Darren Smith has given his four Under-21 players leave to take part in the European championships rather than take part in this week’s eye-catching Four Nations tournament in Belfield.
For the second week running, the National Hockey Stadium welcomes one of the world’s best teams as 2012 Olympic semi-finalists and world number six side New Zealand come to Dublin to take on Ireland as well as Chile (world number 20) and Canada (22).As such, from the summer panel of 25 players, Emily Beatty, Chloe Brown, Katie Mullan and Ayeisha McFerran are Vienna-bound while Audrey O’Flynn was not yet ready for a return to the game while Aine Connery is unavailable due to personal reasons.
Vanessa Surgeoner is the one doubt and could be replaced by Naomi Carroll is she is unable to shake off an injury.
Talking about the tournament, coach Smith said “We are looking forward to matching up against three quality opponents in Canada, Chile and New Zealand over the coming week. New Zealand and Canada are in full preparation for the Commonwealth Games and bring exciting squads who are striving to win medals in Glasgow.
“Chile are beginning their preparation for the 2015 Olympic qualifying campaign and will play matches in Dublin/Glasgow over the next few weeks.”
New Zealand are vastly experienced and coach Mark Hagar is gunning for a medal at the Commonwealths. “There is an expectation based on our ranking that we will medal and we believe it is healthy to have that pressure – I think it will help us perform,” said Hager.
To that end, he has named a particularly strong panel, powered by Kayla Whitelock (nee Sharland) while pace-woman Anita Punt – a national 100m champion – Gemma Flynn, Katie Glynn and Krystal Forgesson provide a wealth of attacking options.
The Canadian side has a very new look to it with just four players – Thea Culley, Kate Gillis, Abigail Raye and Kristine Wishart – remaining since the last Olympic cycle.
Smith added: “We have been playing some tests over the past few weeks but this tournament will be a step up in terms of quality. It will give us a snapshot of where we are at so that our development towards 2015 and beyond can continue.”
David Passmore, meanwhile, named what looks a strong Irish panel for the Under-21 European Championship II in Vienna, a nine-team competition divided into three groups with Lithuania and Scotland first on the agenda.
The panel includes the aforementioned quartet from the central panel as well as the previously capped Leah Ewart and Kate Lloyd while three US-based players – Roisin Upton, Emma Russell and Amy Cooke – get the nod.
Passmore says the squad has “a good balance of senior players and young talent” but says the build-up has not been plain sailing.
“The preparation period has been a challenging one with exams, players out of the country or involved in the senior squad resulting in the whole squad only coming together for the first time this week.
“The squad has benefited from a number of excellent coaches and current international players contributing to our training camps and regional training. Competition for places was stiff with several players being unlucky to miss out.“We now have six days together before the tournament starts to build on the preparation to date and fine tune our set pieces. The new tournament format represents a challenge given there are no room for errors and we will need to hit the tournament running.”
To win the competition and gain promotion, Ireland will need to win their initial group which will put them into another three-team pool with the other two group winners with the top two moving up a tier.
Ireland women – Electric Ireland 4 Nations (12th – 16th July): N Daly (Holcombe HC), K Dillon (Railway Union), D Duke (UCD), N Evans (UCD), M Frazer (Holcombe), E Gray (Hermes), H Matthews (UCD), S Davis (Pembroke), A Meeke (Loreto), S McCay (Old Alex), Y O’Byrne (Cork Harlequins), A O’Flanagan (UCD), G Pinder (UCD), C Sargent (Cork Harlequins), E Smyth (Railway Union), A Speers (Railway Union), C Watkins (Club De Campo), V Surgeoner (Pegasus)
ELECTRIC IRELAND 4 Nations Schedule (July 12–16, all at Belfield)
Saturday, July 12: Canada vs Chile, 1pm; Ireland vs New Zealand, 3.15pm
Sunday, July 13: New Zealand vs Chile, 1pm; Ireland vs Canada, 3.15pm
Tuesday, July 15: New Zealand vs Canada, 5pm; Ireland vs Chile, 7.15pm
Wednesday, July 16: third vs fourth, 5pm; first vs second, 7.30pm
Irish Under-21 women: Rachel Barnett (Railway Union), Emily Beatty (UCD), Chloe Brown (Ards), Elaine Carey (UCD), Amy Cooke (University of Richmond, USA), Leah Ewart (captain, UCD), Hannah Grieve (Pegasus), Erika Hinkson (Old Alex), Kate Lloyd (Railway Union), Hayley Mulcahy (Loreto), Kerri McDonald (Queens University), Ayeisha McFerran (Randalstown), Lucy McKee (Clifton Ladies), Katie Mullan (UCD), Emma Russell (Syracuse University), Sarah Twomey (Hermes), Roisin Upton (University of Connecticut, USA), Zoe Wilson (Randalstown)
Non traveling reserves: Robyn Chambers (Pegasus); Jenna Holmes (Loughborough); Anna Mae Whelan (Trinity)
Head Coach: David Passmore; Manager: Gemma Menaul; Coach: Peter Caruth; Physio: Miriam Downey ; Performance Analysis: Keith Crawford
Tuesday, July 15: Ireland vs Lithuania, 1pm, Wednesday, July 16: Ireland vs Scotland, 1pm; Friday, July 18/Saturday, July 19/Sunday, July 20: Classification matches