Ireland’s women will travel to New Zealand to play in the highly competitive Hawkes Bay Cup from April 2-10 in a tournament that features five of the world’s top ten sides.
The tournament offers vital experience for Graham Shaw’s squad as they continue building up to 2017 when the World Cup qualifying campaign tips off in earnest.The Green Army are drawn in Pool B alongside host New Zealand, China and India while Pool A is comprised of Australia, Korea, Japan and Canada.
Ireland’s first match sees them pitted against China, the team who dealt them the cruellest of blows at World League 3 in Valencia last June; that penalty shoot-out will long live in the memory of anyone who witnessed it but Shaw is determined his team have learnt from that experience.
“There will obviously be emotion involved in that opening match but we will be 100% focused on each opponent and take one match at a time,” he said. “There were plenty of lessons to take from Valencia and the China match in particular. I’m confident we’ve matured as a squad and will be as prepared as possible when we face the world number five.”
True to tournament hockey, the Green Army will play again the following day against India, their closest ranked opponent before finishing up the pool games against world number 4 New Zealand.
Shaw has introduced several new caps since taking the helm of the Green Army, with two teenagers in his most recent squad that travelled to Spain for warm weather training.
“We set the team up with a lot of changes in personnel and I thought the younger players stepping up did very well. The results may not have gone our way but we got stronger as the week went on and it was great to get the group back together after a break from international hockey.”
2016 Hawke’s Bay Cup, Unison Park
Pool A: Australia (world rank 3), Korea (9), Japan (10), Canada (19)
Pool B: New Zealand (4), China (5), India (10), Ireland (15)
Saturday, April 2: China v Ireland
Sunday, April 3: India v Ireland
Tuesday, April 5: Ireland v New Zealand, 6pm
Thursday, April 7: quarter-finals
Saturday, April 9: semi-finals, classification matches
Sunday, April 10: final, classification matches