Denise and Sabrina clocking up the miles - all for the love of sport!

Donegal duo excelling in a host of sports

John Flack


John Flack


Denise and Sabrina clocking up the miles - all for the love of sport!

Raphoe captain Sabrina Barnett (right) with multi-talented goalkeeper Denise McElhinney. Photo: Rowland White PressEye

Newly promoted Raphoe Hockey Club clock up more miles than any other team in the women's Ulster Premier League with their equivalent of a 'local derby' being a relatively short 106-mile return trip from Donegal to Ballymoney.

But for two of their players, the dedication of travelling close to 2,000 miles a season just to fulfil their away fixtures doesn't stop there.

Goalkeeper Denise McElhinney and team captain Sabrina Barnett also play gaelic football for Convoy in the summer months while Denise has another string to her sporting bow.

The 30-year-old also plays soccer for Donegal League side Bonagee United and when the three sports collide in the month of September, life takes on a particularly hectic perspective.

In fact, it's a seven days a week schedule then for Denise, who plays in goal in all three sports although, if she had her way, she would be playing outfield for Convoy GAC.

"To be honest I much rather play full-forward in gaelic and I sometimes get my wish, depending on the standard of the opposition." she said.

Denise's talent at gaelic football has been recognised by the county's selectors and she will be involved in trials for Donegal later this month.

However at this time of the year, hockey is the name of the game, and it was her heroics last season that saw Raphoe promoted to the top-flight for the first time.

Denise saved three penalties in a promotion play-off shoot-out win over Rainey and she loves her role after being persuaded to fill a void six years ago.

"Sabrina asked me to help out while we were playing a game of pool as the club was stuck and I agreed to give it a go." she added.

"I loved it from the start and it's so much easier than playing between the sticks in the other sports with all the protective clothing that you are able to wear."

Denise played a starring role before Christmas when Raphoe picked up their first point from a 0-0 draw with Queen's as she saved a penalty and made a string of superb stops.

A similar result at home to Dungannon has left the team in confident mood as they continue their bid to stay in Ulster hockey's top-flight.

"Survival in the Premier League is our priority and Denise is a key player if we are to succeed in our aim." said Sabrina.

"She has been outstanding so far in the campaign and against Queen's, in particular, she was magnificent as were all the girls in defending 19 penalty-corners."