Following Ireland’s nine-day training camp in Valencia, Darren Smith has named his first tournament selection, making three changes from the side that claimed bronze in the Champions Challenge I for the upcoming World League, rounc two
The experienced Cliodhna Sargent is the most significant returnee as she takes up one of the defensive berths having taken a sabbatical from the panel last autumn. Similarly, Holcombe-based Nicci Daly is back in the mix further up the pitch while Nikki Evans – who was a reserve for the Challenge I – takes one of the forward slots.
They come in for Brenda Flannery and Niamh Small while UCC’s Miriam Crowley was an enforced change as she focuses on finishing her dental studies this year.
Speaking about the selection, Smith said that the tournament came too soon for Shirley McCay following her five months of travelling.
“Although Shirley worked hard and played well in the Saturday match the tournament in Valencia has come a little too early for her to be fully prepared.
“This will be a tough tournament and we are excited about the challenge ahead. Spain are a quality team and we expect a tough battle against Czech Republic, Belarus and Italy. The biggest challenge will be getting this group to its full potential and all of us will work hard to fulfil this.
“After three matches and seven training sessions the group improved significantly and we were especially happy with the progress over the test matches against Spain.”
Ireland will travel to Valencia on Thursday, February 21 ahead of their opening encounter with the Czechs on Monday, February 25. A top two finish is what is needed to secure their place in round three of the competition that acts as a gateway to the World Cup.
Ireland women’s senior squad, World League round two: Niamh Atcheler (UCD), Aine Connery (Corinthian), Nicci Daly (Holcombe HC, England), Nikki Evans (UCD), Emma Gray (Hermes), Nicola Gray (UCD), Michelle Harvey (Pegasus), Lisa Jacob (Hermes), Sinead McCarthy (Hermes), Katie Mullan (UCD), Anna O’Flanagan (UCD), Audrey O’Flynn (Hermes), Cliodhna Sargent (Cork Harlequins), Pamela Smithwick (Old Alex), Emma Smyth (Railway Union), Alex Speers (C) (Railway Union), Nikki Symmons (Loreto), Chloe Watkins (UCD)
World League 2 Fixtures – Spain (All times local)
February 25: Ireland v Czech Republic, 10.30am
February 26: Ireland v Belarus, 11am
March 2: Ireland v Spain, 1pm
March 3: Ireland v Italy, 11am