Upton the bolter as five players set for ranking level debuts

Graham Shaw will give five players their ranking tournament debuts in January as he confirmed the Irish women’s squad of 18 players for World League Round 2 in January in Malaysia.

The tournament is the first step en route to potential World Cup qualification with Ireland requiring a top two finish in Kuala Lumpur to move on to Round 3. There, tickets to be the 2018 World Cup will be decided.

The event is the first Irish world level event in 16 months since the 2015 EuroHockey Champions Trophy gold in Prague with 2016 a fallow year due to the Olympic Games.

As such, a number of new faces were to be anticipated. Limerick’s Roisin Upton is the main bolter. She helped the UConn Huskies to two NCAA titles – in 2013 and 2014 – but has not played a massive amount of hockey of late.

Roisin Upton in action against Scotland in early November. Pic: John Preece.

Roisin Upton in action against Scotland in early November. Pic: John Preece.

To complete her college responsibilities in the US, she was part of the UConn coaching staff until just a month ago and only played her first EY Hockey League game with Cork Harlequins in early November.

A few days later, she made her Irish senior debut but she has shown enough to earn a longer term inclusion.

Youngsters Zoe Wilson and Lena Tice have quickly become central members of the squad since making their debuts last January, especially since playing in the high quality Hawkes Bay cup.

Kilkenny woman Clodagh Cassin joins Ayeisha McFerran in the goalkeeping places while Rebecca Barry joins the potent forward line with Anna O’Flanagan, Nikki Evans and Naomi Carroll.

Shaw’s squad, though, has been hit by a series of injuries of late. Chloe Brown’s broken ankle last Saturday added to the absences of captain Megan Frazer (cruciate knee ligament) and Deirdre Duke (shoulder). Grace O’Flanagan is unavailable while Kerri McDonald has withdrawn from the wider squad for study reasons.

Ireland travel to Malaysia as the second highest ranked side at 16th in the world and are in a four-team group with the hosts (ranked 21), Kazakhstan (33) and Hong Kong (37). Top seeds Italy (15) are joined by Thailand, Wales and Singapore, ranked 15, 31, 32 and 43 respectively.

Speaking about the upcoming tournament, head Coach Graham Shaw said “Selection for World League 2 was incredibly competitive showing how much our full squad has grown and developed over the past year.

“We are looking forward to getting to Malaysia where we will set up a pre-camp to prepare fully for the conditions in Kuala Lumpur [in preparation for 32 degree average temperatures and high humidity].

“Our number one goal for 2017 is qualification for the World Cup as we have not qualified since 2002. Likewise, we are very much looking forward to competing at the Eurohockey Championships in Amsterdam, our first time competing in the A Division since 2013. We feel we have a strong squad which must start with a successful World League 2.”

Ireland women’s squad for World League Round 2 (January 14-22; Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia): Ayeisha McFerran (University of Louisville), Clodagh Cassin (UCD), Hannah Matthews (Loreto), Cliodhna Sargent (Cork Harlequins), Yvonne O’Byrne (Cork Harlequins), Shirley McCay (Ulster Elks), Zoe Wilson (Harvestehuder THC), Lena Tice (UCD), Roisin Upton (Cork Harlequins), Lizzie Colvin (Loreto), Gill Pinder (UCD), Chloe Watkins (Hermes-Monkstown), Nicci Daly (Muckross), Katie Mullan (UCD), Anna O’Flanagan (Hermes-Monkstown), Naomi Carroll (Cork Harlequins), Nikki Evans (Hermes-Monkstown), Rebecca Barry (Cork Harlequins)

Non-Travelling reserves: Sinead Loughran (Munchner SC), Emma Russell (UCD), Emily Beatty (KHC Dragons), Ali Meeke (Loreto)

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