Roller hockey on the brink

by Stephen Findlater

BALLYFERMOT and Lucan’s roller hockey clubs are facing a huge battle for recognition as they feel the unlikely impact of Brexit which could leave the sport uninsured and unable to continue.

For Trish Buckley, roller hockey is a lifelong passion, one which started at the Star roller rink in Crumlin. Her husband’s father first introduced her to the game, not knowing at the time her own father had lined out for Ireland back in the day.

It brought her all the way to the European ladies championships in Hannover where, despite being major underdogs, Ireland finished third on the continent with Buckley landing the top scorer prize.

While the sport has prospered in some areas, with professional leagues in a number of European countries, roller hockey fell out of fashion in Ireland in the 1990s.

Under Buckley’s watch, it has enjoyed a revival of late with the sport setting up in Lucan Community Hall and Ballyfermot’s Mary Queen of Angels.

She has also passed on the passion to her son and daughter who have lined out for England due to the lack of an Irish international team.

Perhaps a unique situation in Irish sport, along with her husband, all four line out regularly in the same team on the same court concurrently.

A young participant at Lucan Roller Hockey Club

In the new clubs, over 40 children are now regular practitioners but they find the future under threat unless they can get Sport Ireland to bring roller hockey under its umbrella as a matter of urgency.

“Unfortunately, it is not a recognised sport which is something I am trying to get at the moment,” Buckley told Dublin Gazette.

“Companies don’t want to insure us because it is not a recognised sport in this country which is why I am chasing that to see if I can get it recognised under a government body.

“They are saying roller hockey is ‘dangerous and children will get hurt’. These children have skates, knee-pads, shinguards, gumshields, helmets – they are so well protected.

“The ball doesn’t lift off the ground. It’s a non-contact sport and they are not bashing off each other like ice hockey.

“Our insurance was through Britain because it is recognised over there for the past four years with no claims. With Brexit, we have been told our insurance is null and void and we are not insured for the children.

“I have tried every broker and am talking to local politicians to try and help us. I am trying my hardest to get insurance for these children.

“If not, I have no choice but to close these two clubs down with the result these kids have nothing else to do.

“This is their sport. At Christmas, they got brand new skates and everything. We had no idea this was going to happen to us.”

To this end, she has been canvassing politicians in the local area to try and press her case.

Unfortunately, the timing could not be worse with the formation of the new government and the spread of the coronavirus putting their issue very much on the backburner for public representatives.

But she is keen to push their case and try and work through every loophole possible.

“Going back through the generations, I think our country was already affiliated in the past. If it was, they might allow us.

“They have allowed inline hockey in which is contact but ours is non-contact. I don’t understand it. We are trying to get this sport going, promote it and, hopefully, get people playing it like I did.

“The kids were asking ‘are we going to train this week or not?’ All I can answer is ‘I don’t know’.”

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