Scotland’s Borderer Ladies picked up a bronze medal in the seventh Grand Masters Hockey European Cup, played in sweltering Belgian heat.
Moira Anderson from Duns and Charlotte Barrett of Galashiels were priveleged to take part – with Moira collecting Scotland’s player of the tournament award.
KHC Dragons were proud and honoured to host the event and welcomed all sport enthusiasts.
The club is located in the lovely Brasschaat park and offered excellent facilities to accommodate this great tournament.
Countries outwith Europe were also made to feel very welcome – Australia, Argentina, South Africa and the USA.
The 10-day international tournament’s opening ceremony featured 73 teams from 14 countries, in the age categories 60+, 65+, 70+ and even 75+, showing hockey really is something for all ages.
It was an inspiring and memorable experience for all taking part and those looking on – young and old.
Scotland were represented by the highest number of teams to be entered so far in this event.
There was one Over 60s Ladies team with the two above-named Borders players in the squad, and five Men’s teams – O60s full Scotland, two O60s Scottish Thistles touring teams, and both O65s and O70s full Scotland teams.
Moira Anderson plays for Kelso 2s while Charlotte Barrett plays for Fjordus Reivers. Charlotte was also extremely proud to captain the side.
The O60s women played Wales first and played an excellent and closely fought match. which was an end-to-end affair. The Scots were beaten 1-0 as they simply didn’t take their chances to penetrate the Welsh D and score against a side with a sprinkling of ex-full internationals.
The player of the match, voted for by the opposition, in fact became two players – the two goal keepers, Sheila Reid from the Aberdeen Grammar club and Anne McGregor from Loch Lomond, after both pulling of a number of spectacular saves.
Next up was the Netherlands, early in the morning, with all competitors hoping the early start would mean more bearable temperatures as the heatwave in mainland Europe continued.
A tight match was expected – in the World Cup last year in Barcelona, Scotland Ladies had beaten the Dutch in the dying seconds to get the
bronze and the year before, at the Europeans in Glasgow, Holland had won by the odd goal.
It was, yet again, a tight match, regarding possession, but the Dutch were looking for revenge and took their chances, scoring a flattering
The Scots were very downhearted and, with their next match being against the old enemy, the English, with a fantastic pedigree, they knew they would have to step up their game.
This time, the opposition player of the match was Gladys McClymont from Dumfries.
After two days’ rest, it was time to bring on England in the searing heat of the early evening . The Scots knew they had to take the game to the English and that, indeed, is what they did.
With the flow of the game disrupted by extra drinks breaks, the Scots not only held their own but put England under pressure, to the extent the English changed their formation to try and regain their dominance.
At half time it was 1-0 to England, and the spectators were impressed and excited. If only the Scots could hang on, this would be their best ever result against the experienced, fit and fluid England team, and could they possibly even sneak an equaliser.
It was not to be, however, as a short time after the interval, England extended their lead to 2-0. As the Scots flagged in the intense heat, late in the game, a flurry of goals left them downhearted at a 5-0 loss in the end, despite a fine penalty save by Anne MacGregor in the Scots
Opposition player of the match was midfielder Maureen Bathgate, from the Cala Edinburgh club.
After the game, the Scots manager was approached by a Belgian representative who had been impressed by the development of the Women’s Masters game in Scotland and by the performance of the O60s Ladies team.
The Belgian women want to develop their own Masters programme and are keen to get fixtures against Scotland – a great compliment for Scottish Womens’ Masters hockey, from one of the world’s top hockey nations.
So, without a win in the pool games, Scotland would have to wait to see who they would get to play again in the critical bronze medal play-off – The Netherlands or Wales.
Before then, could the ladies reverse their fortunes against the England Over 65s in a friendly fixture before the play-off on Saturday?
A mature England side was actually a closer match to the ages of many of the Scotland side, so Scotland were confident of a good result, building on their improving play and learning throughout the previous games.
But, if it wasn’t hard enough already, not only did the team have the heat to contend with, rising to 34 degrees, but also a plague of processionary caterpillars in the leafy woodlands in the Brasschaat parklands, whose thousands of tiny toxic hairs floating through the air caused allergic and very irritating and itchy raised red rashes for many of the players, plus infected bites.
Obviously, this did not help the team preparation or enable them to settle into their game and, sadly, another loss ensued against a well-organised England side, although only by 1-0. This time, the opposition player of the match was Gale Black from the Glasgow Academicals.
So to the bronze medal play-off, which was against the Dutch, who had lost to Wales in their final pool game. Could the Scots learn from the previous fixture and overturn a 3-0 deficit? Would the temperature drop to below 30 degrees? Would the team sleep well the night before, despite heavily itching rashes and being dosed up with anti-histamines?.
The Scots were encouraged by the other Home Nations players to follow through on their plan to go out and take the game to the Dutch, having watched for their weaknesses in the match against Wales.
The Scots bravely followed their plan as a unit and scored first from open play, through an assist by Gale Black and a finish by Janice Moir of Aberdeen Standard Merlins Gordonians.
Scotland continued to dominate but the Dutch remained dangerous on the break. One of these breaks led to the award of a very dubious penalty resulting from a penalty corner, after a Dutch shot was deflected on to and past the post at
shoulder height by Aileen Smith from Hillhead.
The decision was challenged calmly by captain Barrett – but somewhat less calmly by the Scottish men spectating. Apparently, the other (and distant) umpire had seen a Scottish foot preventing a certain goal.
The Dutch equalised despite the Scottish keeper stretching the right way and getting a pad to the ball.
The fear of running penalties loomed as the Scots kept their shape and dominated again. Gale Black again crossed a cheeky ball from the left of the D near the goal line for an oncoming Joyce Souness from Edinburgh Cala
to pop up and volley the ball into the goal inside the right post. The Scots had regained the lead!
Scotland dug deep and held on for the bronze – worthy winners indeed. They, and coach Liz Pettigrew, were proud and thrilled.
The voting for the squads Player of tournament was very difficult and very close, a reflection of the performance by the whole team over the 10 days of tough competition. Charlotte Barrett was pleased to present the award to Moira
Also the Men’s O60s got the bronze medal and the O65s men moved up four places from ninth to fifth in this competition and did not lose a game in the whole tournament. Scottish Thistles 60s were fourth – they had to do running penalties and just missed out on a medal.
So Scotland, overall, made a positive impression, not only with their play and spirit, but also with their hearty and heartfelt celebrations.