockey.
“There is a good mixture of youth and experience in the squad and the warm and welcoming club atmosphere reminded me a lot of Loreto. This is definitely a team that is on the up and I’m really excited to be a part of it.”
Quins coach Davy Frazer is delighted at his new signings, who will join their Ireland colleague Gemma Frazer, who joined last season from Ulster Elks, in his squad.
He commented: “I am thrilled to have two of the best players in Ireland in our panel and it proves we are ready to mix it at the top table.”