WHEN the Scottish women’s hockey team celebrated their European Championship II success on home soil back in August 2019, little could they have known it would also serve as a farewell party.
Victory over Italy in the final – and with it promotion back to the top division – was meant to be the start of a sustained push to ensure they would be in the best shape heading to this summer’s EuroHockey Nations Championship in the Netherlands.
Instead, it would prove to be the last time they would all be together for almost a year and a half. The onset of the pandemic in March last year and the disruption it has caused for non-professional sport has deprived them of the chance to even train together.
The recent announcement, then, that the senior Scotland squads would be granted exemption from the current restrictions by the Scottish Government to allow them – and the men’s team – to return to training was a very welcome development.
Performance exemption approved for 🏴Scotland senior squads to allow them to prepare for major🏑 tournaments this year.
Read more here 👇 https://t.co/Q4cueG4Mkz pic.twitter.com/m9G9B7rIxW
— Scottish Hockey (@ScottishHockey) January 11, 2021
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That first night of training at Peffermill in Edinburgh at the start of the month was not only the first proper step for the women to on their journey to the Netherlands in June but also something of a reunion, with some team-mates back on the pitch together for the first time since that joyous win over Italy.
“It was really nice just to be able to train with all the girls again,” said Sarah Jamieson, scorer of one of the goals in the final that saw Scotland lift the title in 2019.
“We had club hockey until Christmas but, in terms of Scotland, we could only train regionally. So there were three or four of us in Edinburgh doing that, and similar in other parts of the country.
“But I hadn’t seen some of the squad from Glasgow or Dundee since our last hub session last March, and then others in the squad not since the Euros in 2019.
“So it was a proper reunion. When we said goodbye to each other after the Euros, this wasn’t the plan. There were events in place and talk of going on training camps and none of that happened.
“Of course, our first session back it was pouring with rain and freezing cold but it was nice to get back out there.
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“The coaches eased us in thankfully. We hadn’t been able to play games even for our clubs since September so we were all a bit rusty! But we had a good run around and got back into the swing of things.
“We appreciate that we’re privileged to get this opportunity so, where possible, we still distanced during the warm-ups and the same when we were on the sidelines. It was just about being as sensible as we could.
“There were girls there who had driven from Glasgow or Dundee. They had letters of permission to show if they were stopped by the police! So we’re very grateful to be able to train together again and definitely not taking this opportunity for granted.”
Whether the Euros will go ahead this summer, nobody can say for certain. But having taken part the last time Scotland featured at elite level in 2017, Jamieson is really hoping to experience that again.
“We’re all hoping to hear it goes ahead but it’s so hard to plan anything for certain right now,” added the trainee solicitor.
“I feel for our coaches and the staff at Scottish Hockey who are trying to create some sort of programme for us as you can’t guarantee anything right now.
“Bu we’ve got five months so the clock is ticking to get us ready for the challenge of taking on the best in Europe.
“The last time we were there four years ago was my second tournament for Scotland. It was really tough going and a bit of a whirlwind where we just missed out on staying up. So that was a bit of a devastating end to that experience.
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“Hopefully this time there will be a more positive outcome. We want to try to establish ourselves in the top division if we can and it ought to also help our chances of making it to the World Cup.”
Jamieson was part of the squad that travelled to Gold Coast for the Commonwealth Games in 2018 and is already looking forward to Birmingham next summer.
The 26 year-old added: “It’s maybe not quite as glamorous as Australia but hopefully it means more people from home will be able to travel down to watch us.
“We’re not sure if there will be any crowds there at the Euros this summer. But hopefully by the time the Commonwealth Games roll around in 2022 we’ll have fans back again and that could make such a big difference.”