Opportunity knocks for young Irish panel

Interim women’s coach Denis Pritchard has a chance to assess the merits of a string of newcomers this weekend as Wales visit Belfield as part of the warm-up programme for the Champions Challenge I.

Plenty of midfield spots are up for grabs with Lizzie Colvin and Shirley McCay travelling while Emma Clarke and Gillian Pinder are also both unavailable for the tournament. As such, the likes of the uncapped Leah Ewart and Loreto’s Ali Meeke could be among those looking to perhaps force their way into the panel, especially in a 25-player squad with the majority more used to primarily playing either in the back or forward lines in an Irish jersey.

Katie Mullan – who recently was confirmed as the latest youth international to join UCD – steps up from the Ireland U-18 setup to make it seven Belfielders in the panel. Grace O’Flanagan and Sammy-Jo Greer add to the contest for goalkeeping spaces with Emma Gray and Pamela Smithwick.

Following this series against Wales, Ireland will subsequently take on Scotland – who recently finished behind Italy and Belarus in the opening round of the World League – in a three game series in early September.

From these games, Pritchard will be looking to trim his panel down to 18 for the Electric Ireland FIH Champions Challenge I taking place in Dublin from September 29 to October 7.

Speaking about the two friendly series, the interim coach said: “This event will give a good indication of how the younger players will be able to perform over a series of senior games. We will use these matches to experiment with new combinations , which we can then build on going into the Scotland series. This group has exciting prospects and includes a healthy mix of experience and enthusiasm. “

Ireland (for Wales series): Emma Gray (Hermes), Pamela Smithwick (Old Alex), Grace O’Flanagan (Railway Union), Sammy-Jo Greer (Ballymoney); Niamh Atcheler (UCD), Sinead McCarthy (Hermes), Audrey O’Flynn (Hermes, vice captain), Michelle Harvey (Pegasus), Sarah Greene (UCD), Nicola Gray (UCD), Chloe Watkins (UCD), Nikki Symmons (Loreto, vice captain), Emma Smyth (Railway Union), Leah Ewart (UCD), Ali Meeke (Loreto), Alex Speers (Railway Union, captain), Aine Connery (Hermes), Katie Mullan (UCD), Lisa Jacob (Hermes), Anna O’Flanagan (UCD), Miriam Crowley (UCC), Niamh Small (Loreto), Naomi Carroll (Catholic Institute), Nikki Evans (Railway Union), Zara Delany (Railway Union)

Unavailable: Brenda Flannery (injured), Lizzie Colvin (travelling), Nicci Daly (study in England), Emma Clarke, Shirley McCay (travelling), Cliodhna Sargent, Deirdre Duke (study in USA), Gillian Pinder (study in USA), Kerri McDonald (study in USA)

Schedule
Friday, August 24:
Ireland v Wales, 7.30pm, Belfield
Saturday, August 25: Ireland v Wales, 2.30pm, Belfield
Sunday, August 26: Ireland v Wales, 12pm, Belfield

Friday, September 7: Ireland v Scotland, 7pm, Scotland
Saturday, September 8: Ireland v Scotland, 2 Scotland
Sunday, September 9: Ireland v Scotland, 2 Scotland

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