Wexford link to hockey drama
Qualifying delight for Duke
Ireland are Tokyo-bound for the 2020 Olympics in hockey following the drama in Donnybrook over the weekend, and a player with strong Wexford connections played an integral part in this fine achievement.
Deirdre Duke, whose mother hails from Ballycanew, represented her country at Under-16, Under-18 and Under-21 levels before making her Senior debut against Scotland in June, 2013.
She was a member of the Irish team which won the 2015 Women's Euro Hockey Championship II, defeating the Czech Republic 5-0 in the final.
Following 0-0 draws in the two Olympic qualifying games in Donnybrook on Saturday and Sunday evenings, the record attendance for a hockey game in the county of over 6,000 was treated to a dramatic penalty shoot-out before Ireland secured their spot, becoming our first women's hockey team to qualify for the Olympic Games.
Ireland trailed 3-1 in that shoot-out, but goalkeeper Ayeisha McFerran pulled off two stunning saves, with Beth Barr and Chloe Watson scoring to bring the game to sudden death.
Róisín Upton somehow shot the ball in from the tightest of angles and, with Canada unable to convert their next penalty, Ireland began to celebrate.
The 27-year-old Duke played a prominent role during the course of both games. She is the daughter of Gretta (nee Carroll), who is originally from Ballycanew, and Brendan Duke.
Educated at Alexandra College, Dublin, Northeastern University and UCD, Duke graduated from from the latter's Sutherland School of Law in September, 2017, with a BCL with Social Justice degree.
In addition to playing hockey, Duke also played both ladies' football and soccer in her youth.
She played football for Kilmacud Crokes and was a member of the Dublin team which won the 2005 All-Ireland Under-14 championship.
She has also represented the Republic of Ireland national football team at schoolgirls level.
Deirdre was also part of the Irish team which finished runners-up in the world championships in London last year, a campaign that elevated the team on to the world stage despite their final loss to Holland.
Now, like many of her colleagues, she plays her club hockey in Europe, having joined the Dusseldorf club in Germany following her performances at the 2018 World Cup.
She has also played for prominent Dublin clubs, Three Rock Rovers and Hermes.
The good folk in the small north Wexford village of Ballycanew, who have followed Deirdre's career with such interest, take great pride in her latest exploits on the hockey pitch.