Ireland star Lizzie Holden confirms retirement from international hockey

Team Ireland celebrate following victory in the Women's Pool A Group Stage match between Ireland and South Africa at the Oi Hockey Stadium. Credit: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile.

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Ireland women’s hockey star Lizzie Holden (née Colvin) has confirmed her retirement from the international level after 13 years with the senior side.

Holden ends her career with Ireland after 206 caps across a 13-year career that saw her win a silver medal at the 2018 Women’s Hockey World Cup and play at the Olympics earlier this year.

The midfielder went straight into the national side after graduating from Portadown College at a hail-stoning Garryduff in Cork at June 2008’s Celtic Cup, finishing her career off in the searing Tokyo heat this summer.

“I always felt the Olympics was going to be my last dance,” she said to Hockey Ireland.

“I had gone back and forth in my head for a long time but I think it is the right time for me to step away.

“We were so intense as a team for so long and we would spend weeks together on tour. I’m just sad that I don’t get to see my friends every day now.

“I feel that I have finished my career on a high and having spent the time thinking about this decision, I’ve had an opportunity to reminisce about so many good memories over the years with current and past players and I’ve made life-long friends.

“I’ve been very lucky to travel around the world and share such unique experiences with a great group of people.”

The 31-year-old was part of an Ireland side that finally opened the door to the top level that they had been knocking on for so long.

Two Olympic qualifying campaigns saw them fall short on both occasions before reaching Tokyo – a loss to Belgium in the qualifier 2 final in 2012 and missing out on qualification for Rio via the Women’s FIH Hockey World League semifinals.

However, the team broke into the mainstream after a stunning 2018 World Cup campaign in London saw them finish second after coming in as the second-lowest seed.

Holden and the ladies continued on from this and beat Canada on penalties in Donnybrook to secure a first-ever Olympic spot, where they ultimately disappointed.

“It took me a couple weeks to process; it’s very hard to realise what you’re going through at the time. There’s a reason why it is the most competitive tournament in the hockey calendar or in any sport in the world; it is just unbelievably tough.

“You have to get everything right at the right time and try not to be overwhelmed by the experience of just being at the Olympics, surrounded by so many incredible athletes. I have a newfound respect for any athlete that is able to get on the podium because it is just so, so tough.

“It was a lifelong dream for me and I will never forget walking down that street in the Olympic village with all the flags and up to the Olympic rings.

“The first night when we played against South Africa, it was hard that there weren’t any fans there but at the same time, it was just so emotional for us to say that we have finally arrived after so many years of hard work.

“There is frustration that we didn’t progress further but I definitely believe that there’s a hunger and desire in the team to push as far as they can go. It’s a really exciting stage for the green army and I can’t wait to see the girls put their stamp on the upcoming tournaments.

“I think we’re in safe hands. So yeah, I’m just really sad it’s over for me and I don’t get to do it again.”

Holden has also thanked those close to her for their support throughout her international career with Ireland.

“I could not have played hockey as long as I have without the support of my family, friends and my husband, Matt. I can never thank him enough for all the sacrifices he has had to make for me.

“Now that I’ve retired, we’ve never spent this much time together but I’m excited for the next chapter in our lives, whatever that will be!”

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