Ayeisha McFerran landed the World Cup goalkeeper of the tournament gong following her stunning World Cup, winning almost unanimous support from the panel of coaches and media.
Indeed, she also was on the shortlist for the overall player of the tournament, ending up just behind Lidewij Welten, the 2017 world player of the year.
It sees her emulate Sandra O’Gorman who won the same prize in Dublin back in 1994 but doing so with the added bonus of a silver medal and a place surely en route in the Hockey Ireland Hall of Fame.
“That’s not just for me,” the 22-year-old from Larne said. “That’s for all the goalkeepers I have worked with, Nidge [Nigel Henderson], Grace [O’Flanagan], all of them and the rest of the squad. This isn’t an individual award, it is for all of us.”
For Henderson, it is another amazing accolade. The former Irish captain has been a key coach for David Harte, the two-time world goalkeeper of the year, since 2006 before recently starting to work with McFerran and O’Flanagan.
Reflecting on the final, McFerran said it was a tough day against the rampant Dutch but her side can hold their heads high.
“They are a very classy outfit. The girls fought the whole way and we are walking away with a silver medal so we can’t complain.
“The Dutch are very efficient in the circle and know they can put it away whenever they want. It’s about us getting to that level which is where we want to and know we can be.
“We have put ourselves on the map! You don’t just end up going under the rug and hide away now. We still have a lot to learn but also a lot to be very happy with. We’ve done the deed for Irish hockey.”
She also touched on the funding deficit, adding that should this team be able to secure larger and consistent funding, they can make sure that this is not a one-off.
“The Dutch are a professional side, training together all the time. We are here, there and everywhere, trying to get the squad together a couple of times a year just to train. We have done this basis.
“The more people and funding we can get behind us, the more we can train together and play bigger nations, they better we will get.
“Any nation can ask for more funding, though, whether they are on €3m or 10 quid. We have the mantra of ‘no excuses’ and we put that on ourselves and said we would go out end enjoy every moment. It proved in our hockey that, no matter how good or bad your funding is, if you enjoy every moment, you will go well.”