Graham Shaw’s first panel as Irish senior women’s coach features seven changes from the recent World League Round 3 panel as they face a quick turnaround to preparing for the EuroHockey Championship II in Prague.Shaw took over as head coach from Darren Smith in the wake of that competition in Valencia when 2016 Olympic hopes were dashed. In the intervening fortnight, Kate Dillon and Emma Smyth both announced their retirements while Nikki Evans is recovering from a broken jaw sustained in the end against South Africa.
With Anna O’Flanagan, Lizzie Colvin, Aine Connery and Emma Gray unavailable too, it leaves Ireland shy half a dozen players with over a century of caps. In their absence, opportunity knocks for a series of newcomers to stake their claim for a place in the side. Ards’ Kerri McDonald is the sole debutante while Dubliner Kate Lloyd has only two games under her belt.
The forward line looks to be completely revamped in September with Catholic Insitute’s Naomi Carroll, UCD’s Deirdre Duke and Ulster goal-getter Chloe Brown all coming back into the panel. Emily Beatty also returns while Stella Davis steps in as number two goalkeeper while Ayeisha McFerran will likely be the number one in Gray’s absence.
Speaking about the selection, Shaw said: “The objective of this tournament is a top two finish to secure promotion back to A Division. This is very important for this squad and the path we want to take.
“The squad selected has flexibility with multiple players able to operate in more than one position and physically fit to cope with the heat in Prague”.
Ireland – currently ranked 14th in the world – are drawn in Pool A with Czech Republic (world rank 35), Ukraine (26) and France (24) for the competition which starts on July 18. The latter two sides have both been comfortably beaten by Ireland in the past year.
Ireland EuroHockey women’s squad for Champions Trophy (Prague, July 18th-26th): A McFerran (Pegasus/University of Louisville); S Davis (Pembroke), A Meeke (Loreto), K McDonald (Ards), H Matthews (Loreto), C Sargent (Cork Harlequins), S McCay (Ulster Elks), M Frazer (Ulster Elks), and O’Byrne (Cork Harlequins), G Pinder (UCD), N Daly (Loreto), C Watkins (UCD), E Beatty (UCD), N Carroll (Catholic Institute), C Brown (Ards), D Duke (UCD), K Lloyd (Railway Union), K Mullan (UCD)
Reserves: Sinead Loughran (Hermes), Roisin Upton (Catholic Institute/UConn Huskies), Hayley Mulcahy (Loreto)