Pritchard makes four changes to Irish women

Denis Pritchard has stuck mainly with the tried and trusted as he named his first panel since taking over as interim Electric Ireland Irish women’s senior coach.

He has made four changes to the side which went to the Olympic qualifier tournament in Kontich in March with UCD rising stars Niamh Atcheler (pictured) and Anna O’Flanagan awarded recalls in the wake of their Irish Senior Cup win.

Slough-based Hannah Bowe and Loreto’s Niamh Small are also called in to the panel that will travel to London in early June for the Investec London Cup, an event which features four of the world’s top ten sides.

The event will be played at the University of Westminster grounds in Chiswick as part of the opposition’s build-up to the Olympics which get underway in late July. The four players to make way include the midfield trio of Emma Smyth, Shirley McCay and Lizzie Colvin while Lisa Jacob is replaced from the front-runners.

Nikki Evans returns to action after a combination of injury and exams kept her out of Railway Union’s bids in the Irish Hockey League and Senior Cup final weekends.

Ireland meet Australia on June 6 before facing the world number one side, the Netherlands, a day later before potentially playing two classification matches on June 9 and 10 if they finish above third in their three-team pool. Great Britain, South Africa and Germany are on the other side of the draw.

Commenting on the upcoming tournament Pritchard said that the tournament offers the right environment to begin the preparations for next September’s Champion’s Challenge I which is likely to be played in Sardinia.

“This event presents us with an unique occasion to play with freedom, to test ourselves against some of the best teams in the world and to give valuable pitch time to some less experienced players.

“Using well measured performance criteria we can enter every game with a focus for improvement. It’s going to very tough going but we will relish the challenge and embrace the opportunity.”

Ireland National Women’s Squad – Investec London Cup: Niamh Atcheler (UCD, 14), Hannah Bowe (Slough, 24), Emma Clarke (St Albans, 126),
Aine Connery (Hermes, 54), Miriam Crowley (Hermes, 39), Nicci Daly (Loreto, 39),
Nikki Evans (Railway Union, 28), Emma Gray (Hermes, 49), Michelle Harvey (Pegasus, 87),
Sinead McCarthy (Hermes, 51), Anna O’Flanagan (UCD, 16),
Audrey O’Flynn (Hermes, 64), Cliodhna Sargent (Cork Harlequins, 115), Niamh Small (Loreto, 55),
Pamela Smithwick (Old Alex, 14),
Alex Speers (Railway Union, 120),
Nikki Symmons (Loreto, 175),
Chloe Watkins (UCD, 45)

Investec London Cup
Pool A:
Netherlands; Australia; Ireland
Pool B: Germany; Great Britain; South Africa

Tournament schedule:
Tuesday, June 5: Netherlands v Australia, 2pm; Great Britain v South Africa, 4.30pm
Wednesday, June 6: Australia v Ireland, 5.30pm; South Africa v Germany, 8pm
Thursday, June 7: Ireland v Netherlands, 5.30pm; Germany v Great Britain, 8pm
Saturday, June 9 and Sunday June 10: classification matches

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