Emma Buckley is hoping a move to Belgium to play with Royal Racing Club de Bruxelles can help her push to become a central player for the Irish women’s senior team.
The Cork Harlequins was part of the wider Green Army panel of 28 but was omitted once the World Cup squad was reduced this summer with Ayeisha McFerran – the eventual goalkeeper of the tournament – and Grace O’Flanagan taking the net-minding places.She has decided to “focus solely on hockey”, signing a one-year contract this season. She recently completed a course in sports nutrition but will put on hold further studies for the time being.
“After hearing so much positive feedback from other senior internationals playing in other European countries, it was something I wanted to try,” she told The Hook.
“I looked at various options of studying while playing hockey but I decided I wanted to focus solely on hockey. I will be training full-time at Royal Racing and can spend each day focusing on improving my game. When I am not training, I will be coaching club under-age teams, going to French and volunteering.”
She joins an ambitious Racing club – who feature fellow Munster player Conor Harte in the men’s team – who have signed several Belgian and Spanish internationals for this campaign, including Anouk Raes and Jill Boon from Wellington.
The club is coached by Xavier Reckinger, a legendary player with the Red Lions who is now also coach of the German senior women’s side.
And the 20-year-old Buckley is hopeful it will progress her Irish hopes having earned seven senior caps to date.
“I would hope that training daily and playing matches week-in, week-out with senior international players from several countries will better equip me for playing at international level.
“My aim is to analyse each area of my game and to come up with a plan to improve each area using the knowledge of the staff in the Irish set-up and at Racing.
“My main concern [about the move] was that I did not jeopardise my involvement with the Irish senior and underage teams. Once Irish coaches were satisfied with the standard I would be training at, along with being made available for Irish national training sessions and games, should I be asked to attend, then I was happy to sign!”
Buckley has had a busy summer, working with the senior panel and then linking up with the Irish Under-23 side for their tournament in Antwerp. She admits it was tough for her to be “cut” from the World Cup squad at a late stage but says the experience this summer will stand to her.
“I would like to think I’ve always had and always will have a massive hunger to train hard and learn as much as I can. Being cut from the World Cup squad right at the end was a heart-wrenching experience.
“But being involved within the squad for as long as I was, was fantastic. Once the final squad was announced, I was delighted for those who made it and I was 100 percent behind them. They were going to London to represent all of us – the whole squad, the whole country.“Thankfully, I didn’t have any time to consider the ‘what ifs’ of my own situation. I re-joined the Irish Under-23s and traveled to Antwerp to play in an international tournament. We had some ups and downs in terms of results but it was fantastic to get the experience of playing against countries that we normally don’t play against at that level as India and Canada.”
From there, she went on holiday but the “first priority” was to get to an Irish bar to get the World Cup matches on the screen.
“I never shouted so much at a TV screen. The girls were incredible; I felt so proud of them, writing history.”
Buckley has initially signed for one year, keeping her options open for what happens next, adding: “If it goes well and I enjoy the experience, then there is no reason why I wouldn’t stay for longer.”
Racing start their season with an away date against Royal Leopold on September 2.