The Ulster girls powering Ireland's World Cup hockey dream
The Ireland women's hockey team's improbable march towards World Cup glory has been fuelled in large part by the heroics of the squad's six players from Ulster.
They take on Spain in the semi-finals this afternoon (with live television coverage on BT Sport), after clinching a dramatic shootout victory over India on Thursday.
Ireland goalkeeper Ayeisha McFerran, from Larne, made a string of fine saves to give Ireland the win, with Katie Mullan from Co Londonderry captaining the side.
Other Ulster stars of the Ireland team’s World Cup heroics include Megan Frazer, from Londonderry, who narrowly made the squad after recovering from injury; Shirley McCay from Omagh, who retires from Ireland duty after the World Cup; Zoe Wilson from Ballyclare, who plays for Belfast Harlequins and had previously captained the Ireland under-18 team; and Lizzie Colvin, a corporate lawyer from Belfast who also plays for Belfast Harlequins.
Ahead of the big match with Spain, the News Letter spoke to Joe Passmore, a former coach of the Ireland captain Katie Mullan, from Coleraine.
Katie enjoyed huge success in another sport entirely, when she played camogie with the Eoghan Rue GAA club in Coleraine, as Mr Passmore explains.
“I coached the senior camogie team when Katie was a player with us,” he said.
“Hockey was always her main sport, but you could tell right away how talented she was. We were lucky to have her.”
He continued: “At that time, they won two All-Irelands in 2011, and in 2012 in Croke Park. She scored the winning goal in the semi-finals in 2011.”
The GAA club have found a new interest in hockey thanks to Katie’s success, he added.
“We’re all going to be watching. Everybody in the club is rooting for her, everybody in Coleraine is behind her, as I’m sure everybody in the whole country is.”