Following Ireland’s three match training series at Bisham Abbey against Great Britain, Graham Shaw’s squad of 18 players departed this evening to take on the Hawkes Bay Cup in New Zealand from April 2-10.
Despite losing each game, all uncapped, to the British, Shaw said the games were ideal preparation for the squad as they get set to compete against several top nations.“It was ideal experience to play three high level games against top quality opposition; a team in full preparation for Rio. Overall, we were happy with the level of performance, maybe a little disappointed to not get a result in one of the games but we learnt a lot about ourselves and where we sit right now.”
The Hawkes Bay tournament sees Ireland take on eight teams, five of whom are ranked in the top 10 in the world and will offer important experience as they build toward a 2018 World Cup bid.
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, denying them an Olympic place.
“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. 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 5”.
They will play again the following day against India, their closest ranked opponent before finishing up the pool games against world number four New Zealand.
Shaw added: “We are delighted with the invitation to Hawkes Bay as the only European nation. This is a fantastic opportunity for the Green Army as the level of opposition we will face will provide a real test and give us a great insight to where we sit with the top nations in World Hockey.”
Ireland squad for Hawkes Bay Tournament (April 2-10): Ayeisha McFerran (GK, University of Louisville), Pamela Smithwick (GK, Old Alex), Yvonne O’Byrne (Cork Harlequins), Shirley McCay (Ulster Elks), Cliodhna Sargent (VC, Cork Harlequins), Hannah Mathews (Loreto), Lena Tice (Loreto), Zoe Wilson (Syracuse University), Megan Frazer (C, Ulster Elks), Gill Pinder (UCD), Katie Mullan (UCD), Chloe Watkins (Hermes), Nicci Daly (Muckross), Nikki Evans (Hermes), Anna O’Flanagan (Hermes), Emily Beatty (UCD), Naomi Carroll (Hermes), Deirdre Duke (UCD)