Sonya McEneaney and Lorna Hoey from Dundalk began playing ice-hockey when the ill-fated Ice Dome opened in the town, in 2007, with Beatty Hosgood joining in 2008 and Zsofia Bartl from Hungry coming on board more recently.
Both Sonya and Lorna played with the Dundalk Lady Bulls team and remember the excitement when the Ice Dome hosted the International Ice Hockey Federation Division III World Championships in 2007.
Since the Dome, the only one in Ireland, closed in 2010, they, and all other Irish ice hockey players, must travel to Belfast, to the only ice-rink on the island.
“When the rink in Dundalk closed, we kept a team going through roller hockey and we train out of Belfast,” says Sonya.
It requires a lot of dedication and Sonya admits that they are relatively lucky that Belfast is just an hour’s journey away – some players have to travel much further.
“It’ takes a lot of dedication and everything is self-financed as we don’t get any funding,” says Sonya.
“Our girls come from all over Ireland, Kilkenny, Cork, Dublin and Galway,” says Lorna. “We’ve also got some players who are living in London and France, and one girl goes back home just to train.”
Sonya, who captained the Irish Women’s team when they played in the IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s World Championship Division V in 2011, explains that they can no longer compete in the World Championship as Ireland doesn’t have an ice rink for them to play on.
Instead, they are competing in the Development Cup along with other countries similarly lacking facilities and will come up against Poland Iran, Argentina and Colombia from November 6 to 12 in the Polish city of Krynica-Zdroj.
The Irish team travelled to Kuwait in 2022, where they finished fifth.
While the players are very excited about representing their country on the world stage, they have to bear the costs of the travel and accommodation associated with taking part in the competition.
Sonya, Lorna and Zsofia set up GoFundMe pages to raise funds to cover these costs and are very grateful to the support they have received so far.
They are looking forward to travelling to Poland, taking part in the competition, and playing on ice.