A DAZZLING array of local talent congregated at Tweedbank on Saturday for the annual Festival of Hockey, which took place in glorious sunshine, a far cry form the torrential rain of last year.
The weekend’s event was to celebrate the continuing success of the sport in the Borders and involved a total of 400 players from all age groups participating throughout the day.
The range of ages and abilities was extremely diverse, highlighting how the game can encompass both sexes and all ages from those starting out aged seven and eight, right through to one of the Masters goalkeepers aged 68.
It is rapidly being recognized in the area as a family sport where parents, children and grandparents can all play and support in a fun or competitive environment.
The day kicked off with the Participation Centre Festival for the 8-12 age group, with 14 teams taking to the pitch.
The emphasis at this age is on participation, team work, fun, sportsmanship and fair play, and as a result scores are not recorded, although many of the children will have mentally logged their success.
This was followed by the two Borders development squads, showing their progress with both the under-12 and the under-14 age groups pitching their skills against teams from Watsonians, who had travelled down from Edinburgh.
The under-12s were punching above their weight as Watsonians had sent down their under-13 squad, noticeably bigger in size, but not in stature or performance, as the Borders B squad proved by producing some fine hockey to leave the field of play as winners.
The Borders Under-14s also proved too strong for the city side and they also more than matched them in every way on their way to victory.
On completion of these games the awards were presented by Border Sport and Leisure’s chief executive Ewan Jackson.
Back to the hockey, the under-15s took to the turf, local teams from Borders Fjordhus and Kelso hosting Lincolnshire and Cala, Edinburgh. The standard of play was extremely high, with Cala Edinburgh being the strongest opposition, but not strong enough for the Borders Fjordhus A team who ran out eventual winners.
This was a fantastic result for the club, whose junior squads have grown in numbers and strength over the year as a result of Pippa Bell’s tireless work as coach.
The senior age groups then had their opportunity to shine with a Borders Select women’s team taking on the superior experience, and slower pace, of the Scotland Masters.
The two Masters teams boasted a number of former Scottish internationalists, with a combined total of well over 1,000 caps.
The youth/experience mix was very evenly matched on the field and made for a fantastic spectator game. Scottish Masters A were the eventual winners in a closely-fought contest.
The weekend was heralded as a huge success by Borders hockey development officer Janet Jack, with everybody coming away tired, tanned and smiling.
She told TheSouthern: “It really was a fantastic event, showcasing all the fantastic work that is going on in Borders hockey. All local junior teams won their sections against tough opposition, which is great news for development. Along with myself, Pippa Bell and Lindsey Forster have put in a huge effort over the year to deliver, not only the Festival of Hockey, but a programme which has produced an increasing number of fine players, coaches, umpires and volunteers and I thank them very much.
“Borders Hockey Development would also like to thank everybody who gave up their time on the day to assist on and off the pitch.”
Certificates were awarded to players who have shown both technical development and a willingness to learn, great attendance, a winning attitude and great sportsmanship.
They were: Toby Dawson, Thomas Richardson, Sophie Anderson (Earlston/Borders Fjordhus); Rachel Denholm, Connel Stanford (Duns/Border Fjordhus); Melissa Murray, Lindsay Pate, Lara Mills, Hannah Kemp, Lucy Purves, Callum Johnstone, Mitchell Green (Tweedbank/Borders Fjordhus); Lily Towers, Martin Goldie (Hawick/Borders Fjordhus); Taine Anderson (Peebles); Lucy Murray, Rachel Burgher, Charlie Birkett and Alice Little (Kelso).
Prize for overall Under-15 club player: Leiagh MacKinnon (Borders Fjordhus).
U15 certificates: Fergus Clark, Iona Kellet, Jamie Fletcher, Rhona Gowans (all Borders Fjordhus).