Alex Speers, a mainstay of Irish Hockey for the last 8 years winning 164 caps, has called time on her International career and is retiring. Alex burst onto the International scene with her first cap in 2006 and subsequently had the privilege of captaining her country for 3 years, in her own words “to play for your country is an honour but to captain it was an absolute privilege”. This is a decision that Alex has not made lightly but it comes a time that she feels is right for her to step off the international stage, Alex isn’t walking away from hockey entirely though, she will still play club hockey for Pegasus.
First capped against Scotland in 2006, Alex has played a significant role in the International set-up for close to a decade. Alex captained the team throughout the London Olympic qualification tournament in Belgium, despite having broken her thumb and undergoing surgery just a few weeks before. Such a level of commitment comes as no surprise to those who know Alex and Ireland coach Darren Smith expresses his admiration for one of Ireland’s most-capped players; “Alex has been pivotal in the Green Army for the past 8 years and especially in recent times as captain of the team. This is an athlete who not only is an extremely talented international but also a great trainer, team leader and a high quality person. There are many qualities that I admire in Alex one that always stands out is that she will always put the team’s interests ahead of herself.”
Alex ranks winning a Champions Challenge bronze medal in Belfield in front of a home crowd in October 2012 as a career highlight. Ever the professional athlete that thrives off the buzz of a crowd, she also fondly remembers drawing with Argentina in Argentina in December 2011. The crowd filled in for the broken sound system and sang the national anthem, resulting in an unforgettable atmosphere.
Alex wishes to acknowledge all the people who played a role in her International hockey journey of which there were many starting from her first break on the international scene “I would like to thank Riet Kuper (Coach) for giving me the opportunity as an 18 year old to play for Ireland. I would also like to thank Gene Muller (Coach) and his management team for all their work during the majority of my career, during which period I relocated to Dublin for CPP with the help of Daragh Sheridan of the Irish Institute of Sport who helped secure me employment in CBRE.”
Alex went on to recognise the support of partners and sponsors “I want to acknowledge the support of the Irish Sports Council, the Sports Council of Northern Ireland, the Irish Institute of Sport and the Sports Institute of Northern Ireland. I would also like to say a massive thank you to Electric Ireland, for their backing of the women’s national team and the women’s game as a whole. Specifically I want to thank Padraig McManus, Brid Horan & Lisa Browne for their personal support.”
“To Darren (Irish Coach), Megan (Captain), all the squad and management I would like to wish you all the best for the qualification for Rio. As you showed over the last number of months, the squad is bursting with talent, they can beat anyone on any given day and the expertise is there in the management team to guide you to Rio.”
Alex was also keen to recognise her family and employers “I would like to thank my family, for the endless encouragement and support they have given me throughout the years. I also must mention CBRE who have been absolutely fantastic in supporting me over the last four and a half years and providing me with opportunities to further my career whilst also playing hockey for Ireland.”
All in Irish Hockey would like to thanks Alex for her commitment to hockey and the leadership she has shown both on and off the pitch. Alex has been a fantastic role model for Irish Hockey and we would like to wish her all the best in her future endeavours and club career.
Source: Irish Hockey
Photographs: IrishHockey/ Brendan Moran / SPORTSFILE