A year and a half ago, Dublin University Ladies Hockey Club (DULHC) were unceremoniously dumped from the EYHL, defeated by Old Alexandra in the relegation play-off. They had done extraordinarily well to make it into Ireland’s top league, but the loss was a blow.
In their last game of this year, they had a chance for redemption – but again they were disappointed. Catholic Institution beat them in the semi-final of the IHL 2 – the competition that decides who gets promoted to the EYHL.
This defeat put a disappointing glaze over what was a wildly successful season. The team went unbeaten in Leinster Division 1, claiming the title. But now they had fallen victim to their own high standards.
Incoming team captain Erica Markey, however, is confident that missing out on promotion last year will foster a renewed desire in the team: “Obviously, it was really disappointing, but because we have all had a few months away from it, everyone has sorted themselves out and are ready to go again. I think everyone is quite excited to get started and to try and have another really good season.”
Youth and continuity will stand Trinity in good stead for the coming season – they will lose only three players from the squad this summer. Also, the season starts at the end of September, so head coach Brian Scully has plenty of time to scour the incoming freshers for an injection of fresh talent.
Trinity’s preseason is well underway, and the team has plenty of summer cobwebs to dust off before the curtain-raiser.
If you make a mistake – it’s not the end of the world, but you don’t want people to repeat it so you need to make them aware that it is a mistake
“At the moment”, Markey says, “we are not going to have matches, so it’s skills and fitness for the first few weeks”.
Markey’s skills, however, are razor sharp: she spent the summer with the Irish under-21s at the European Championships in Valencia, helping them to a seventh-place finish.
Markey wants to teach her teammates everything she has learned on the international stage: “I think some of the drills that we did would be really good to introduce into Trinity, and the mindset of making sure that everyone is going to the gym and doing the running sessions.”
“Even during training if you make a mistake – it’s not the end of the world – but you don’t want people to repeat it so you need to make them aware that it is a mistake.”
Markey’s intolerance for errors mirrors the ruthlessness of DULHC’s unbeaten streak in Division 1. There is no doubt in Markey’s mind that their perfect league record will be their yardstick: “I absolutely want to be undefeated again. It is a nice thing to be able to say we won the league but were also undefeated.”
Looking ahead, DULHC will be hoping to avoid last season’s only major shortcoming: their EYHL play-off defeat. Off-field issues plagued the team’s preparations for the semi-final. Their tie against Catholic Institution fell in the middle of Trinity’s exam period, and, although the fixtures calendar is not solely to blame for the defeat, it certainly hurt them.
It is a nice thing to be able to say we won the league but were also undefeated
“It is one of the problems we face every year, which is quite annoying”, Markey says.
“There are other college teams in that league who have to deal with the same thing. It was a very frustrating game – people did come a little bit unprepared in that it wasn’t their priority, which is fair.”
“I think we did play quite well considering, but quite well isn’t good enough – especially when you are trying to go up into the top leagues.”
Markey will be keen to use her captaincy to push DULHC a step further this year: “It’s something we will have to work on this year – trying to get everyone’s mindset right. Everyone is different, so it is hard to get a full team to be able to switch off from exams.”
Markey’s leadership will be instrumental in DULHC’s push for promotion, and the team’s dissatisfaction with just an undefeated league campaign shows a mentality worthy of a top-tier side. Whether this will be enough for DULHC to regain their place in the EYHL, however, remains to be seen.