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Press Release - 19/07/1998

East Antrim Hockey Club
19 July 1998

For further information, contact:
Stephen Swann
Press Release Officer - East Antrim Hockey Club
34 Carnmoney Road, Newtownabbey, BT36 6HP
078 0316 7731
stephen@eastantrim.co.uk


EAST ANTRIM GET FIT

Many in hockey circles will be aware that East Antrim Hockey Club have been based in the Glengormley area since its formation in 1902. Indeed the little used pitch on the Ballyclare Road was owned by the club up until the late Fifties when a dispute with the Newtownabbey Urban Council resulted in the pitch being sold to raise funds for a lost court case.

With the introduction of astroturf hockey to the province, the club moved its "headquarters" to the Valley Leisure Centre. The club has always been proud of the area in which it played, but for the 1998-99 season the club has had to seek alternative accommodation.

The spiraling cost of astroturf hockey, coupled with the growing youth membership within the club has caused financial concerns for Michael Jackson, club treasurer. The deterioration in the standard of facilities offered at the local leisure centre has also had an impact.

To survive in the local game, the club must play its home matches on astroturf pitches. Fortunately, Ballysillan Leisure Centre have come up with a "rescue" plan. They have offered the club a prime Saturday afternoon slot at less than half the price of the Valley Leisure Centre. They have also offered the club free use of the pitch every Saturday morning for coaching local children, both boys and girls, up to the age of 16.

"I'm delighted with this development", said Michael Jackson. "It means that we will not be subjected to the extortionate prices that other clubs have to endure."

Unfortunately, Ballysillan can only offer the one slot. This will ensure that the 1st and 2nd XI teams can play alternate weeks. But the 3rd and 4th XI teams are still unsure of their base - and the search continues.

Club captain, Stephen Swann, said "In an ideal world, we would be looking at buying our old pitch back on the Ballyclare Road. We would then lay an astroturf pitch on it and try to develop the game in the Glengormley area."

Unfortunately, it would seem that the local council will be selling the pitch to the Boy Scouts for the building of a new Scout Hut.

"That would be a shame" Jackson commented. "Our club is not cash-rich at present, and we could not afford the cost of buying the pitch. It would be a long-term goal, but not a realistic one if the pitch is to be sold."

On a more upbeat note for the club, however, an announcement of a new 1st XI coach for the coming season is expected within the next week or so.

Swann said "We are trying to position ourselves for a more successful season than we have had in recent times. I am very hopeful that the coach we have approached will give us a positive response before pre-season training begins."

Last season saw the exodus of 7 1st XI squad members from East Antrim to other clubs. The club has only made 2 summer signings, leaving a shortage of experience and cover. Coming by new players, however, has proven very difficult as development officer, Russell White, explained:

"It seems that the days of club loyalty have gone. Players want success, representative honours, a club with a club-house - the list goes on. We cannot provide these things at present. However, we have put together a strategy for the future. We have employed the services of a 1st team manager. We are hopeful of employing a 1st team coach, and our Youth Liaison Officer is confident of feeding the more senior teams in the club with a steady stream of young talent."

For anyone interested in what is happening at the East Antrim club, there are a number of ways of finding out. Interested players can come along to pre-season fitness training at the pitch on the Ballyclare Road, 4th August at 6:30pm. Or you can check the World Wide Web at:

http://www.eastantrim.co.uk/