The Irish Women’s Hockey team are preparing for yet another milestone year, as they bid for Olympic qualification for the first time. In June, Ireland will compete at the Hockey Series Finals where a top-two finish will guarantee advancement to a head-to-head Olympic-qualifier in September.
Earlier this week Singapore completed the line-up of countries who will compete at the FIH series. Ireland who are ranked eighth in the world, will be the highest ranked team at the tournament with the Czech Republic, Malaysia, Korea, Scotland, Ukraine and France making up the rest of the teams.
In preparation for the decisive tournament, Ireland’s upcoming schedule will intensify to give the World Cup finalists the best possible chance of progressing.
A 26-player squad has been named for a Tri-Nation Tournament which will take place in Alicante next month, between Ireland, Spain and India. Lizzie Colvin and Shirley McCay are recalled to the squad for the first time since the World Cup Final.
There are however notable absentees as Ayeisha McFerran, Chloe Watkins, Gillian Pinder and Megan Frazer have not been included. Pinder and Frazer have been ruled out due to injury whilst McFerran is unavailable due to her college commitments for the University of Louisville.
Following on from the Tri-Series, Ireland will face Great Britain in an uncapped series at Bisham Abbey in March. From there Ireland will host Canada four a four-game series in Dublin in May, the last of their warm-up fixtures before the pivotal FIH Series, which is being held in Dublin.
Belgium will also host this year’s EuroHockey Championships in August, another tournament the player’s will have a keen eye on.
It promises to be a hectic 2019 for Ireland, who became the Irish team ever to reach a World Cup Final, in any sport. The Green Army will be relishing the chance to kick-on from their astonishing achievement and continue to take Irish women’s sport to new levels.
Preparations have already begun for the Girls in Green as they recently returned from a warm-weather training camp in Chile. Coach Graham Shaw put the squad through their paces with double training sessions and a four-match series against Chile.
A youthful and exciting Irish team drew two games, lost one and won one as they look to build on the momentum of their World Cup silver medal success. The trip proved a valuable learning experience for the whole team who were able to get important international time under their belt.
The tour saw twins Serena Barr and Bethany Barr, make their first senior appearances for the Green Army alongside two other debutants Sarah Hawkshaw and 17-year old midfielder Amy Elliott. Hawkshaw even managed to score her first international goal in the side’s 2-2 draw.
Irish Squad For Tri Nations Series:
Liz Murphy (Loreto), Emma Buckley (Racing), Bethany Barr (UCD), Hannah Matthews (Loreto), Lena Tice (UCD), Serena Barr (UCD), Hannah McLoughlin (UCD), Chloe Brown (East Grinsted), Katie Mullan (Club an der Alster), Ali Meeke (Loreto), Roisin Upton (Catholic Institute), Ellen Curran (UCD), Nikki Evans (UHC), Anna O’Flanagan (Pinoke), Sarah Torrans (Loreto), Deirdre Duke (UCD), Sarah Hawkshaw (Railway Union), Aisling Naughton (Pembroke), Lizzie Colvin (Belfast Harlequins), Emily Beatty (Pembroke), Yvonne O’Byrne (Cork Harlequins), Sinead Loughran (Pembroke), Leah McGuire (UCD), Shirley McCay (Pegasus), Nicci Daly (Loreto), Zoe Wilson (Belfast Harlequins).
Tri-Nations Tournament fixtures:
1 February: Ireland vs India, Murcia
3 February: Ireland v India, Murcia
4 February: Ireland v Spain, Granada
6 February: Ireland v Spain, Granada
7 February: Ireland v Spain, Granada.