Development & Alumni Relations Office 



MEET ELITE ATHLETE, EMILY MCSTEA, CURRENT HOCKEY INTERNATIONAL AND CAMBRIDGE STUDENT  Hockey scholar Emily McStea in action, ready to shoot/pass the ball

06 January 2021

Stranmillis University College and Queen’s BSc (2020) alumna Emily McStea is currently pushing, flicking and dribbling her way to hockey success thanks not only to an abundance of innate talent but also to a healthy measure of philanthropic scholarship support.

A former runner-up with Queen’s in the Ulster Premier League and an EYHL 2 play-offs finalist, Emily is currently a member of the Women’s Blues hockey team at the University of Cambridge where she’s studying for a PGCE in Primary Education, while still training regularly with the Irish U23 squad.

Speaking to Paddy Gilmore, Development and Engagement Manager for Queen’s Sport, Emily outlined her university hockey experience and the importance of the Elite Athlete Programme (EAP) and Academy scholarships:

“I wanted to play hockey at Queen’s for the University hockey experience,” said Emily. “I thought it would be a really good way to meet new people and to develop new friendships, which it was. I also knew a couple of the girls on the hockey team before joining, and I was aware of the support they received from Queen’s hockey. 

“I also felt that the setup and support available at the Club – and from Queen’s Sport – would be really beneficial to my player development, while completing my studies.”  

When she first started her third level education, Emily was offered a Hockey Academy scholarship as a result of her representations for Ulster Hockey at both U16 and U18 levels. The scholarship support package included high performance coaching, strength and conditioning (S&C) coaching, physiotherapy, membership of Queen’s Sport facilities as well as lifestyle and time management mentoring.

As her hockey achievements continued during her BSc Health, Physical Activity and Sport degree, Emily eventually progressed from the Academy to the Elite Athlete Programme. During summer 2019, she attended a warm weather training camp in Alicante, Spain with the U21 squad – known affectionately as the Junior Green Army – and also played a series of matches in Dublin against Canada, Great Britain and Malaysia. 

“The Academy Scholarship and the coaching staff at Queen’s Sport really helped me as an athlete and in so many ways. After my first year as a member of Queen’s Hockey, I was offered a place in the U21 Irish development squad, mainly thanks to support from my amazing coaches Simon and Drew. 

“I received continuous backing from Queen’s Sport, and developed as a player both physically and mentally, moving from the Irish development squad to the main U21/U23 group. 

“And then I was offered a place on the Elite Athlete Programme in my final year, which really helped to maximise my sporting and academic potential,” she added.

Scholarships and achievement   

Scholarship support enables elite student athletes like Emily to balance training and academic studies. During her final year while she was writing her dissertation, Emily received support from various team members at Queen’s Sport with matters such as time management and, on occasion, proof-reading.

“Having access to S&C coaching and gym facilities made training very accessible and specific. The personalised S&C programme was a major part in my development as an athlete. Thanks to the EAP scholarship I was able to achieve things both on and off the hockey pitch, many of which I thought maybe I could never achieve. 

“The most amazing thing from both scholarships was that I always knew there was support available, whether it be sport related or not.” 

There are many reasons why Emily ultimately chose to study and play hockey at Queen’s, among which she says were its world-class reputation and its first-class sporting facilities. It was also somewhere close to home that she felt would see her begin a career path in further education and enable her to achieve her career goals. 

“Playing hockey at Queen’s was the best decision I could have made; the memories – and there are many – will definitely be with me for life,” concluded Emily.

If you would like to support the next generation of sport at Queen’s through one of our five Sporting Academies – including Hockey – visit the Queen’s Foundation website or contact Paddy Gilmore, Queen’s Development and Engagement Manager, Queen’s Sport.

For general enquiries about this story, or to submit graduate news items, please contact Gerry Power, Communications Officer, Development and Alumni Relations Office, Queen's University Belfast or telephone: +44 (0)28 9097 5321.

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