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Living 'in a suitcase,' and chasing more than World Cup qualification at Euros

Ireland hockey goalkeeper Ayeisha McFerran was speaking to the media ahead of the tournament which starts this weekend.

IRELAND HOCKEY GOALKEEPER Ayeisha McFerran has been travelling a lot recently.

ayeisha-mcferran Ireland goalkeeper Ayeisha McFerran. Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

She returned home to Antrim earlier this month after completing the domestic club season in the Netherlands with SV Kampong, where she helped them fight off relegation to finish the campaign in eighth place.

McFerran was back in Ireland to link up with the national side ahead of two test matches against Scotland as part of their preparations for the European Championships. Seán Dancer’s charges will be meeting the Scots again in Pool A at the Euros.

The Netherlands — the number one ranked side in the world — and Spain are also in that group.

The competition begins this weekend, as teams prepare for an intensive run of games over eight days with the final pencilled in for 13 June.

And since the Netherlands is the host country for the event, McFerran is back on familiar turf again.

“My life is in a suitcase,” she says when asked about the movement over and back between Ireland and her Dutch base.

“That’s where my wardrobe is based pretty much most of the time. I’ve been fortunate that I’ve been able to fly in and out. Of course, [I'm] always being safe and making sure everyone is comfortable around me but yeah, it’s very much fly in, wait a few days, go to training, fly back to Holland.

“It’s always very much in and out for me.

“It’s weird, we’ve been in camp for five or six days and we’ve another four days to go so it’s a long wait. But we’re excited and we’re rearing to go and we can wait to go to the Euros.”

McFerran joined SV Kampong in 2019, one summer after being crowned best goalkeeper at the 2018 World Cup where Ireland famously reached the final.

Her side was facing relegation earlier this year but a change in coach, coupled with McFerran getting more time as the first-choice keeper, boosted their performances.

They also had the added challenge of Covid-19 disruptions interfering with the running of the league. McFerran says that the league started in December but was halted after six or seven games as the Covid situation worsened. They resumed training towards the end of January to complete the rest of their campaign.

“The club season this year you could say was interesting,” she says.

“It just was a mix of different coaching perspectives and the coaching change allowed myself and the team just to play more free and I play my best when I’m relaxed and having fun, playing free, doing what I know I can do and not being questioned on my abilities.

“So I think that has also helped me come back in to the Ireland team. I know I’m playing well, I’m comfortable with what I’m doing and I know I’m in a good mindset with how everything is going.

“So ultimately, it was obviously good for me, like I was playing all the games so I’m not going to be mad about that. But it definitely was a rocky year, I learned a lot both hockey and personally but come the end I think it’s put me in a good place.”

There are a lot of targets for the Ireland team to aim for at the Euros. First up is World Cup qualification, which is there for the Green Army if they can secure a top-three finish.

A first-ever appearance in the semi-finals of the tournament is another goal for Ireland, as well as building up competitive time on the field before the Olympics commence later this summer.

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“We know what’s at stake with it being qualifiers for the World Cup,” says McFerran ahead of their Euros opener against the Netherlands on Saturday in what will be a rematch of the 2018 World Cup final.

emily-beatty-and-caia-van-maasakker Ireland lost out to the Netherlands in the 2018 World Cup final. Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

Those two sides will also collide at the Olympics in Tokyo.

“Our goal is, minimum, qualify for the World Cup and I think that gives us good motivation but if we give good performances, the rest will take care of itself. We fully believe that.

“For us, yes, World Cup qualification is at stake but we want to do more than that, we don’t want to get fifth, we want medals, we want to win, and that’s just who we are.

“As a squad we don’t want to go in just to say ‘yeah, we’ll do the bare minimum’. Absolutely not. So we know what’s at stake but we don’t want to just do what’s at stake.”

Now Official Energy Drinks Partner to the Irish Women’s Hockey Team, Red Bull has announced that Goalkeeper Ayeisha McFerran as the latest Irish athlete to join the Red Bull family.

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