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Olympian and 2018 World Cup silver medalist Hannah Matthews has confirmed her retirement from international hockey, having been a crucial figure in the rise of the Green Army over the past seven years.
Since her debut in 2014, the Loreto woman has been one of the first names on the team sheet, always being present at every major tournament during that time and winning 157 games with the national team.
Matthews won the EuroHockey Championships II with the team in 2015 and was part of Graham Shaw’s silver medalists at the World Cup in 2018.
Most recently, he was part of Sean Dancer’s Olympic team that made its debut at the famous summer games earlier this year in Tokyo 2020.
“It’s 150 more caps than I thought I could get,” Matthews said of his decision. “There was a long period where I was not involved, but once I got in, it was a case of seizing the opportunity and I have enjoyed every second.
The defender had great moments at the beginning of her career in Loreto, a club in which she has played since she was eight years old.
However, he did not get his call from those highlights and had to bide his time until he got his debut.
“I don’t know what other people thought, but I had that expectation. I played U-16, U-18, U-21 and I saw that they called other people and you start thinking ‘this is not going to happen to me’.
“I worked where I could work and when the opportunity came I was very prepared for it at 23. I had my college years, I had a social life and it worked quite well and I was lucky!
“I was playing with Loreto and that was something very important for me, aligning myself with such a competitive team that I wanted to play at a high level.
“One year, I just put up with it, worked on my fitness, and they called me. I hardly went to the test weekend because I was in the middle of my teaching practice, but I did and I haven’t looked back since. “
Matthews was summoned by Darren Smith, who feels he wasn’t very interested in her at first, but she proved her worth over time.
Ireland missed the Rio Olympics, but the 30-year-old said the dream of playing in the Summer Games gave them a boost and the team was smooth sailing from their Olympic disappointment.
They won the EuroHockey Championships II weeks after missing an Olympic spot and surprised everyone as the second-lowest seed at the 2018 World Cup.
“You still look back and think it was almost like a vacation compared to Tokyo! We were having the time of our lives. I was so close to heartbreak again when you look back [at the qualifiers in South Africa].
“Funny [O’Flanagan] He came off the bench, made that incredible save against India and it was a game changer, something that we have in our memory bank that whatever happens, we can overcome it. The path that got us there was definitely important and I wouldn’t change it. “
The team secured sponsorships prior to their famous World Cup campaign and this allowed players to work part-time and train professionally.
Matthews job shared her teaching role at Holy Trinity National School in Leopardstown as a result of this and is eternally grateful to the school and her colleagues for allowing her to do so, a healthy situation that she knows was an option not offered to many of her peers. team.
“Of all the things you try to imagine, you could never foresee a global pandemic. Begin to think that this might not happen to us. Until Christmas, I kept checking social media or the news to see what was going on.
“It was worth the wait. For me, it certainly put things in perspective. I always knew that I would retire after the Olympics. It was almost like another cherry bite to prepare and I entered the year wanting to enjoy every second, whether they picked me up or not.
“I wanted to go away and say that I played my best hockey and enjoyed it. That was very liberating and I think I played some of my best things in an Irish jersey compared to the year before.
Having given it her all in Japan, she’s happy to step back despite current Irish coach Sean Dancer keeping the door open for a comeback if she’s interested.
“100% – it was a decision that took me a while to make. I didn’t take it lightly and I was honest with Sean. It was brilliant that I was able to have that honest conversation and it didn’t affect my selection for the Olympics or personal issues.
“It’s beautiful that they still love me, but it’s the right time in my life. There are things I’ve put on hold and people who have put their lives on hold for me, so it’s time to grow up!
“It certainly hasn’t been easy, but we’ve had great moments and great highlights over the years. As I walk away from that, I am so thankful for every part: the people I have met along the way, the people who have supported me and who have been amazing.
“Now is the time to teach and enjoy club hockey! I’m really looking forward to this club season and a nice normal life, maybe slowing down a bit! ”.
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