The west’s awake as far as local hockey is concerned as the resurgence of Rainey at various levels illustrates with the Magherafelt team currently enjoying their first season in Senior One and four players from the Endowed school named in the Ulster Under 16 squad.
And to cap it all one of Rainey’s former pupils has edged closer to fulfilling her dream of playing senior international hockey at some stage in the future.
Tori Hastings, who joined Queen’s from Ballymoney in the summer, has been selected to take part in a series of regional training sessions under the watchful eye of assistant Ireland coach Arlene Boyles.
Along with Harlequins starlet, Katie Larmour, who has also made the cut, Tori will join the established internationals like Megan Frazer and Shirley McCay for midweek sessions which could be the start of something big for both girls.
Eighteen-year-old Tori can already boast a successful international career at under age level, having helped Ireland win gold at the European Championship in Italy in July.
She comes from a well-known sporting family with several generations having played at a high level and now she wants to continue the trend.
“My dad has played squash for Ulster and Ireland, as well as rugby for Ulster and in the past captained Dungannon RFC when they won the All Ireland League.” she explained.
“But, it’s my great grandfather William Collopy who was the rugby talent in my family, as he played for and captained Ireland alongside his brother.
“Having such a sporting family definitely encouraged me to have an interest in sport and from a young age my parents, especially my dad, taught my brother and sister and I how to play the different sports we were interested in.
“But my love for hockey started from knocking about on the side-lines at my older sister’s mini hockey training.”
Tori is something of a sporting all-rounder herself although these days hockey is number one as she hopes to achieve her ambition of playing for Ireland at senior level.
“I’ve played squash, tennis and golf from a young age, as well as swimming with the local swimming club.” she explained.
“In between matches and training my mum, being a Pilates teacher, tries to encourage me to do some Pilates classes, to work on my flexibility or perhaps lack of but, after playing so many sports it was always hockey that I came back to.
“I’ve played for Ulster at both Under 16 and Under 18 levels, and had the opportunity to play for Ulster in competitions like the UK School Games and in series against both Scotland and England.
“I’ve played for the Ireland Under 16 and Under 18 teams in the Celtic Cup, in matches against both Scotland and Wales, and in the European Championships in the summer, when we won the EuroHockey Championship II in Mori, Italy, defeating Poland in the final.”
Tori says she is enjoying life and her hockey at Queen’s where she is a beneficiary of the Elite Athlete Programme.
Hockey is well catered for as part of the multi-million pound complex at Upper Malone which was upgraded a few years ago, with a state-of-the-art water-based pitch and palatial club house with tremendous ancillary facilities on offer to students with a sporting ilk.
It was a combination of the university’s reputation for academic and sporting excellence that made Queen’s the obvious choice for Tori who has already been among the goals since scoring on her debut in an Ulster Shield game against Armagh at Upper Malone a few weeks ago.
“Queen’s is one of the top universities in the UK and to be offered the chance to play hockey and study at such a high level is a great opportunity.” she added.
“Girls that I know who have played at Queen’s recommended it to me and said how much they enjoyed their university hockey, so for me it was an easy decision.
“Playing for Queen’s, coming into my first year of studying gives me, and other first-years, the chance to meet girls through hockey and settle away from home.
“Also living in Belfast this year and having training so close to Queen’s Elms will save a lot of time travelling.
“As with all the other girls in the first eleven squad, I will have full access to the excellent coaching and facilities at Upper Malone.
“It is also possible to apply for ‘academic flexibility’ should there ever be a clash between academic hockey commitments.
“In addition, I will have personalized strength and conditioning coaching and academic mentoring, and I will receive financial support with respect to fees and accommodation.”
In addition to her personal goals within the sport of hockey, Tori has set her sights on helping Queen’s do well in the Premier league this season.
“After finishing fifth last season, Queen’s could be a contender for the IHL and with the talented bunch of girls I’ve met there’s no doubt that the whole team will be targeting a spot at the IHL playoffs.” suggested the Dentistry student.
“ Personally, in the coming year my first target is to be selected for the Ulster Under 21 squad for whatever programme they have in place for this year.
“A slightly longer term target would be selection for the Ireland Under 21 squad for the EuroHockey Junior Championship in 2017 and my dream is to be capped at senior international level. “
Being picked for the regional training sessions is certainly an exciting step in the right direction !