Sunday 29 January 2023 Dublin: 5°C
# Road to Tokyo
Sibling rivalry drives multi-talented Hawkshaws to international success
Sarah Hawkshaw enjoyed an excellent tournament debut for Ireland on Saturday, with younger brother David watching on.

Ryan Bailey reports from Havelock Park, Banbridge  

IT GOES WITHOUT saying that David Hawkshaw, the Ireland U20 Grand Slam-winning captain, would have preferred to be in the sunnier climes of Santa Fe on Saturday afternoon, but as far as alternatives go, watching his sister make her tournament debut for Ireland wasn’t bad.

Having had to bide her time to break into the senior women’s hockey team, Sarah Hawkshaw made the most of her opportunity on Saturday, producing an excellent performance in Ireland’s 2-1 victory over Malaysia in their FIH Final Series opener.

pe_00804983 Press Eye / Jonathan Porter Hawkshaw walks out at Banbridge. Press Eye / Jonathan Porter / Jonathan Porter

The 23-year-old, winning her ninth international cap but first in a ranking tournament, was one of two new faces in the squad from last year’s magical run to the World Cup final, the other being Bethany Barr whose third-minute goal set Ireland on their way.

Among the 2,000-capacity crowd at Havelock Park were Hawkshaw’s friends and family, including younger brother David, who would have been keeping a close eye on proceedings in Argentina where his team-mates were in U20 World Championship action against Australia. 

The Leinster academy centre suffered a serious knee injury during the Six Nations but, on crutches on Saturday, was able to watch his older sister help the World Cup silver medallists take the first step on the road to Tokyo 2020.

“There’s healthy competition in the family anyway,” she laughed afterwards. “It was nice to have family here, the crowd were amazing. I’ve never experienced anything like that before.”

A multi-talented athlete who played Gaelic football for Dublin at underage level and enjoyed a successful athletics career during her time in Mount Sackville, Hawkshaw recently returned from America where she spent four years studying in the University of Massachusetts.

While there, the Dubliner, on a sports scholarship, starred for UMass and was a four-time Atlantic 10 All-Conference selection and won two National Field Hockey Coaches Association All-America awards.

With a decorated collegiate career behind her, Hawkshaw has since returned to play in the EY Hockey League for Railway Union, putting her back in national team contention, initially under former coach Graham Shaw.

Her international debut came against Chile back in February and although competition for places was incredibly high, she had done enough to earn a place in Gareth Grundie’s final 18-player panel for this tournament at the expense of World Cup silver medallist Nikki Evans.

“There is a little bit more pressure coming in I suppose, they did so well at the World Cup,” Hawkshaw continues. “I’m absolutely honoured just to be involved and I’ve learned so much and been in camp with them for a while. Training has gone really well and at this stage now you just feel settled.”

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pe_00804973 Press Eye / Jonathan Porter The forward in action against Malaysia on Saturday. Press Eye / Jonathan Porter / Jonathan Porter

That said, the forward admits there were plenty of pre-match nerves.

“Yeah, there definitely were but once you get the first touch of the ball, you settle. And it’s always the case in any game, you’re kind of tense until you get that. You can press all you like but until you get that first touch, that’s when you calm down and get into it.

“I’ve taken huge confidence from getting into the squad for this tournament.”

Hawkshaw settled into the game from the off and a couple of early involvements, including an industrious run down this near side, provided a glimpse of why she had earned her place in the team.

An athletic and skilful attacker, Hawkshaw brings different qualities to Ireland’s forward line and linked well with Deirdre Duke, Anna O’Flanagan and captain Katie Mullan throughout, the latter scoring Ireland’s second goal.

Hawkshaw’s past career in athletics, representing both her school and Clonliffe Harriers, has no doubt helped her develop as a hockey player with interim coach Grundie referencing her athleticism and tireless work-rate as a key strength. 

“I was running quite competitively and playing football for Dublin in school but was actually getting injured as I was trying to do both,” she explains.

My running coach told me that I probably had more chance in hockey than running. He was honest with me so I respected that and kind of leaned more towards hockey from there and went to the States after the Leaving Cert.

Although she progressed through the age grades in a green jersey, Hawkshaw’s time in America meant she had to wait longer for her opportunity than most, but strong performances during winter trips to Spain and Chile made it impossible for management to ignore her worth in the team. 

Now, like every single one of the squad, she has eyes on Tokyo.

“It’s all we’re thinking of but this is day one of it,” Hawkshaw adds. “We’ve ticked one match off and that’s how we’re looking at it.

“It’s everyone’s dream, and to be this close, we don’t want to let it slip.”

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