Shetland hockey coaches Peter Sharp and Jill Hibbert are anticipating a hard-fought clash against Orkney on Saturday in the annual inter-county match for the Lady Hamilton Cup.
Preparations for the match had been going very well, they said. Shetland had participated again in the Scottish District Cup which meant training was ongoing for the last few years.
The pair said Shetland had benefited from playing against teams from the mainland, on a variety of playing surfaces, and had dealt very well with any new challenges which they encountered.
The team’s skill work, strategy and team work had improved, they added, and the squad were delighted to reach the semi-final for the second year in a row – narrowly missing out on a final spot after losing 2-1 against Erskine Stewarts Melville.
Tomorrow the Shetland women’s team will be captained by Nicola Balfour who had “a wealth of experience”, the coaches said.
Balfour and Toni Sidgwick, in their capacity as joint association presidents, had been instrumental in the setting up of the “regional hockey facility” in Brae, the coaches said.
Sharp and Hibbert added: “Kristan Robertson thoroughly deserves her vice-captain position and will be a great role model for the team.
“We have two new caps this year – Emma Inkster and Megan Grant. Both of these girls have previous District Cup experience so will be well used to this type of fixture.
“The remainder of the squad have all had inter-county and District Cup experience.”
This year will also see a mixed inter-county clash. The teams played in April this year as the fixture was unable to go ahead last July.
A new cup was donated by Joan Nicolson and the Shetland team ran out 4-0 winners and are hoping to retain the cup.
Sharp and Hibbert said many of the mixed team players were part of the indoor hockey scene and had been playing throughout the winter.
Further preparation had taken place outdoors through training sessions with “tough match practice” against the Shetland Ladies and other mixed teams.
The mixed Shetland side will be led out by captain Naomi Gear and vice-captain Brenda Leask with the match beginning at noon.
“We would like to commend our hockey players for their commitment and effort shown throughout training,” Sharp and Hibbert said.
“Several players are having to travel considerable distances to train – sometimes three times a week. You are a credit to Shetland.”
Sharp and Hibbert said they would like to wish the women’s team, the mixed team and the football team all the very best in their matches and hope that any supporters will be able to come along and lend their voice to the blues.