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Dublin: 7 °C Tuesday 26 March, 2019
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Olympic-focused Ireland set for packed schedule as they bid to build on World Cup

Lizzie Colvin and Shirley McCay are back in Graham Shaw’s squad ahead of the crucial Tokyo qualifying tournament.

IRELAND’S BID TO qualify for the Tokyo Olympics will intensify in the coming months after Hockey Ireland announced a busy training and fixture schedule for the women’s national team.

Graham Shaw’s side have recently returned from a warm-weather training camp in Chile, where they played a four-game series against the host nation, as they look to build on the momentum of their World Cup silver medal success.

Deirdre Duke Deirdre Duke is among the World Cup stars in next month's squad. Source: Joe Toth/INPHO

Ireland will face Spain and India in a tri-nation tournament to be staged in Alicante early next month, before facing Great Britain during an uncapped series at Bisham Abbey in March.

From there, the Green Army will hope to fine-tune preparations for the crucial Olympic qualifying tournament when they host Canada for a four-game series in Dublin in May. 

Ireland will then stage the pivotal FIH Series Finals at Belfield in June as their Tokyo 2020 campaign begins in earnest, while there is also the small matter of a Eurohockey Championships to look forward to in Belgium this August. 

Shaw has named a 26-player squad for the upcoming tri-series against two nations they faced during last year’s run to the World Cup final in London, with Lizzie Colvin and Shirley McCay returning to the set-up for the first time since the final against Netherlands.

While Ayeisha McFerran, Chloe Watkins, Gillian Pinder and Megan Frazer [both injured] are absent for the games against Spain and India, 14 of the World Cup panel will be involved when the series gets underway on 1 February.

McCay had considered international retirement following the World Cup, but has recommitted as the team chase their Olympic dream.

“Chile proved a very valuable trip for the whole team, both experienced players and those new to the squad,” Shaw said.

“It is important to spend time training together as a group and get international matches under our belt early in the year, so we are pleased to be going to Spain in the coming weeks to face tough opposition in both the hosts Spain and India.”

Graham Shaw Ireland head coach Graham Shaw. Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

On confirmation of the team’s 2019 schedule, the head coach — named 2018 RTÉ Sports Manager of the Year — added: “We’re delighted to welcome Canada to Ireland for a home series and it will act as ideal preparation for our squad with the FIH Series Finals taking place just a few weeks later.” 

Ireland, at eighth in the world, will be the highest ranked nation in the eight-team FIH tournament, where they will be aiming for a top-two finish which would guarantee a place in an Olympic qualifying tie later this year.

Czech Republic, Malaysia, Korea, Scotland, Ukraine, France and Singapore will be the other competing nations in Dublin this summer.  

Ireland squad for tri-nations tournament: 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. 

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Ryan Bailey

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