Hockey international Shirley McCay tells of ‘surreal but special’ MBE honour

Ireland’s record caps holder in hockey has said being made an MBE is “surreal, but very special”.

By Sports Desk
Wednesday, 1st June 2022, 10:30 pm

Shirley McCay, 33, who played 316 times for Ireland and appeared at the Tokyo Olympics, has been made an MBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours for services to hockey and the community in Northern Ireland.

Originally from Drumquin in Co Tyrone, Ms McCay learned to play hockey at Omagh Academy before representing the Irish under 16 and under 18 sides and won her first senior cap in 2007.

Playing in defence, she was a key member of the Irish team which finished runner-up in the World Cup in 2018.

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Shirley McCay played 316 times for Ireland

She now works as the talent manager at Ulster Hockey for the underage boys’ and girls’ programmes.

She said: “It has been a long journey. We went to the Olympics in Tokyo last year which was amazing.

“There was a lot of uncertainty around whether it would go ahead at all which made it all the more special in the end.

“There were no friends or family there to support us but it was amazing, it was very sweet.”

Ms McCay recalled the moment when she discovered that she was to be honoured for her sporting career.

She said: “I was actually in Belfast shopping and my sister sent me a picture of this very majestic looking envelope.

“All I could think about was what trouble I had got into. What speeding fine or whatever I had got.

“When she opened up the letter and sent me pictures of it, it was all very exciting and surreal, completely unexpected but very special.”

She said she hopes the honour will help to increase the profile of hockey in Ireland.

“It is about the exposure and visibility for hockey, putting it on the map.

“A lot of schools in Ireland play hockey, particularly for the girls. It is just about getting the message out there and promoting the game.

“I am very grateful to be in a job that I love and it is so nice for me to give those opportunities to young girls and boys to explore their dreams and give them the best possible experience.”

Great Britain’s Olympic gold medal-winning women’s curling team have been recognised in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list.

The team took top spot on the podium at the Beijing Games earlier this year and captain Eve Muirhead, who was made an MBE in 2020, has now secured an OBE.

Her team-mates Jennifer Dodds, Hailey Duff, Vicky Wright and alternate Mili Smith all received MBEs.

The team’s head coach David Murdoch received the same honour, along with chef de mission Georgina Seccombe, while visually impaired para-skier Neil Simpson’s gold medal in Beijing earned him an MBE as well. His brother Andrew, who acts as his guide, received the same recognition.

Away from the Winter Olympics, Wales star Gareth Bale received an MBE for services to football and charity.

Another current player, Liverpool midfielder James Milner, also receives an MBE.

Former England and Manchester United defender Rio Ferdinand was awarded an OBE. Mike Summerbee, a star of the Manchester City side of the 1960s and 70s, receives an OBE, as does former Watford and England striker Luther Blissett.

England international Moeen Ali has been awarded an OBE for services to cricket.

Mark Selby and Judd Trump have each been awarded an MBE for services to snooker and charity.