Women’s Leinster Division Two
Fourteen years ago, on April 9 2001, Muckross were relegated from Leinster Division One for the first time in the club’s history.
There have been ups and downs, twists and turns, and everything in between since that fateful day – but Muckross have now finally vanquished those demons with a 1-0 victory over Rathgar in the final match of the 2014/2015 division two campaign.
It means that, no matter what this week’s LHA meeting to lay out next season’s plans, they will be in the top tier in Leinster with automatic promotion assured thanks to Sophie Barnwell’s solo goal.
Consecutive relegations in 2001 and again in 2002 were followed by a decade of instability as one of the most decorated clubs in Irish hockey history floundered between divisions two, three and four.
But by its very nature, sport is filled with both exhilarating highs and crushing lows – something that club president Sarah Green can personally attest to: “The last 14 years have been bittersweet, and I know this all too well – I’ve played on the first team for 13 of them!
“We’ve undeniably made some mistakes along the way – but what’s more important is that we have learned from them. A lot. We are actively fostering home-grown talent – something we neglected to do all those years ago.
“And now, after all of the headaches and the heartbreak, our club is entering an exciting new era. Strategically, we have planned for our resurgence back to where we feel we belong, in division one, and now that we are there we’re going to make it our business to compete.”
This promotion is the culmination of three years of momentum. The 2012/2013 season proved pivotal in the first team’s resurgence as a return to division two was secured, ushering in a new era.
Back-to-back promotions proved a bridge too far as Muckross lost the 2013/2014 Division One playoff on penalty flicks. But they did what any great team does in the aftermath of a tough loss: picked themselves up, learned from it, and moved on.
Coach Una McCarthy led Muckross into this 2014/2015 league season with a clear-cut vision to bypass the playoff jeopardy and secure that elusive promotion outright – and now, they have finally earned their just reward.
At the core of first team’s resurgence has been a gradually administered injection of youth, spearheaded by Muckross’ Junior Development Officer Ann Ronan: “Over the past decade, we’ve been consistently working on junior player development with a view to integrating young players into the top senior teams – and our triumphant first eleven are testament to this approach.”
Indeed, ten of the current squad have come through this programme since 2011. The relocation of Muckross Hockey Club to its historical home of Muckross Park College in advance of the 2014/2015 season also been cited as an integral part of the club’s evolution, uniting all sections in one home.
They finished the league in second place just two points off winners Pembroke II. They drew on the final day of the season against Genesis who rose to eighth place in the table as a result.
Avoca completed a productive season on their return to division two with a 3-0 win over Old Alex, Cara Kelehan, Kate Cullen and Anna Richardson on the mark.
They sit fourth in the table but could be overtaken by UCD II depending on how they do with their remaining league match against Loreto II.
The Beaufort side beat Hermes II 5-2 and can potentially finish sixth.
Division Two: Avoca 3 (C Kelehan, K Cullen, A Richardson) Old Alex 0; Rathgar 0 Muckross 1 (S Barnwell); Loreto 5 (A McGuinness 2, S Evans 2, K Geoghegan) Hermes 2 (D Burke, L Grehan); Pembroke 1 (E Thompson) Genesis 1 (S Larkin); Railway Union 1 (L Lloyd) UCD 2 (J O’Brien, R Evans)