Ex-Irish hockey star Brady takes her place in Larne’s sporting Hall of Fame

Former Irish hockey international Hilary Brady became the eighth person to be inducted into Larne’s Sporting Hall of Fame at the annual Larne Sports Awards.

Hall of Fame: Hilary Brady with cyclist Wendy Houvenhagel and Larnes Deputy Mayor, Drew Niblock. Photo: Alan Glover / Maurice Glover

She follows in the footsteps of another Irish hockey star, Anne Laing, who was given the honour at last year’s ceremony.

Born in Larne, Hilary won won 32 senior caps for Ireland between 1974 and 1982 and highlights included winning the Triple Crown in 1977, and playing at Wembley in front of 65,000 in a 0-0 draw against England in ‘79. In the same year, she competed for Ireland in the first Women’s World Cup in Vancouver.

She captained Pegasus to its first Senior Irish Cup in 1974 and also played for the club in three European Club Championships. Her outstanding service and contribution was recognised when she was made an Honorary Life Member of the club.

Speaking at the awards, she said her introduction to competitive hockey came when she started at Larne Grammar School.

“When I went to the Grammar I got involved in sport and the PE teachers there got me involved and I just loved it. I played anything and everything. I was simply an outdoors person but hockey was my main sport,” she said.

Before going to the Grammar she attended Cairncastle and Ballyboley Primary Schools. She would go on to become a PE teacher at Ballymena Academy before moving into Leisure Services – working for several local councils.

At Newtownabbey Borough Council she became Director of Leisure Services before serving as Deputy Chief Executive.

Reflecting on her international career, she recalled how the game has changed over the years. Players had to pay to play for Ireland when she was part of the international scene. This included match fees and money for a sliver badge which were issued to players instead of caps.

She also had great memories of playing at Wembley. “I think it was 0-0, which was a good result for Ireland. It was played in front of 65,000 screaming schoolchildren, and it was a fantastic experience.

“When we were in the dressing rooms and ready to go out, you could hear the noise. So, to walk down the tunnel into that cacophony of sound really was amazing,” she said.

“During the game, the players couldn’t hear the whistle, so what the umpire had to do was to wave her hand and they blew a klaxton from the roof to get us to stop. It was a fantastic experience - just wonderful.”

Hockey wasn’t her only sport, however, as she was part of the first-ever Northern Ireland Women’s football team.

She was the team’s goalkeeper when it formed in 1972 taking on the Republic of Ireland in her their first match. She played for the side until 1980 - a year after playing in the European Cup in Naples.

She joins Trevor Ringland (rugby), Dave McAuley (boxing), Curly Morris (Sailing), Dianne Barr (swimming), Mark and Paul Fekkes (sailing) and Anne Laing (hockey) in the Hall of Fame.