Sport

‘There's a gap in the West Cork sports market for hockey'

March 27th, 2018 2:00 PM

By Kieran McCarthy

Baltimore Hockey Club's U12s pictured before the club's first-ever match, against Clonakilty Hockey Club in November 2017.

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DEE Griffiths spotted a gap in the local sports market last year and made her move.

Growing up in England, she was quite the hockey player. She played at schools level, for her county Oxfordshire at U21 level, for Nottingham University, and when she finished college, Dee lined out for one of the top Surrey clubs, Epsom.

Since 2003 she has lived in Baltimore – home of her father John Young and where she spent her childhood summers – with her husband Jim, and life took over, but as her kids grew older, they also grew more inquisitive about their mother’s hockey background.

‘My daughter, Daisy, was keen to play and try it out – but there was no hockey club nearby,’ Dee explains.

‘The nearest club to us is Clonakilty.

‘Then I had the thought that I could start it up myself here in Baltimore.’

Her next phonecall was to Hockey Ireland’s Munster Development Officer Phil Oakley where she outlined her idea: to start a hockey club in Baltimore at junior level.

‘They love the idea of new clubs and were really supportive with the thought of a hockey club in this part of West Cork,’ she says.

‘They helped out with the hire of the astro in Rath and gave us all the equipment that we needed – hockey sticks, balls, bibs, everything like that.

‘It’s just gone from there.’

First and second class teacher at Rath National School, the easiest way to get Baltimore Hockey Club up and running was to open it up to kids from the school. Sixteen signed up at U12 level and the club was off the ground, and played challenge games against Clonakilty and Bandon.

‘This was like a trial period this year, just to see if there would be an interest in it – and there has been,’ Dee says.

‘In the five months since we started training, the kids have made massive progress and have developed a real love for the game of hockey.

‘The kids who started have loved it and are keen to carry on, and there has been a lot of interest outside as well, people are keen to find out how they can join the club.

‘There was such an appetite this year, we’ll look to build on this.’

She added: ‘We even now have our own team shirts kindly sponsored by Beacon Properties.’

The club fielded an U12 team this year and next season, which starts in September, will also field an U14 team and enter the Munster league, and there are hopes of adding U8 and U10 teams too if the numbers are there. What’s crucial now is that more coaches come on board to help the club take the next step as Dee is currently the only coach involved.

‘The main objective before next season is to try to get another coach involved, to help out,’ Dee says.

‘I have been inundated with new members wanting to join but this isn’t possible until I get more people interested in coaching.

‘There is not a hockey background in this part of West Cork but maybe there are people locally who have played hockey in the past and will want to get involved – I’d be delighted to hear from them.

‘Hockey Ireland will also help to train up new coaches so training will be provided for people who want to get involved.’

After starting off training in Rath, the club now trains at Abbeystrewry astro, more space and better suited to hockey, every Wednesday with only a couple of weeks left this season – but Dee is already planning for next season and feels that there is a gap in the West Cork market for a hockey club west of Clonakilty, the nearest club otherwise.

‘There is a market here in West Cork for hockey, definitely,’ she says.

‘Look at Bandon, Clonakilty and Kinsale, they all have successful clubs, and look at the Harte brothers from Kinsale, two of Ireland’s best players – that shows you that there is an interest in hockey in West Cork and it would be great to see it grow in this area too.

‘It’s a game where there is a position for everyone. I see kids who are maybe nervous to play football but when they got involved in hockey, they got great confidence.

‘It’s important to give kids different options so they can find what sport they enjoy and are good at.

‘It’s a fantastic game and it’s starting to grow.’

Two of Dee’s kids, Daisy and Seamus, played this year at U12 level, as she passes on her knowledge and love for the game to the next generation, while also working hard to carve out a future for hockey in this pocket of West Cork.

If you want any more information about Baltimore Hockey Club, contact Dee Griffiths on 087-9260393.

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