Cleland calls time on Ireland career

ONE of Ireland's best players over the past decade has decided to retire from international hockey.

Ballymoney's superb Bridget Cleland played 150 times for Ireland in a sparkling career that spanned eight years.

And Money's manager Liz Lamont reckons Bridget's decision could be a major plus for her side.

"Ireland's loss will be Ballymoney's gain," said Liz.

"The Irish squad will definitely miss Bridget in terms of both her personality and playing skills.

"She is one of the best players Ireland has produced in my opinion and has spent her entire career with Ballymoney.

"We are delighted she will be available for even more games for Ballymoney in the coming seasons."

Bridget became vice captain in 2009 and captained the team on a number of occasions.

Her commitment and all round hockey ability understandably made her a fixture in the Irish side and she can hold her head high as a player of true international class.

She said the decision to retire was an extremely difficult one.

"The decision comes as a result of increasing work commitments, family and travelling. I am unfortunately unable to meet the demands of international sport," she said.

"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 my international career whilst in full time employment.

"I also want to thank the Sports Institute Northern Ireland, Ulster Hockey and in particular Steven Watt, in his role as High Performance Manager, for their support.

"I would like to personally thank the Irish coach 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."

Muller admitted that the retirement of Cleland will leave a gap in the Irish team that will be hard to fill.

"Bridget has been an excellent player and leader for Ireland in the last few years," he said.

"She was a tough defender, a consistent performer and a mature leader who held enormous respect within our team."