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Whit Hockey Festival now in its 54th year 21 May 2007

The Island’s Whit International Hockey Festival enters its 54th year later this week when 200 visiting players will be arriving to join local sides in a four-day non-competitive event.

The Festival, supported by the Department of Tourism and Leisure, starts on Friday May 25th and continues until the following Monday. A total of 15 visiting sides and ten from the Isle of Man will take part in a 60 match programme which includes men’s, ladies’ and mixed matches.

Hub of the action will be the south of the Island, and Ronaldsway Social Club in particular, where the players can return between matches for some refreshment or just to relax before their next game. Four pitches will be in use at King William’s College together with others at Castle Rushen, Ronaldsway, and the National Sports Centre.

Playing standards vary and the organisers try to match-up the teams so as to ensure competitive games. Over the years the Festival has attracted some top level players including several England under 21 internationals.

One of the strongest teams this year is expected to be Winnington Park from Runcorn who run around eight teams in their local leagues. They are sending a men’s squad.

One of the organising committee, Clive Callister, said that this year – for the first time – they would be keeping a spread sheet of all the results. He added:

‘Although it is a non-competitive festival some teams like to play the same sides each year as they may have built up a friendly rivalry, while others want to see new faces. We try and accommodate everyone’s wishes, as far as possible. Keeping a detailed list of results means we can see at a glance who played who and what was the score. It also helps us to see if there were any mis-matches, to avoid the same teams being paired together next year.’

Among the old favourites, who rarely miss a festival, are the Zulus from Coventry who are competing for the 44th year in the form of men’s and mixed teams. An interesting local entry is a team made up of staff from the Manx National Health Service. Normally, the event consists of club teams but organisers will be keen to see if the doctors and nurses can take care of the opposition.

One of the social highlights of the hockey weekend is the Party Night at the Villa Marina on the Saturday. It is now a tradition for players to arrive in fancy dress with prizes on offer for the best team and individual costumes.

Said Tourism Minister Adrian Earnshaw

‘Although much of the focus this year has been on the centenary of the TT we mustn’t forget long-established events such as the Whit Hockey Festival which are still a major part of our tourist calendar and, I am sure, will continue to be so in the years ahead.’

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