The 2018 Hockey World Cup is being held in London, but all eyes are on Johannesburg this month as the Irish Women’s senior hockey team battle it out for a qualifying spot at the World League 3 series. Amongst the team are many household names to hockey fans, one of these names and leaders is Shirley McCay. The Ulster Elks player is Ireland’s highest capped sportswoman with 239 International caps. Belfast born and raised, Shirley has been playing hockey from an early age and has fortunately never had a prolonged period of time away from the sport due to injury. Her longevity and endurance at the highest level of hockey is testament to her athletic prowess and preparation. As a full-time hockey coach with the Ulster Hockey Talent squads she is imparting this knowledge and expertise to future stars on a daily basis. For all those caps Shirley has amassed over the years, not one unfortunately has been earned at a World Cup. Here’s hoping the Irish team earn their qualifying spot this month. I luckily got a few minutes out of Shirley’s busy schedule to ask her the following questions.
Tell us about your first or favourite sporting memory?
Growing up I was an avid Liverpool fan, no idea why! So, my earliest sporting memory was when Manchester United defeated Liverpool in the 1996 FA Cup final. I was 8 years old and can distinctly remember crying my eyes out when Eric Cantona popped up to score the winner in the last few minutes of the game.
What advice would you give to a young aspiring athlete in your sport?
Stay modest, be brave and never forget what you do best. Most of all enjoy what you do and who you do it with!
What advice would you give to someone who was dealing with a tough time in their life or a setback in their sport?
I think make the most of the people who are about you. Sometimes setbacks can mean introverted behaviours when it can be beneficial to share your issues. Talk to people who have been through similar experiences and don’t be afraid to ask for help. Things can often seem worse in your head.
What emphasis do you put on food and diet relating to your performance or do you think food and diet has any importance for your performance?
There’s a strong correlation between eating a healthy diet and performance. As part of our squad we take care of what we eat to ensure we are aiding optimal performance.
How do you find the time to plan and prepare meals or do you eat out every day whilst juggling a career in coaching and playing International hockey?
I think like most things when leading a busy life, preparation is key. I have always said those who juggle a full-time job alongside International hockey have the best time management skills out of anyone. I try as best I can to do a weekly shop and cook quick but healthy meals that will leave enough leftovers for the next day. I always have nutritious non-perishable snacks in my cupboard and car to have if I am in a rush or running out the door to training.
Give us some insight into your typical match day food?
We aim to have our pre-match meal 3 hours before push back. Personally I prefer early games as often an evening game can mean you end up eating 3 meals leading up to the game and then another meal after. I love breakfast; it’s my favourite meal of the day. Typically I would have some muesli, fruit or porridge and if our game was early afternoon I would add some poached eggs and granary bread. Hydration is also key to performance so I would make sure I was getting enough fluids in too.
What is your favourite type of food to eat or dish to cook?
I love chorizo, chicken and cashews so really anything with those three ingredients and I’m happy.
When travelling abroad to represent Ireland in competitions, is there any food you miss?
I think it depends hugely on what country we are travelling to. On the whole I am not a fussy eater so I usually get by, but there have been some trips in the past where the food has been poor or just really different to our tastes. I always miss granola from home if there isn’t any available at where we are staying. Decent tea bags are also a must so they always come with us!
What are your favourite places to eat out in Ireland?
There are many good places to eat out in Belfast that have plenty of healthy options including The Skinny Kitchen and Slim’s Healthy Kitchen. There is a little place called The Barking Dog which is an old student haunt where I love to meet up with my friends.