ULSTER and Irish women’s hockey said farewell to a true legend of the game on Saturday as Arlene Boyles bowed out after 25 years as a player for club and country.
Watched by a big and appreciative crowd at Upper Malone, including her proud parents, Arlene pulled on the green shirt of Ireland for the very last time and 11 years since her last international appearance at the World Cup in Perth Australia when she retired from the big stage.
For once, the 39 year-old defender had the chance to play against her beloved Pegasus who paraded most of their current first team although the organiser of the ‘testimonial’, Claire McMahon, lined out for Ireland.
Last season Arlene drew the curtain down on her club career after making her Pegasus debut as a 15 year-old schoolgirl at Orangefield High.
It was the late former Pegasus coach Jayne Thompson, a teacher at the east Belfast school who noticed her impeccable hand-eye co-ordination as a talented golfer and she suggested she take up hockey.
The rest is history as they say and after an illustrious Ireland career during which she won 129 caps she has finally called it a day despite offers to continue playing.
Arlene had mixed emotions after the game which incidentally Ireland won 3-1 but the result was of merely academic interest.
“I’m more tired than emotional and that tells me that I made the correct decision to retire.
“The spirit was willing but the legs were weak out there,” explained Arlene who still keeps fit by playing golf and cycling.
“It was a great occasion and a lovely gesture by Claire to organise the match and it was fantastic to see seven players from the 2002 Irish World Cup squad take the trouble to play, some against their better judgement I am sure.
“It brought back memories of some fantastic days playing for Ireland when I travelled the world several times over and made some great friends for life,” she added.
Former Cork Harlequins player Karen Bateman travelled all the way from Munster to pay tribute to her former international team mate while Jenny Burke headed north from Dublin.
In addition to McMahon, Ulster players like Angela Platt, Jill Orbinson, Karen Humphreys and Katharine Smyth also wore the green shirt for the last time although Alison Vance, who shared the goalkeeping duties with Platt, still plays at veterans level.
Arlene will have a lasting memory of the occasion as she was presented with a framed Pegasus shirt before the game to mark this special occasion.
It will certainly be a hard one to fill.
Happy retirement Arlene.