Jackson family make Euro team sheet first

When Ireland’s men took the field against Germany in their opening Rabo EuroHockey Championships, it marked a family-first for the Jacksons.

Defender John, 31, is a veteran of 230 internationals. His father, Peter, has been the team manager 179 times in a spell that dates back to 2006, working with the team on and off. Peter’s wife Jennifer, meanwhile, has been the team doctor with the Green Machine for a number of tournaments, too.

But, while they have been at many tournaments together, for the first time this summer all three have been formally appearing on the same match sheets, the tie against Germany the first time this has happened in a European Championships.

Jennifer Jackson, picture top right in the pic, has been team doctor on numerous occasions. Pic: Koen Suyk/World Sport Pics

For John, he says it’s nothing like a case of jobs of just finding someone handy to fill a role, saying it is incidental that they are his parents.

“By chance, its my mum and dad,” he said. “My mum adds a lot of value, she’s been a nurse in the army on the medical side for 25 or 30 years. She’s here as a doctor and is quite good at the trauma side of things having been in Iraq and Afghanistan!”

If anything, he is perhaps underselling the abilities of his mother.

“I see myself first and foremost as a nurse, then as a mother and then a soldier,” Jennifer said in 2014 when she was honoured at the Belfast Telegraph Woman of the Year awards.

A qualified practice and occupational nurse, she joined the Territorial Army in 1982 and linking up with the Queen Alexandra Royal Army Nursing Corp.

And so, when the first call went out for the first Gulf War in 1991, she put her hand up to volunteer. She did so again in 2003 for the second Gulf War, taking part in Operation Telic in Iraq, working in an accident and emergency department for six months.

“There wasn’t a great deal of difference in what we had to deal with in Iraq and what the 12 of us [on Operation Telic] from Northern Ireland had dealt with during the Troubles.

“The Army gave me that confidence and they have given me opportunities and skills that I wouldn’t have got anywhere else.”

Among those opportunities, she was in charge of coordinating the Army’s medical cover during the Queen’s Golden Jubilee celebrations and the Olympics in London.

It saw her oversee more then 20,000 Army personnel posted in the city in the security efforts for the world’s biggest showcase.

“These ranged from the minor such as blisters on their feet to more major incidents and I had to know at all times where the soldiers involved were, what hospitals they were in and ensure they were getting the right care.”

In 2015, she started working more closely with the Irish senior hockey team at a time when Peter had taken a step back as the regular team manager. She was on the sidelines when Ireland went on their historic qualification for the 2016 Olympic Games.

Peter has since returned to the manager’s role full-time with the team in 2017, making for the unique family arrangement on the Irish team sheet this summer.

For John, the main challenge is to make sure not to look at them as parents but important colleagues in an Irish team that is continuing to break new ground.

“I don’t want to say it’s a family affair and I try to maybe distance myself from it during tournaments but everybody in our team will say that they bring good value to the team.”

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