McConnell returns, Clarke in line for 100

Ireland will stick with a similar, experimental make-up to the squad which played Scotland recently with Gene Muller making two changes to the panel for next weekend’s series against Belgium.

Kate McConnell (left) returns to the senior panel for the first time since July 2008 when she featured in the Celtic Cup in Garryduff with Stephanie Quinn stepping out of the selection for these games, to be played at Belfield.

Louisa Healy comes back in for Pamela Smithwick between the posts after the Alex goalkeeper made her debut against the Scots.

Emma Clarke (below, right), meanwhile, is in line to make her 100th appearance for Ireland – becoming the fourth player in the current panel to do so after Nikki Symmons, Bridget Cleland and Eimear Cregan – should she play twice.

She captains a side once again which features nine players with less than ten caps to their name. Alex Speers is one of the more experienced members of the panel and has made the switch back to Ireland to work in Dublin from Belgium and will play her club hockey with Pegasus in the upcoming season.

Ireland will hope to end a ten-game losing streak since beating Chile in the World Cup qualifier against a Belgium side who come to Dublin on a high, having claimed gold at last week’s U-21 Women’s European Nation’s Trophy and will play in the A division next time round.

The lowlanders are currently ranked three places below Ireland in the world rankings but have held the Indian sign over Muller’s charges in recent times, winning a pre-WCQ double-header as well as taking a 3-1 in 2009’s Champion’s Challenge in Kazan.

Ireland squad for Belgium series (club/caps):
Niamh Atcheler (Hermes, 2), Emma Clarke (Leicester, 98), Lizzie Colvin (Loreto, 37), Miriam Crowley (UCC, 2), Nicci Daly (Loreto, 6), Nikki Evans (Railway Union, 8), Emma Gray (GK, Hermes, 16), Louisa Healy (GK, Loreto, 51), Michelle Harvey (Pegasus, 41), Sinead McCarthy (Cork Harlequins, 6), Shirley McCay (Dragons, 94), Kate McConnell (Pegasus, 2), Jean McDonnell (Railway Union, 3), Anna O’Flanagan (Hermes, 3), Audrey O’Flynn (UCC, 17), Cliodhna Sargent (Cork Harlequins, 68), Alex Speers (Pegasus, 87), Chloe Watkins (Hermes, 3)

Match schedule (all at Belfield):
Friday, August 6 (7pm): Ireland v Belgium (Carol Metchette, Moira Flahive)
Saturday, August 7 (4pm): Ireland v Belgium (Carol Metchette, Liz Clifford)
Sunday, August 8 (12pm): Ireland v Belgium (Carol Metchette, Catriona Hassey)

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