Queen’s University ladies have received a boost by securing a three-year deal with local software company Etain as they prepare for Friday night’s opening Ulster Premier League game with Banbridge in Belfast, writes John Flack.
Last season, Simon Bell’s team narrowly missed out on the title as Lurgan pipped them to the post on the last night of the season.
Once again, Queen’s narrowly missed out on a place in the EYHL but coach Simon Bell says his team are looking forward to competing in IHL 2.
However, Bell realises that there will again be stiff competition both domestically and at all-Ireland level.
He said: “We had a big turnover of players this year as many of the students complete their studies and move on.”
“Leaving the club are: Robyn McKee, Paige Brown, Rachael Henderson, Anna Hutchinson, Ellen Hood, Beccy Anderson and Jodie Kee.
“In terms of new arrivals, we have Alyssa Jebb (Lisnagarvey), Madison Bowyer (Pegasus), Emma Gregson (Banbridge) and Koren Ferguson (Rainey).
“All of the new signings travelled with the 1st XI to Edinburgh last weekend for three training games and we expect more new players to be added to the squad as we move towards the start of the new term.
“We are looking forward to the new season and particularly to the new IHL2 which appears to be a fairer conduit to the top league than the two rounds of play-offs at the end of the season.
“It will also be nice to play against different sides and to get a feel for what life is like in a national league format.
“It will be interesting to see how quickly we can get the new squad settled and used to playing with each other – we made some progress during our training weekend in Edinburgh but there is still a long way to go.
“It is an earlier start to the league this year and Banbridge are an improving side, with a number of talented young representative players, therefore we are expecting a very tough game on Friday night.”
“As we look forward to the season starting, we are delighted to have secured the sponsorship of our senior squad.
“We have had a very good partnership with Etain over recent years and we are very much looking forward to welcoming them as our lead sponsor during this exciting next stage in our development.”
Hilary McEwan from Etain added: “As an established tech firm with connections throughout the UK and Ireland, in recent years we have witnessed the rise of much-needed gender diversity in our traditionally male-dominated arena.
“At Etain HQ we have some of the most talented women in tech leading the charge in everything from project management to custom solution development and business analysis, so we are seeing first-hand the benefit not only of hiring exceptional local talent, but also in the unique perspectives and creativity brought to us by these women.
“For us, the opportunity to sponsor the Queen’s ladies hockey teams is not only an honour and a privilege but an opportunity to bring together two great teams, demonstrating the impact of exceptional women whatever the industry.
“We’re delighted to partner with Queen’s Hockey and are excited to see what the future holds for each of these outstanding players. We wish the ladies every success for the upcoming season and can’t wait to see them in action this year.’