Surprisingly not included in Ireland’s 29-strong World Cup training panel, Chloe Brown is clearly well-regarded by leading English Premiership side East Grinstead, writes John Flack.
The Ards striker is to join the Sussex club in the new season after impressing them at last year’s European Indoor Championship.
The 24-year-old’s international career, which has yielded 53 caps to date, has been punctuated by disappointment with her exclusion from an extended World Cup squad underlining the argument.
How ironic then that East Grinstead should have head hunted the 24-year-old striker, who will now be playing at a higher level than she has in recent years in the EYHL.
Brown says she is excited about the prospect and she is particularly looking forward to playing indoor hockey at a high level in England, having helped Ards become unbeatable over the past seven national championships.
Indoor hockey has been a much more important part of the calendar across the water than in Ireland for decades now with winter outdoor hockey breaks the norm elsewhere.
The English national championship finals weekend, known as the Super Sixes, is played in front of thousands of spectators and a live television audience.
However, there have been signs that indoor hockey is on the rise again in this part of the world with new initiatives at youth level and Hockey Ireland’s recent announcement that the national teams are to be reintroduced onto the European stage after a gap of more than a quarter of a century.
All that is great news for Brown who has revealed how she was approached by East Grinstead after impressing for Ards at last year’s Europeans.
She explained: “We played them in Lithuania and narrowly lost 2-1 and they went on to win the bronze medals. While being out there and socialising with the other teams the East Grinstead coach and I got talking.
“She liked how I played, got my contact details and last month she was in touch and asked me to come over to England so I jumped at the opportunity. I am very excited about playing in the English Premier League and even more so about taking part in the Super Sixes.”
Brown has established herself as the best indoor player in Ireland, despite being rejected-perhaps temporarily-from the outdoor international scene. She has played in six European Championships for Ards, scoring more than 50 goals in the process, latterly from a more withdrawn centre-court role.
She added: “I think it is brilliant that Hockey Ireland are entering men’s and women’s teams into the 2020 Europeans.”
“I am, of course, disappointed to be leaving Ards where I have had eight great years and, ironically, while they are off to France for the Europeans next year, I won’t be playing on the continent this time around.
“It was Bowden-Hightown who won the Super Sixes earlier this year so they will be representing England in the indoor Europeans.
“Outdoors, East Grinstead finished third in the Investec Premier League last season and qualified for the final four in which they narrowly lost to Holcombe 2-1, so I can’t wait to get started.”
East Grinstead have pulled put all the stops to make sure Brown will settle in to her new club, feel at home and ease the transition so they deserve immense credit.
While she won’t be playing professionally, East Grinstead have helped her find a job which was pivotal in her decision to leave her home club, after turning down a chance to play in Germany last season.
“With the club’s help, I have got a full time teaching job and I will be working in the PE department at a private school called Ardently College,” she explained.
Brown will be in illustrious company at her new club as East Grinstead include several other internationals, among them Laura Unsworth, who won a gold medal with Great Britain at the 2016 Rio Olympics.
However, her loss will be a huge blow for Ards as she has been their leading scorer for most of her eight years at the club in both versions of the sport.
She was instrumental in helping them to successive Ulster Shield triumphs and an Ulster Premier League title followed by promotion into the EYHL Hockey League three seasons ago.
Ards coach Gareth Grundie said: “Naturally, we will miss Chloe very much but we are delighted that she has been able to join a top level club and she will, I am sure, be a terrific asset to East Grinstead, in both the indoor and outdoor codes.”
Brown has resigned herself to missing the outdoor World Cup trip to London but she could yet come back into the reckoning for next year’s European Championship and the 2020 Tokyo Olympic qualifying process, if, as seems likely, she makes an impression in her new adventure.