Head of Girls’ Hockey: Ms Sarah-Jane Johnson (an academic member of staff) assisted by a long standing experienced coaching team, including currently playing representative players. There are seven competitive girls’ league teams and one non league team.
After winning the Girls’ Senior League Division 1 in 2016, the current very young senior XI had a difficult season. However they will be more appropriately competing in the newly formed Senior 1 A League which does not include the very top teams. The Second XI compete in Senior 3. The Third XI compete in Senior 4. Senior Development play friendly matches. The Junior A (after reaching their League final last season) will compete in Junior 1. The Junior B Development Squad in Junior 4. Minor A in Minor 1. First Years in First Year B League.
Girls’ Hockey takes place three days a week on Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. Wednesdays are predominantly match days.
Head of Boys’ Hockey Mr.Scott Crombie: (a Housemaster and academic member of staff). He is assisted by a long standing young but experienced coaching team, which includes Senior Irish capped full international Ross Canning, an under 21 international Harry Morris, and from this September Richard Pautz, a current South African full international player. All are very experienced coaches at a variety of player skill levels and ages. There are five competitive boys’ teams one at each age group.
Boys’ hockey training days are Tuesdays and Fridays and they also share alternate Wednesdays as match days with the rugby department.
St. Columba’s Hockey: A Brief Review
One of our most illustrious alumni, the late William Trevor Cox, wrote in his short story Leaving School, “It was, and still is, the only public school of its kind in the Republic of Ireland….famous for much but most of all for skill on the hockey field.”
St.Columba’s has a proud hockey tradition and despite the College’s small size has and currently punches well above its weight in Leinster. It has produced many senior international players over the years and numerous boys and girls are continuing to represent international and interprovincial sides across the various age groups. Boys’ hockey is run by Mr.Scott Crombie and the girls’ by Ms.Sarah-Jane Johnson. Despite our relatively small size the College is one of the very few Irish schools to have two artificial pitches on its grounds.
Boys’ hockey has been played in the College since 1890, however it really only established itself fully in 1937. It was initially only played by junior boys so it did not dilute the senior rugby XV. In October 1974 the first ever team to represent St.Columba’s in any girls’ sport was a hockey team, then amusingly referred to as ‘Wagons Hokkey’ (that is not a misspelling). Both boys’ and girls’ hockey are now classified as major college traditional team sports.
The golden years of boys’ and girls’ college competitive hockey runs from 1979 to 1994. Numerous Senior, Junior and ‘Leps’ finals were reached and many won. It would be impossible to list them all but a slice taken from 1980 to 1994 gives an indication of how successful, even dominant, boys’ and girls’ hockey was in Leinster and Irish circles. In 1980 the Senior XI won the Leinster Cup and the Pembroke tournament (the precursor to the All Ireland Schools’ Tournament that runs today), making the College unofficial Irish champions. The side also distinguished itself in the Oxford Public Schools’ Festival beating Merchant Taylors, Felsted and Cranbrook. In 1983 the Senior XI won the league but lost their first cup match, this being the first match the Senior XI had lost in three years.
In 1984 the Senior Girls’ XI won the Leinster Senior Cup and the Kate Russell All-Ireland Trophy. In 1993 they regained the Leinster Cup, an outstanding achievement by an exceptional team.
By 2007 participation by boys and girls in hockey as a major team sport was strongly embedded. However it has been difficult to maintain earlier standards consistently. In other schools increasing involvement in club hockey could not be matched in a school where Saturday lessons are compulsory, as in our full time boarding school. This has been exacerbated by the the demise of our feeder prep schools who played the same sports we do. Therefore much of our pupil intake were more increasingly complete beginners. This necessitated a reappraisal of approach in some lean years in the 2000s. More external expert coaching resources were put into younger age groups and teams were entered into B Leagues, as confidence building training grounds. Although well planned this approach had to be a patient one.
For the boys the breakthrough came in 2011/12. The Senior boys’ team qualified for the All-Ireland Schools Tournament in 2011 and 2012, winning the Senior Leinster Trophy in 2012 and 2014. They came third in the Senior A League in 2011, winning it in 2012. The College has since qualified for five of the last six All Ireland Championships, showing that the hard work and patience are paying off and that the College is competing again at the top of Irish schools’ hockey.
The girls’ won the Senior One League in 2011 and 2016, formidable achievements for a small hockey school who introduces hockey to most and only occasionally picks up useful German or Spanish players to supplement local players in the fourth and fifth forms. The current Junior A side competed in, but lost in their League final in 2017. Sophia Cole has represented the Irish under 16 side for the last two years and is certainly a player with plenty of future potential at the top level.
In the season gone by, the Senior Boys’ XI got to the final of the Senior B League, narrowly losing to Wesley. Three College players represented the Three Rock Rovers Senior indoor club team which won the Irish Championship and will represent Ireland in the European Club Championships hosted by Georgia in February 2018. In addition three Old Columbans were involved in the Three Rock Mens’ First XI that won the Irish Hockey League and will be competing against the top sixteen European clubs in Rotterdam next April: Niall Dendam as coach, Ross Canning and Harry Morris as players. Freddie Morris has recently been selected to play for the Irish under 21s in the upcoming A division European Championships. As mentioned earlier Sophia Cole has represented Ireland at under 16 level for two consecutive seasons It is clear that the current hockey programme in the College enables players to play at a top level, whilst also directing boys and girls of all abilities to appreciate the team nature of the sport and most importantly to enjoy and understand the game, to give of their best and to carry that way beyond the span of their school days.