Seven changes as Smith shuffles his deck for European championships

Darren Smith has made seven changes to the Irish panel for the European championships from the World League round two line-up with the backline set to undergo a major transformation.

Following training camps in Dublin and Cork along with several international friendlies, the head coach has reduced his panel down from a training group of 27 with 18 players confirmed for the August’s Euros in Boom, Belgium.

Three of those changes were already known with Aine Connery, Cliodhna Sargent and Sinead McCarthy all omitted from the extended training squad. In addition, another established name at the back, Michelle Harvey, has also moved out along with Pamela Smithwick, Nikki Evans and Katie Mullan.

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In their stead, Naomi Carroll, Gillian Pinder and goalkeeper Grace O’Flanagan are in line for their elite tournament debuts. Niamh Small is back in as is club mate Lizzie who Colvin returns to the panel after missing the WL2 and the Champions Challenge in Dublin due to her travels while Megan Frazer is another back in the mix after a lengthy time away from the panel.

She burst onto the scene as a teenager and played in the 2009 Europeans in Amstelveen before jetting out directly to the states to take up a scholarship at the University of Maryland.

With Harvey, Sargent and McCarthy not involved, it means Ireland will be replacing close to 400 caps of experience. In their stead, Shirley McCay has reverted to a sweeping role after her return – like Colvin – having missed the two tournaments since the Olympic qualifiers.

Alex Speers keeps the captain’s armband with Emma Smyth confirmed as vice-captain. Ireland are in Pool A at the TriFinance EuroHockey Championships where they will face The Netherlands, Belarus and hosts Belgium.

Niamh Atcheler, meanwhile, will be subjected to a fitness test later in July to assess whether she will be ready in time for the Europeans.

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Speaking about the selection, Smith said that while players have missed out this time, the long-term objective means that no one is jettisoned completely: “Although the team has been named we have asked that the players not selected for Europeans continue on with the squad in preparation for our ultimate goal which is the World League competition leading into Rio 2016.

“You can bet that some of the players who have been left out this time will feature strongly in the future as they bounce back and improve.”

Ireland squad for European championships, August 17-25: Niamh Atcheler (UCD)*; Naomi Carroll (Catholic Institute), Lizzie Colvin (Loreto), Nicci Daly (Loreto), Megan Frazer (Ballymoney), Emma Gray (Hermes), Nicola Gray (UCD), Lisa Jacob (Hermes), Shirley McCay (Old Alex), Anna O’Flanagan (UCD), Grace O’Flanagan (Railway Union), Audrey O’Flynn (Hermes), Gillian Pinder (Hermes), Niamh Small (Loreto), Emma Smyth (Railway Union) – Vice Captain, Alex Speers (Railway Union) – Captain, Nikki Symmons (Loreto), Chloe Watkins (UCD)

EuroHockey Nations Championships, Pool A fixtures (all Irish time)
August 17:
Ireland vs Holland, 5pm
August 18: Ireland vs Belarus, 3pm
August 20: Ireland vs Belgium, 5pm

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