Deirdre Duke has become the latest World Cup star to be snapped up by a professional club as the striker confirmed she will join Dusseldorfer Hockey Club next week.
Irish skipper Katie Mullan will also move to Germany once terms are finalised with a club to be named once the contract is complete.They join Nikki Evans who is set to start her second season with UHC Hamburg while Anna O’Flanagan will switch from HC Bloemendaal to Pinoke in the Dutch league.
Duke added that a few more players received phone calls from pro clubs following Ireland’s run to silver in London last week and so there may be some more switches ahead of the September 1st tip-off.
It is something that coach Graham Shaw is happy to see with his players gaining the ability to focus on hockey full-time in high-quality competition.
“Graham has also encouraged us to take up chances at better hockey because it is a big jump up to international level,” the 26-year-old Duke, who scored twice in the 3-1 win over the USA, said.
“He wants us to play at the best standard we possibly can and being in the foreign leagues is probably closer to international level.”
It is something that has worked well for the Irish men’s team over the last six years with over 20 players now based abroad.
On the downside, it will leave the EY Hockey League without star names for newly found local fans to see week-in, week-out.
The German season, tough, does dovetail nicely with Irish commitments. The first half of the campaign runs from September until the first week in November before returning next April after a lengthy indoor seaons.
In the interim, the Irish players are free to return for winter training camps and challenge matches, something Duke is hopeful the additional €500,000 funding can be channeled into supporting.
She flies out to Germany after a few final presentations and events this week. UCD – who she won four Irish Senior Cups and five Intervarsity titles – are celebrating the nine players in the Irish squad who played for the club.
On Sunday, she will be supporting Nicci Daly who will make her motor-racing as part of the Formula Female team at Mondello Park. Daly is using her involvement to raise money for the Irish Cancer Society in honour of her father Vivion who was a central figure on the local motor-racing scene before his death.
Duke says that is likely to be “the last hurrah” before all of the players go their separate ways and back to their different versions of reality.
“We are still coming down to earth a little bit! We have been paraded around and it is amazing, enjoying every minute of it. We want to meet as many people as we can.
“It took us about 40 minutes to get from one side of the RDS to the other to congratulate us. It is all so alien; we are just a bunch of friends who play hockey who now have people who want a photo with you. It is quite bizarre.
— Green Army (@IreWomenHockey) July 23, 2018
“Graham spoke about it for a long time about it being us to change things [for hockey] by our performances. He has believed for a long time that we are capable of it but sometimes you don’t get the toss of a coin in your favour or something else… it’s still crazy.
“I am looking at 100 newspapers on my kitchen floor, photos of all the girls. It’s difficult to comprehend and still might be a couple more weeks before we sit back and realise how much we have done for the sport.
“My medal is firmly attached [to my neck]! More because I am worried about losing it than anything else. We have got good wear out of them and will keep them on as long as people will put up with us.”