21 Aug 2018

PRIORIANS CELEBRATING 60 YEARS OF HOCKEY

Author: sandra | Filed under: Uncategorized


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PRIORIANS HOCKEY CLUB

Sixty years ago, Mr. A.M. Raftan, Principal of Prior School, Lifford, Co. Donegal, founded Priorians Hockey Club.  From there the Club has had several bases over the years.  Following a school merger in 1976 they played their games at the Royal & Prior School in Raphoe, Co. Donegal before moving to Foyle & Londonderry College’s pitch in Londonderry.  Foyle has continued to be one of the clubs main feeder schools over the years.

Mens hockey had traditionally been strong in the area but ladies hockey in the North West has always been the Cinderella sport, with Londonderry ever only having two teams:- Londonderry Ladies and Priorians.  When Londonderry Ladies folded, it left Priorians as the sole team in the City and area. Despite an apparent lack of enthusiasm at large for the sport, hard work and determination by Prior players, their families and supporters has meant that the club survives today day to celebrate 60 years.

In 1989 Priorians had an affiliation with City of Derry Rugby Club, playing on the shale pitch at the Rugby Club’s site on the Buncrana Road before moving to Judges Road when the Rugby Club sold their Buncrana Road site.  Priorians enjoyed the luxury of having a clubhouse to entertain visiting teams after the games and also to have a venue for holding fund raising events.  The club now use the facilities at Rochesters Bar, Glendermott Road and we much appreciate having a base to hold events and committee meetings.

When Priorians were promoted from Senior 2 to Senior 1 of the Ulster Women’s Hockey League they no longer were allowed to play on shale pitches and had to find a facility with an Astroturf pitch near to home.  With no Astroturf pitch available in Londonderry the Club had to re-locate to Melvin Park Leisure Centre in Strabane.  The club enjoyed the facilities in Strabane for a few years before returning to Londonderry in 2007 when a new Astroturf pitch was built by Derry City Council at St. Columb’s Park Leisure Centre.  They have played and trained there until 2018.  The Club are now moving to the new Foyle College pitch for the 2018/19 season

The Ladies, have in the past had three teams, however the costs and logistics associated with running three teams proved it to be unviable.  Today Priorians field two teams playing in the Ulster Women’s Hockey League.  Priorians 1sts play in Senior 1 and Priorians 2 in Junior 4.     Most Saturdays we have a team travelling to Belfast and this is draining on expenses.   Recent achievements for the club was the winning of the McConnell Shield and Promotion to Senior 1 2016.

Although this was once a family orientated club (if you weren’t related then you weren’t a true Priorian), the club is now open to everyone to join. Many characters have passed through the door of Priorians, too many to mention by name.  Travelling on a Saturday to away games always turned out to be an eventful day. If we didn’t get lost on the way, we had our minibus breakdown on a few occasions resulting in the girls have to push it to get it going again, to someone running into a lighting pole at the side of a pitch.

Priorians also have a thriving junior section and have teams playing in the under 13 and under 14 leagues.  The club also run an annual Summer Hockey Camp catering for up to 60 children.

Over the years we have had many coaches who have helped raise the standards and maintain motivation which in turn keeps the club in existence.  The current coach is Juan Munoz Herrero and he has a great ambition to get Priorians to Premier status.  The girls train on a Monday and Wednesday and are looking forward to the new season.  With hockey taking a bit of a surge due to National teams doing well in; Olympic, Commonwealth and World Cup tournaments.  Ireland’s recent magnificent silver medal in the 2018 London World Cup is hoped to excite some new interest and potential players.

One claim to fame for Priorians is that they once had the Captain of Ireland Ladies Hockey Team in their ranks, Megan Frazer.  Megan started her hockey career at Foyle & Londonderry College and later joined Priorians.  Unfortunately when she was selected to play for Ireland she had to play for a Premier Club and so Priorians lost her to Ballymoney.  From there she went on to Captain the Ireland Team. (We always said we taught you well, Megan!!!)

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