You can read all our match reports in both the weekly editions of the County Down Spectator and Newtownards Chronicle and as well as this, we were delighted to be the feature of a double page spread in the Belfast Telegraph on 5th November 2014.
Donaghadee Ladies Hockey Club were pretty much an unknown entity a few seasons ago, struggling to find enough players to field a complete team most weeks. But after storming their way into the top two of the Senior Four League, it seems those days are now long behind them.
Donaghadee Ladies have lost just one match from six so far this season – unprecedented in the club’s history – and for successive seasons the club has managed to send out a Second XI team every week for the first time in 30 years.
After joining Donaghadee in 2000, Carolyn Scott has experienced first-hand the squad’s roller coaster of a journey. She explained: “At one point, there were four or five people turning up for training and we were playing matches with eight, nine or 10 players. Consequently results were awful, things were thoroughly demoralising and there was serious consideration given to folding. Thankfully, due to the core players’ determination not to give up, we hung in there.”
Renowned for their exciting social scene, the ‘DLHC hockettes’ played to their strengths and reached out to girls from eight to 80 through leaflets, social media campaigns and activities such as a Vets Day, junior hockey sessions, bus trips, hockey tours and even playing hockey on the beach in the beautiful – although rather blustery – Donaghadee in a bid to recruit new members and they are now reaping the rewards.
As the First XI continue to thrive in Senior Four, the Second XI are enjoying the challenges of playing in Junior Nine.
Scott said: “To have grown sufficiently in numbers enough to have entered a Second XI into the league programme was a new challenge for everyone at the club, but one which has been immensely rewarding.”
The club was formed in 1922 and continued to flourish up until the 1990s but a lack of investment in the club and its facilities, along with major developments and investments elsewhere in the North Down and Ards area, meant that other schools and clubs benefited to the detriment of Donaghadee Ladies. While local hockey players enjoyed new astro-turf pitches, Donaghadee had to make do with thick, lumpy gravel and no changing rooms at Crommelin Park.
Now training at the new Bangor Grammar pitches on Gransha Road, the girls finally have regular access to the astro-turf pitches after many years of being among a small minority of clubs who were forced to play their games on gravel.
Goalkeeper Siobhan McAdam, who first joined Donaghadee in the 2011 season in a bid to improve her fitness and get back to playing hockey – something she hadn’t attempted in years – said: “I’d love to see us getting our own pitch and a clubhouse down the line. It would be lovely just to have somewhere that would actually be ours but, at the minute, things are definitely going in the right direction.”
McAdam joked: “The fact that after week one I was actually playing on a team definitely encouraged me to stay. That probably makes me sound like I was really good but really they just didn’t have enough players for a team! One of the best things about Donaghadee is that you can play competitive hockey if you want to or you can play hockey just for fun and I think that appeals to a lot of people. There are players of all ages at the club and it’s those relationships that are what I love about it. The results are just a massive bonus for us.”
Scott added: “There are no cliques within the club and no sense of one-upmanship – everyone pulls together on and off the pitch.”
If the beginning of Donaghadee First XI’s superb 2014/15 season is anything to go by, the future of Donaghadee Ladies Hockey Club is looking very bright – or rather very red and green.