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'Toughest selection' as history-making Irish hockey squad for Tokyo Olympics finalised

Sean Dancer’s panel was announced today ahead of their first Games.

A narrowed-down squad travel to Tokyo.
A narrowed-down squad travel to Tokyo.
Image: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

THE IRELAND WOMEN’S hockey squad for this summer’s Olympic Games has been finalised.

The Olympic Federation of Ireland [OFI] formally announced the panel to travel to Tokyo for their first Games today, with 16 players and three travelling reserves named.

11 2018 World Cup silver medallists are included in Ayeisha McFerran, Chloe Watkins, Hannah Matthews, Nicci Daly, Róisín Upton, Deirdre Duke, Katie Mullan, Shirley McCay, Lena Tice, Lizzie Holden and Anna O’Flanagan.

All featured in June’s Euro Hockey Championships in Amsterdam, as did Hannah McLoughlin, Naomi Carroll, Sarah Hawkshaw and Sarah McAuley — the latter defender’s rapid rise continuing since linking up with the panel in the spring and making her formal international debut at the Euros.

Sarah Torrans is also handed a massive opportunity; a chance to make a senior international tournament debut at the Games, having struggled with injury of late.

Michelle Carey and Zara Malseed are the outfield travelling reserves, while Lizzie Murphy is the goalkeeping cover.

Havig made history and qualified for the Games in November 2019, head coach Sean Dancer has found a fine balance of senior players and experience, and youth, excitement, and opportunity.

Usually, there are 18 squad spots for a world ranking tournament, but with only 16 this time around, the difficulty of the selection was compounded. Nikki Evans and Megan Frazer narrowly miss out, with several others left disappointed given the depth in the playing group.

“With competition in our squad at its best and only 16 spots available, we always knew this was going to be the toughest selection,” captain Mullan said.

“31 players have played a massive role in our preparations over the past 10 months and we are honoured to represent the Green Army at the Olympic games.

“There has been a tremendous amount of work put in by the girls and each of them deserve this opportunity. It’s an exciting time for us and our families.”

The side will fly out to Japan on 9 July ahead of their debut on this stage on 24 July against South Africa at the Oi Stadium, with recent rivals the Netherlands, Germany, India and reigning Olympic champions, Great Britain, also in Group A.

“The Olympics is the pinnacle of our sport,” Dancer said. “We are excited and privileged to be the group representing Ireland’s women’s team at their first ever Olympics.

“It is important to acknowledge all the hard work and sacrifice of everyone that has been involved now and in previously with the team to get to this point.

“We are going to take the key lessons from the recent Europeans to make the gains we need for the Olympics.” 

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TEAM IRELAND HOCKEY (clubs and caps in brackets)

1. Ayeisha McFerran (GK) (SV Kampong, 105)
2. Chloe Watkins (Monkstown, 229)
3. Hannah Matthews (Loreto, 152)
4. Sarah Torrans (Loreto, 26)
5. Nicci Daly (Loreto, 194)
6. Roisin Upton (Catholic Institute, 81)
7. Hannah McLoughlin (UCD, 19)
8. Deirdre Duke (Old Alex, 146)
9. Katie Mullan (Ballymoney, 198) – captain
10. Shirley McCay (Pegasus, 311)
11. Sarah Hawkshaw (Railway Union, 38)
12. Lena Tice (Old Alex, 114)
13. Naomi Carroll (Catholic Institute, 115)
14. Lizzie Holden (Belfast Harlequins, 201)
15. Sarah McAuley (Muckross, 1)
16. Anna O’Flanagan (Muckross, 212) – vice-captain

Travelling reserves:

Lizzie Murphy (GK) (Loreto, 13)
Michelle Carey (UCD, 5)
Zara Malseed (Ards, 2)

Read the Olympic Federation of Ireland’s announcement here, and Hockey Ireland’s more in-depth statement here.

Team Ireland now has 44 officially selected athletes, with 95 athletes spots confirmed. The final team announcement is pencilled in for the beginning of July, with the Games running from 23 of next month to 8 August.

About the author:

Emma Duffy

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