Irish Hockey Association: Following their triumph in the European Nations Trophy in Rome last month, three senior Irish men’s internationals have decided to draw a line under their international careers.
Striker Gordon Elliott and goalkeepers Wes Bateman and Nigel Henderson have made the decision to end their careers with gold medals around their necks.
The announcement represents a definite changing of the guard in the senior men’s team, with assistant coach David Scott also ending his association with the national program.
National Coach Dave Passmore opted for experience for his Rome campaign but acknowledged there were several talented younger players who were unlucky not to make the final 18.
The retirements will open the door for exciting new talent to move to the fore of an Irish team that is rich in young talent and potential as it gears up for World Cup and Olympic qualifying campaigns.
The three retiring players take with them, however, a huge pool of experience, with 162 caps earned between them in distinguished careers.
Henderson, 37, has finally called it a day after an 18-year involvement at senior international level and holding the Ireland captaincy from 2000 to 2004.
“International hockey has been a major part of my life for a long time now and with the physical and mental demands to keep on top of your game it gets harder and harder every year, so I want to step aside and allow younger talent to develop,” Henderson said.
“I have enjoyed my international career, having played under five national coaches, and the success in Rome was a highlight. The professionalism that we have been in need of for years is now in place and with the right commitment and single-minded dedication I feel this team can go a long way.”
“Nigel is an immense character, the type that is so important in a team sport and so difficult to find. His total commitment to do what is right for the team, often putting himself second has impressed me no end,” Passmore said.
At 30, Ireland’s other goalkeeper Bateman is also stepping down after 40 appearances for his country, including four of the five matches between the sticks in Rome last month.
“It means a huge amount finishing my career with a gold medal but I had made my mind up when I injured myself back in May,” Bateman said.
“I’m disappointed to lose both goalkeepers at the same time but I both understand and respect their decisions. Wesley’s retirement was a shock to me and it’s disappointing from the team’s perspective given the form he was in Rome,” Passmore said.
Meanwhile, Pembroke Wanderers marksman Gordon Elliott has also called time on his international career, having earned 59 caps since 1998.
After a season plagued by injuries, Elliott struggled to find similar form and match his previous prolific goal scoring record where he struck 18 times for Ireland.
“At an age of 29, the time is right to step down and I want to concentrate on club hockey and of course my work,” Elliott said.
“I feel privileged to have been selected to play for my country, and indeed been given the chance in the past year to train and compete within the new professional structures, under the guidance of coach Dave Passmore and Paul Varian, IHA Chief Executive.
“Gordie is one of the most elite minded athletes within the group,” Passmore said.
“He wholly committed to this year’s program but his injuries interrupted his form. He was a great guy to have in the squad and I am sure both players and staff alike will miss him.”
Finally, Senior Men’s assistant coach David Scott has also decided to call it a day.
Before Passmore’s arrival at the end of 2004, Scott steered the team to a remarkable victory over India and a second place in the 2004 Celtic Cup.
He formed a close relationship with Passmore in 2005 and was an important factor in the team’s recent success in Rome.
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