Ulster Hockey’s workforce development officer, Johnny McMeekin, is confident that indoor hockey will continue to grow across the province, writes John Flack.
The Antrim player, along with work colleagues, organised two hugely successful under-age tournaments, both of which were oversubscribed.
Following an U-15 event, it was the turn of the U-18s to play off for the inaugural Ulster title at the Antrim Forum last Sunday.
“The aim was to deliver two professionally run indoor tournaments and showcase the game at its best and the staff at Ulster Hockey managed to do that,” McMeekin explained.
“The feedback we have had from players, coaches, officials and spectators has all been very positive.
The young players really enjoyed the format of the game which is fast and exciting. There was a really buzz around all the clubs involved both pre and post event which is what you want to hear from an organising point of view.
“Coaches are now seeing the benefits that the indoor game can do to enhance and improve their players for the outdoor game. “There are no bad habits that a player picks up from indoor hockey, especially when it is coached correctly.
“Both events were well supported by the Ulster Umpires Association, which also included umpires from our Young Umpires Programme which was launched last September.
“In order for the game to grow and develop in Ulster, we need to increase the playing opportunities. That’s something we are now starting to look with our stakeholders.”
Cookstown boys and Armagh girls took the honours at the U18 finals championship finals after a thrilling day’s action on Sunday.
Both finals went to the wire and had to be settled in penalty shoot-outs after the boys’ decider between Cookstown and Annadale had ended 2-2 and the girls’ showpiece between Armagh and Lurgan had finished 1-1.
Patrick Crookshanks and Callum Carson scored for Annadale in normal time, with Jack Haycock and Danny Kerr replying for the Tyrone side before it was left to Andre Santos to score the winner in the shoot-out in the boys’ game.
In the girls’ final, Lurgan went ahead through Anna Nawn before Yasmin Morrow levelled to force the penalty decider which Armagh went on to win 6-5 in sudden death, with Lucy Finney scoring the all-important goal which clinched her team the trophy.