Irish International defender Bridget Cleland (McKeever) has announced her decision to retire from the International arena after eight years at the highest level. Cleland amassed an impressive 150 caps throughout her international career. She made her international debut against Japan in 2003 and has shown consistent drive and commitment throughout. Cleland became vice captain in 2009 and captained the team on a number of occasions which included her final match against Australia in July of this year.
Cleland explains her decision to retire as extremely difficult. The decision comes as a “result of increasing work commitments, family and travelling, I am unfortunately unable to meet the demands of international sport.”
Gene Muller, Coach of the ESB Irish Senior Team went on to say “Bridget has been an excellent player and leader for Ireland in the last few years. She was a tough defender, a consistent performer, and a mature leader who held enormous respect within our team. I have always experienced her as honest, mature, and constructive. I have no doubt that she will continue to be remarkable in her life outside of the national team. I wish her only the best for the future. Her retirement leaves a gap in our team that will be hard to fill.”
Cleland is a great leader and motivator and will undoubtedly be a great loss to the team. Eimear Cregan, Captain of the ESB Irish Senior Team, explains "It has been a great pleasure playing alongside Bridget over the last 13 years. Since her Senior International debut in 2003, she has become one of the most consistent, determined and tenacious players to have ever worn an Irish shirt. She has been a fantastic leader both on and off the pitch and has always encouraged all players to strive for success. She will be a huge loss to the squad and to Irish hockey and I wish her every success in the future."
Cleland goes on to express her thanks to all who have supported her over the years “I would like to thank first and foremost my family, for the endless encouragement and support they have given me throughout the years. I would also like to thank greatly my employers, Dalriada School, for the past four years they have allowed me the opportunity to continue my international career whilst in full time employment.”
Cleland continues and acknowledges the support of the “Sports Institute Northern Ireland, Ulster Hockey and in particular Steven Watt, in his role as High Performance Manager”
Cleland expresses “thanks to the IHA and the management of the ESB Irish Ladies team who continue to work extremely hard for Irish Hockey. I would also like to thank ESB, for their continued support of Irish Hockey. As a player it was lovely to have sponsors who genuinely supported the team, there was always a representative from ESB at the side of the pitch cheering us on. I would like to personally thank Gene Muller, whom I have huge respect for, the time and dedication that Gene gives to Irish Hockey goes well beyond his call of duty.”
Cleland is eager to continue to support the team and the Central Preparation Programme as she goes on to say “Irish Hockey is entering an exciting phase with the introduction of the Central programme, an initiative of which I fully support. It was evident having played for Ireland for the past eight years that we needed to make a positive change in order to compete at this level. I would like to wish Eimear and the girls all the best in their quest for Olympic Qualification and the upcoming Champions Challenge in Dublin. No doubt I will be supporting in my ESB green T-shirt!!”
All in Irish Hockey would like to take this opportunity to sincerely thank Bridget for her outstanding contribution to Irish Hockey over the past number of years. We wish Bridget all the best for her future.
Source: Irish Hockey Association Media Release
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