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Dublin: 9°C Tuesday 15 June 2021

New coach Dancer names first squad as Ireland head for European Championships

Nikki Evans is back in the fold for the upcoming tournament in Belgium.

IRELAND WILL TRAVEL to Belgium for next week’s European Hockey Championships harbouring ambitions of repeating their exploits of last summer, with 15 of the World Cup silver medallists retained in the squad. 

New head coach Sean Dancer has recalled Nikki Evans to the panel after she impressed in recent games against Italy, while Katie Mullan will once again captain Ireland at a major tournament.

Ireland players celebrate after the game Ireland open their campaign against England. Source: Bryan Keane/INPHO

There are three changes from June’s FIH Final Series campaign in Banbridge, where Ireland finished second to secure an Olympic qualifier berth, as Megan Frazer [injured], Emma Buckley and Chloe Brown drop out.

Evans was the surprise omission for that tournament but has rebounded strongly to earn her place back in the squad, notably scoring a number of goals in that series against Italy in Belfast.

The core of the team remains unchanged with Ayeisha McFerran, who recently completed her move to Dutch outfit Kampong, Lena Tice, Chloe Watkins and Anna O’Flanagan all included. 

With Olympic qualification on offer for the European champions and vital world ranking points also on the line, the stakes couldn’t be higher for Ireland travelling to Antwerp.

Dancer’s side are in Pool B alongside Belarus, Germany and England, with the Green Army opening their campaign against the latter this Sunday, 18 August. The top two teams advance to the semi-finals. 

“We have had a good preparation period leading into this competition, with the opportunity to push and develop our squad with a number of international games,” Dancer said.

Our selection has plenty of experience and we will be expecting them to stand up when it counts and make the most of our opportunities.

“The Euro Hockey Championship is an excellent competition with Olympic qualification for the winner, this is a great challenge that our group is looking forward to.”

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Ireland squad: Ayeisha McFerran, Roisin Upton, Nicola Evans, Katie Mullan (captain), Shirley McCay, Elena Tice, Gillian Pinder, Bethany Barr, Chloe Watkins, Elizabeth Colvin, Nicola Daly, Hannah Matthews, Elizabeth Murphy, Sarah Hawkshaw, Anna O’Flanagan, Zoe Wilson, Deirdre Duke, Alison Meeke.

Ireland fixtures:

  • Ireland v England, 18 August, 11.15am
  • Ireland v Belarus, 19 August, 3.45pm
  • Ireland v Germany, 21 August, 12.15pm.

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Ryan Bailey

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