Western girls play for country

Tim Hart heading up the line-up of teams.
Tim Hart heading up the line-up of teams.

NO FEWER than seven of the Scotland women’s hockey squad that played against South Africa at Titwood last week were members of the local Clydesdale Western club.

The five Test matches were part of South Africa’s pre-Olympic programme, and all five games were suitably challenging for the visitors, in conditions that went from extreme heat to extreme cold in the space of seven days.

Crowds of up to 750 watched each of the matches, which were also televised live over the internet by locally-based QuipuTV to a similar number of viewers around the planet.

And Wednesday’s evening game, played under floodlights in a dense gloaming, also gave Clydesdale’s Tim Hart his first taste of life as an international hockey umpire.

After achieving a creditable 2-2 draw in the first game, Scotland coach Gordon Shepherd rang the changes of his young squad to give all the players the experience they will need when they compete in the global Champions’ Challenge tournament later this year.

Seven of his squad made their international debuts, and Shepherd declared his satisfaction that they had competed well with the impressive South Africans for long periods of each game.

Indeed, as the scorelines lengthened in favour of the Olympic squad during the week, it was notable that the margin between the two sides only became apparent in the final minutes when Scottish fatigue succumbed to superior African fitness levels.

For the Clydesdale club, following the VIP opening of their upgraded international pitch and associated facilities, the week-long festival of sport was a triumph, including several youth events at both hockey and cricket (the latter featuring a British cup match between Scotland’s under-15s and Derbyshire).

Already there is talk of another international hockey tournament being staged at this venue quite soon, and Robert Heatly, the Scottish Hockey Union’s chief executive, praised the club-based organisation and atmosphere of the week’s events.