Megan Frazer says “friend for life” Arlene Boyles will be hugely missed around the Irish women’s camp following her decision to step back from the managerial role this month.
From their earliest interactions at club level, Frazer knew there was something different about Boyles, giving her some formative lessons on the field.
“Playing against her when I was a kid, you were always nervous!” Frazer told Declan Hughes on Dublin City FM’s On The Ball hockey slot.
“She would knock you over, take the ball and clear it and then bend down and pick you up again! From that, we knew she was always someone who would have your back. It is a big loss to us!”
The Derry woman has been using much of lockdown to full effect to put long-term knee injury horrors behind her, the break from the international carousel offering a rare bit of downtime to fully rehab.
Recovering from those cruciate issues has seen her spend a lot of time alone in gyms and on the sidelines but she says Boyles was key as a mentor and motivator in the dark times.
“She was just always there for everything you needed – something managerial, something hockey, as a friend. We probably under-estimate how much we turned to her for things and it will be a big gap when we get back and she is not there.
“Especially around the Olympic qualifiers when I was ruled out due to injury, that was a hard time for me and she played a big role in helping me to get through.
“She was a player herself and knew what I was going through, knew when we were going through a bad spell with our playing and that it was not the end of the world.
“She was someone to bounce ideas off and to talk to, not the head coach where you sometimes have to look strong and feel like everything is alright to get selected. You could be more open and show your nerves, your fears or whatever. She will be a great loss and definitely raised the standard of what we expect from ourselves on and off the pitch through her own play.”
The Irish women returned to regional training in the last fortnight and Frazer is feeling bullish about her fitness after a long layoff, saying she was able to use her time well.
“As terrible as the whole situation was, for me, it was about taking full advantage in every way I could. I have completed full rehab programmes and started back into regional sessions this week.
“It is nice to go in for a full session with the girls. Usually, I would be – because of injury – trying to catch up all the time because everyone was so well conditioned. Hockey match-play was really intense [pre lockdown] and I was trying to manage my load. That is something I am not having to worry about and can compete in the sessions.
“Whenever the lockdown happened, we were quite quick to get on the ball and ahead of things. Up north, we were smuggling gym equipment out to have things to work with at home and get off on the right foot to keep up with our S&C programmes.
“The big thing, though, was going from being around the team and the girls, training together so much, to completely individual training alone. For me, it wasn’t that big of a jump, coming back from my knee injury. I am used to it but it was pretty different!”
At a time when the Olympic Games would originally have been in action, Chloe Watkins and Roisin Upton from the Irish women’s squad spoke to Sport for Business and RTE about their feelings on the postponed Tokyo 2020.