Shirley McCay and Alex Speers will both win their 150th international caps this week as Ireland play four senior international challenge matches as the Irish women’s team make a first ever appearance at the recently upgraded Glade in Newtownabbey.
Ireland meet Wales this afternoon before taking on Scotland three times – on Tuesday, Thursday and Friday – with the latter providing tough competition ahead of the European championships which take place in August.
Speers has captained the Irish side for the past three years since the retirement of Eimear Cregan while the 25-year-old McCay has been a regular midfielder but is now being deployed in the defensive lines Their landmark caps comes hot on the heels of Nikki Symmons attaining her 200th international cap.
Coach Darren Smith will be hoping for an improvement from the panel as a whole following a shared series with Canada, ranked 12 places below Ireland in the world. Speaking about the side’s progress, Smith said ahead of this latest series: “Understandably we were a little mixed in terms of performance and results against Canada over the weekend.
“Playing 27 players has an effect on the cohesion of the tactics and also players being able to combine effectively. Against a well organised Canadian team, I was happy to see so many players on show and striving to perform.
“Next week will be the final push toward selecting the Europeans squad so again we will see a mixture of players over the four test matches. What I do want to see is a gradual improvement in applying our base structures and as a result an improvement in our performance.”
Speaking about McCay and Speers’ milestones, Smith added: “I’m also looking forward to being a part of Alex Speers’ 150th test match on Monday and the same milestone for Shirley McCay on Tuesday.
“These two are a beacon of what it is to be an Irish international player and have served Ireland with distinction for a long time. Alex is an outstanding leader who consistently delivers in the international environment while Shirley, who has traditionally been a midfielder, is now settling in well to being a controlling influence at the back with this new look squad. Congratulations to both of them.”
The games are hosted by Mossley and club chairman Trevor Lorimer is looking forward to welcoming international hockey to the Glade.
“We have gone to great lengths to make it an enjoyable event for players, coaches, umpires and spectators. On site there will be food stalls for the adults and an inflatable hockey pitch for the children. Overall it is hoped to be a real carnival atmosphere and we encourage supporters to arrive early and enjoy the music and build up.”
** If you would like to report from either Monday or Tuesday’s games in this series for The Hook or to provide Twitter updates, please email firstname.lastname@example.org
** Spectators are advised to utilise the overflow car park thanks to Translink and Mossley Mill.
Match schedule (all at The Glade, Newtownabbey)
Monday: Ireland vs Wales, 3.30pm; Scotland vs Canada, 5.30pm
Tuesday: Canada vs Wales, 2pm; Ireland vs Scotland, 7pm
Thursday: Ireland vs Scotland 12pm
Friday: Ireland vs Scotland 12pm
** Admission for adults is £5 and under 16’s are free.