On Thursday, Branford field hockey coach Cathy McGuirk retired from coaching after 41 seasons, a career that included 10 CIAC Class M titles, and the announcement hit hard with local coaches.
“There is no one phrase or comment to sum up what Cathy means to Connecticut field hockey, especially here in the SCC (Southern Connecticut Conference),” said Hand field hockey coach Sue Leckey, who won a Class M title last season. “The level of competition has been set by Branford for many years in the area.
“The need to be strong enough to be able to play on the same field with Cathy’s teams drives us to develop teams that can compete. This is a daunting task and it has driven the development of the sport, and specifically my program here at Daniel Hand. You either step your program up, or you might not be able to compete.”
For Cheshire field hockey coach Eileen Wildermann and Guilford field hockey coach Kitty Palmer, McGuirk’s retirement leaves a void in Connecticut field hockey.
“Cathy has left a void in the Connecticut field hockey world,” Palmer said. “She is a coach we all aspire to be, respected by her peers, loved by her team, and successful on the field. It will never be the same when we face Branford field hockey.”
Cathy McGuirk and her husband John, who was her assistant coach the past 38 seasons, made an impact with Wildermann 10 seasons ago when she became the Rams coach.
“When I entered high school coaching in my twenties, Cathy was so warm, encouraging, and, at the same time, fiercely competitive,” Wildermann said. “She has a great perspective on what really matters, the connection with decades of players and their families.
“Her impact on young girls is inspiring. Our league is what it is because of her; she will be leaving a great void. I will miss her and John on the sidelines.”
Leckey said the McGuirks’ (Cathy and John) relationship and the tradition they have built in Branford field hockey is one to envy.
“Years of success have given a lot of young ladies in Branford and their families the opportunity to experience the joys of victory,” Leckey said. “And, more specifically the feeling of success that follows dedication, passion and commitment to one another and their tradition.
“Cathy and John will not be able to be replaced in our field hockey community. Cathy is a professional with a tremendous heart. Their teamwork and shared passion is also a model for anyone to learn from and admire.”