When Chloe Watkins was young, she loved all kinds of sport. And like a lot of sporty children, she tried her hand at whatever was on offer. In fact, even though she is a constant feature on the Irish women’s hockey team, Chloe admits that football was originally her first love. However, it wasn’t long before hockey took over.
It’s no surprise really, considering her family are hockey mad. Both her father and brother were on the Irish men’s hockey team and her sister also plays senior hockey for their local club in Dublin, Monkstown.
Chloe had her first Irish cap at the age of 18, just after her Leaving Cert. In the final of the 2018 World Cup, Chloe celebrated her 200th Irish cap. She played with a club in Spain while on Erasmus there during college and she also played with a professional club in Holland for a period.
2018 World Cup
The epic journey of the Irish women’s hockey team in the 2018 World Cup has been etched into recent memory. The team entered ranked second-lowest, only eventually bowing out in the final to the top-ranked Netherlands.
This story of the underdog catapulted Irish women’s hockey into the spotlight, where it has remained ever since. In recent weeks they celebrated a historic first ever win over Great Britain, the reigning Olympic champions. While the match was uncapped, it was a significant milestone.
Female role models
As well as the satisfaction of winning and giving people something to rally around, Chloe says there’s another huge positive from the successes of the team. When she was younger, for her, Sonia O’Sullivan was the only highly visible sports woman, but now young girls have plenty more role models to choose from.
“I think it’s hugely important. The exposure and coverage of things like that [women’s matches] and just in general of women’s sport. It can only have a positive impact on the younger generation coming through.
“Sonia O’Sullivan is the only female athlete I can remember on the TV growing up and she certainly inspired me,” Chloe recalls. “Hopefully the more [girls] that can be exposed to it [women in sport], the more they’ll get inspired.
“You see a lot more women’s team sports now; the soccer team, the rugby team and the GAA are regularly covered. It’s great, you need that diverse array of sports. You can’t pigeon hole people too soon. Certainly when you’re younger you play a bit of everything, so it’s great to have different role models from different sports.”
Naturally, with the high-profile wins the Irish women’s hockey team have had, one of the first things that comes to mind is the success and also that winning edge. But for Chloe, there’s another big asset to being on the team. Well, not just this team, but any team.
For Chloe, participating in team sport over the years has lended itself to acquiring a whole host of multi-use life skills. Having studied commerce and Spanish at University College Dublin (UCD), Chloe often sees these abilities coming through in her job as a trainee accountant.
“There are so many different things that I’ve learned from being in a team environment. It’s great to understand how to communicate with people. Everybody has a different personality, a different way of thinking and it’s just about collaborating with them, being able to understand them and supporting each other as well,” Chloe says.
“I’ve learned so much and I couldn’t recommend it more for young kids to be on teams. We’re all best friends [on the Irish women’s hockey team] and it’s like a family really now. It’s really nice to have.
“I think being part of a team tests your ability to work under pressure at an early age as well, without you even thinking about it. When you’re going into the business world, with your studies in college or whatever it is, you’re able to deal with things a little bit better.
“There are definitely lots of pros to playing a team sport. You’re constantly working in teams when you go into these businesses, so it’s a no-brainer really to be involved from an early age.”
The next few months are going to be big ones for Chloe and the rest of the women on the Irish hockey team. In June they have the European Championships, which are qualifiers for the next World Cup. Also, of course, the long-awaited Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games (taking place in 2021) kick off at the end of July. Chloe is an FBD brand ambassador, who are the principal sponsor of Team Ireland at Tokyo 2020.
Having qualified for the Olympics back in 2019, it’s been quite a while coming around. Chloe isn’t giving too much away about her thoughts on the games, but Irish Country Living wonders has last year’s cancellation increased or decreased excitement levels?
“It will be different to other years, but thankfully we know no different, so it won’t affect us too much. I think we’re all just that extra bit motivated to get over there and compete,” Chloe says. “When you were unsure of what was happening last year, the prospect of it being cancelled was really heart-breaking, so I think it’s given everybody an extra boost and we’re really excited.”
Both hockey fanatics and casual supporters alike are sure to be keenly following the team’s progress over the summer. Here’s to hoping for more magic moments from this group of women.