Maureen Sherman – who has received the BEM in the New Year’s Honours list – is best known as a fast and skilful right-winger during the golden age of Ladies Hockey in Portadown, and as a dedicated Head of Girls’ PE at Killicomaine Junior High School.
Such were the honours landed by Portadown Ladies Hockey Club during the 1970s, that Maureen simply can’t remember them all. They included a plethora of Ulster and all-Ireland titles and knock-out cups and European trips.
The legendary Sammy Jones was the man in charge of the team, which included stars like Violet McBride, the Matchett sisters and Louise Lawson. And Maureen was also part of Sammy’s management team during those halcyon days, along with Lesley Jones.
“It was some hockey team,” Maureen recalls. “Sammy had the knack of spotting talented players from all over the place, and they flocked to Portadown.”
The clubs they came from weren’t best pleased – Olympic star Violet McBride moved from Kilkeel, for example, and Maureen was “poached” from Lurgan where she was a star player. She played for the Ireland ‘B’ team and for the Ulster squad at senior and junior level.
Her dedication and talents in the teaching field were spotted by another mentor, David Riley, principal at Killicomaine where she was head of girls’ PE and coach of their successful hockey team. She taught at Killicomaine from 1965-2002. Her husband Michael died in 2003, and she returned to teach until 2015. Michael was a well-known chemist in Portadown, and had branches in Donaghcloney and Richhill.
During her days in Killicomaine, Maureen took a year out to attend Queen’s University for a qualification in Special Needs and she taught maths in this respect – while continuing with her PE pursuits. “I prided myself in keeping fit all those years,” she laughed. “The girls must have been rather bemused at this, er, more mature woman going through her paces.”
She thanks her Killicomaine mentors David Riley, Zeke McCleery and present principal Hugh McCarthy for all their help over the years, and busies herself these days in gardening, reading and knitting. She has two daughters – Lisa in North Carolina and Zoe, as well as a granddaughter Danielle.
“I’m really honoured to received such an award,” she said.
She is also delighted that Killicomaine classroom assistant Sydney Henderson received a BEM.
“fully deserved an honour to a superb school.”