Lizzie Colvin reflects on illustrious Ireland career after bowing out on Tokyo high
Lizzie Colvin has reflected a trophy-laden career after announcing last week that she was retiring from international hockey with Ireland.
During a history-making 13-year career, Colvin (nee Holden) clinched World Cup silver, went to the Olympics appearance and won 206 caps.
The 31-year-old steps away having made her debut as a teenager, fresh out of Portadown College at a hail-stoning Garryduff at June 2008’s Celtic Cup, finishing off in the searing Tokyo heat this summer.
The midfielder has run the gamut of emotions from qualifier heartbreak to those glorious 2018 summer days in London and everything in between, seemingly always bringing out the widest of smiles.
“I always felt the Olympics was going to be my last dance,” she said of her decision to step back. “I had gone back and forth in my head for a long time but I think it is the right time for me to step away.
“We were so intense as a team for so long and we would spend weeks together on tour. I’m just sad that I don’t get to see my friends every day now.
“I feel that I have finished my career on a high and having spent the time thinking about this decision, I’ve had an opportunity to reminisce about so many good memories over the years with current and past players and I’ve made life-long friends.
“I’ve been very lucky to travel around the world and share such unique experiences with a great group of people.”
Her earliest beginnings came at Armagh Hockey Club, playing her part in their incredible rise with several successive promotions to reach the top tier of Ulster and Irish hockey.
From those early years, she played alongside a wealth of future internationals like Alex Speers, Emma and Amy Stewart, Hannah Bowe and Rachel Mulligan with Niall McCool and Mick McKinnon leading the coaching team.
“This announcement is mainly about saying thank you to everyone who has been part of my hockey journey, both on and off the hockey pitch,” added Colvin.
“I want to make a special mention to Armagh Hockey Club, all the parents, coaches and volunteers who helped me through and had such a profound impact on me, particularly the late George Compston – he was my first coach.
“Then when I moved down to Dublin, everyone in Loreto was so kind and supportive of me and allowed my confidence to grow as a player. Then when I moved back up North to play for Belfast Harlequins, they made me feel so welcome and as one of their own. All three of clubs have been such important influences to me at different stages of my career.”
From those early days to the dizzy heights of the Olympics, Colvin achieved more than she ever dreamed.
However, the 2020 vision became 2021, pushing back the Tokyo dream 12 months due to the coronavirus pandemic and bringing in doubts about what the future held.
“I’m not gonna lie; there was a couple of months where it was really difficult because we couldn’t travel abroad and get match practice.
“That first trip to Spain we went on in January [this year] felt like we were going to the World Cup again because we were so excited. Just to get out to a different country and play; it was really, really good fun.
“I was just so grateful to have that opportunity to keep playing. The preparations for this past summer were extremely tough but I tried to enjoy every moment and savour the experience.”
“Sean [Dancer] gave me the opportunity to represent Ireland at the Olympics and I look back and know that I’ve been part of such a special group of people who have faced so many challenges of the years. There have been so many highs and lows but I’ve always tried to give my best, to battle hard and never give up. I
“It has been such a privilege to be part of the green army team and I hope that I’ve left the jersey in a better place.”
As for the Olympic reflections, it is a mixed bag – a once in a lifetime experience but one tinged with frustration as Ireland missed out on the quarter-final spots.
“It took me a couple weeks to process; it’s very hard to realise what you’re going through at the time. There’s a reason why it is the most competitive tournament in the hockey calendar or in any sport in the world.
“You have to get everything right at the right time and try not to be overwhelmed by the experience of just being at the Olympics, surrounded by so many incredible athletes. I have a new-found respect for any athlete that is able to get on the podium because it is just so, so tough.
“It was a life-long dream for me and I will never forget walking down that street in the Olympic village with all the flags and up to the Olympic rings.”
She jokes it is back to “normal life” with her husband Matthew and her parents, Peter and Rosie who she is forever grateful to – along with her employers, DWF solicitors – for their patience and understanding as she pursued her dreams.
“I could not have played hockey as long as I have without the support of my family, friends and my husband, Matt. I can never thank him enough for all the sacrifices he has had to make for me.
“Now that I’ve retired, we’ve never spent this much time together but I’m excited for the next chapter.”