Irish hockey legend advises pupils to “stay grounded”

Written by | Sport

Wallace’s annual celebration of sport saw our school family welcome Irish hockey star Shirley McCay into our midst. As talent coach for Ulster hockey Shirley already knows and loves our famed “ smurf turf” (although she did complain about the “hill” leading to it) and she encouraged our students to believe that “round that corner lies opportunities like never before.” Holder of an amazing 277 Irish caps Shirley proved herself to be an inspirational speaker and a genuine embodiment of the values she promotes. Charting her development as a player Shirley noted she was a “late bloomer” as she only started to play hockey when she began her education at Omagh Academy. Modestly observing that she was never “ the fastest, the strongest, the tallest” ( the latter evidenced by her standing on tip toes at the lectern) Shirley identified her capacity for “hard work” as her greatest strength and warned her eager listeners not to expect everything to “ fall into your lap.” Recalling memorable victories won with her school team which included the Belfast Telegraph Schools’ Cup and the Kate Russell All-Ireland Championships Shirley assured the young audience that those experiences ranked as highly as her international triumphs; Wallace’s former pupil and Irish international rugby star Chris Henry has expressed very similar opinions about the thrill of leading the 1XV out to the hallowed turf of Ravenhill (Kingspan) for the Schools’ Cup final. Urging students to cherish  their experiences of school sport Shirley highlighted the life skills she has derived from her experiences of sport concluding that it is crucial to learn humility and resilience.

To quote Principal Deborah O’Hare the event was about “celebration, participation, recognition and thanks” as individuals and teams of all ages, stages and standards are honoured at the event.  A comprehensive Sports Review booklet ( which is available as a download) paid testament to the depth of sporting achievements at Wallace and provided some fascinating insights into our students’ talents; representative honours were presented in twelve sports including Rowing, Taekwondo and Triathlon and participation in sixteen sports is celebrated in the document.

Closing the formal part of the evening the Principal encouraged “one last round of applause” to acknowledge “the staff for all they do for you week by week ” and thanked the students for their commitment and loyalty. A much enjoyed finger buffet supper by Mount Charles catering concluded the evening.

Senior Teacher Mr J Reid said:

“This is always a great night in the school’s calendar. Thanks are due to the PE staff for their help with the practicalities of the night. Thanks are also due to Shirley for a terrific talk which really echoed the values we promote at Wallace. Hopefully, her messages about humility, hard work and resilience will impact the students and we wish Shirley all the best in her pursuit of the goal of becoming an Olympian.”

Congratulations to all our young athletes on their achievements this year. A Sports Review of the Year is available here to download and keep.

Last modified: May 10, 2019