SEASONED international Shirley McCay has helped the Ireland ladies hockey team secure runners-up spot in the prestigious Champions Challenge tournament in Glasgow.
It’s the first time the Irish had reached the showpiece final but ultimately Darren Smith’s battlers came up just short against a well-drilled and athletic USA side.
Claiming the silver medal though was beyond Ireland’s greatest expectations and was due in no small measure to a huge contribution from Drumquin’s McCay, who produced a match-winning performance in the semi-final against the fancied South Africa.
The166-times capped international, who now plays in defence, admitted Ireland ultimately ran out of steam.
“We had mixed results in the group stages, drawing with South Africa and Spain and losing to the USA but the way the tournament works everyone gets through to the quarter-finals. We finished bottom of our group which pitched us against Korea, winners of their group.
“Korea are number eight in the world but we came good to win 2-1. We didn’t play our best hockey in the group stages but it was always going to come down to how we performed in the quarter-finals anyway.
“We went 2-1 up against Korea in the second half and we ground it out after that.
“We then defeated South Africa by the same scoreline which meant we were paired against the USA in the final. By then though we were out on our feet and lost 3-1 against a very fit American team.”
Despite the final disappointment the Drumquin native said on reflection it had been a hugely successful tournament for the Irish and herself, who was named in the Team of the Tournament select.
“We went into the tournament ranked seventh, so if I’m honest we were probably hoping for a top-six finish. To finish runners-up was dream stuff.
“And a number of Irish players made the tournament select including Megan Frazer, our captain, who was named player of the tournament, Ballymoney’s Katie Mullan, Cork’s Cliodhna Sargent and myself. To finish well above our ranking was brilliant.”
McCay, a coach with Ulster Hockey, won’t have much time to reflect in the success in Glasgow. Over the coming months Ireland have pencilled in trips to Scotland and Italy before finishing the year taking part in a number of four nations challenge tournaments.
Those competitions are being used as preparation for the coveted World League tournament which is taking place in 2015.