FERMANAGH PE teacher Mary Swan had more than a passing interest in last week’s hockey world cup in London.
Mary, from Thompson’s Bridge, near Derrylin, is a past president of Ulster Hockey and Enniskillen Hockey Club stalwart.
She taught physical education at Omagh Academy for many years and coached World Cup silver medalist Shirley McCay during her years at secondary school.
Recalling her days at the school Mary explained that the Irish international was in the team that won the Senior Cup and All Ireland when she was the school coach.
“She was always a very competitive girl, but also very nice to work with. She gave you everything. I remember her playing for an under-14 cup final and the Irish coach at that time came over to me and said she would play for Ireland. I wondered what he had seen in her that I hadn’t, although she was a top class player at 14,” said Mary.
Shirley started to play for Ireland 14 years ago at senior level when she was just18 years old. Now she is the most capped Irish athlete ever, in any sport with 273 caps for Ireland.
Mary goes on, “She has travelled the world playing hockey. She missed out on three Olympics sometimes by a penalty stroke or an umpire’s decision which is very tough. It’s great to see her achieving this now. She was always gave you everything.”
She added, “I had a lot of very good girls at that time in Irish and Ulster squads, but Shirley went on to maintain that level and keep her place on Irish teams. She is very well thought of throughout the world as one of the best defenders in world hockey.
“I’m very proud of her. I went down and presented her with her international shirt in Dublin before the World Cup,” explained Mary. “She has worked hard at the game and like the rest of the Irish team deserves all the praise for reaching the World Cup final.”