Veteran Irish international midfielder Mark Black was today hailed as a role model to aspiring players after he announced his retirement from international hockey.
The 29-year-old Cork Harlequins stalwart amassed 113 caps, scoring three times, in ten years in the green jersey, giving him and sibling Jason the distinction of being the only brothers to each chalk up more than a century of caps.
Black’s departure makes him the fifth player – alongside brother Jason, Cookstown’s Andy Barbour and Instonians pair Mark Irwin and Paddy Brown – to call time on his international career in the past 12 months.
“I have had to make the decision to pull out of the international hockey scene primarily due to work commitments, I couldn’t juggle both anymore so I have made the difficult decision to retire,” he said.
He paid tribute to the coaching staff he worked under, insisting they brought Irish hockey on “leaps and bounds”, and the gesture was reciprocated by David Passmore and Steven Hiles.
Passmore, who coached Black for six years at club and international level, said he will be a loss to the Irish side.
“Not only was Mark a consistent performer, he has always been immensely committed and his experience would have proved vital at this time of transition,” said Passmore. “He was a role model to aspiring players both on and off the pitch.”
Irish manager Hiles was another to laud Black’s commitment to the Irish cause: “Mark has worn the green shirt in the Irish midfield with distinction for a decade, and has been a fantastic competitor and team mate to all who had the privilege to play with him.
“He will be remembered for his uncompromising approach and elite professional standards which he set at training and during matches. Nothing epitomised Mark’s dedication more than returning from a potentially international career-ending cruciate ligament injury in 2003 after which he returned to the squad to play on for several years after.”
Black represented Ireland at every age-grade, and was part of the U21 side which competed in the European A division in 2000, playing every minute of the tournament in the Madrid heat.
He will now focus exclusively on his club hockey, and has little time to dwell on the decision as Quins face a season-defining couple of weeks in the Irish Hockey League and Irish Senior Cup, starting with Saturday’s do-or-die IHL clash with Annadale.