Ireland are a win away from progression to World League Round 3 and a massive step closer to potential World Cup 2018 qualification.
Standing in their way are a 32nd ranked Welsh side who had a confident 2016 during which they beat top 20 sides Poland and Italy. They also advanced through World League Round 1 in second place, out-doing higher rated Austria and France.
It is Ireland’s first meeting with Wales since June 2014 when they won 2-0 at a Tri-Nations tournament in Italy with Nikki Evans and Gillian Pinder on the mark.
Indeed, the green army have a strong recent record against the Welsh, winning at least their last seven ties against them, dating back to 2008.
On Saturday (10.15am Irish time), Ireland will go into the tie with the far stronger form guide, scoring 44 times and conceding just once. Wales, for their part, lost their opener against Italy 3-0 before beating Thailand and Singapore.
Despite holding the majority of the play, Wales had a tough time getting over the challenge of Kazakhstan with Leah Wilkinson’s corner goal four minutes from time earning a 2-1 win.
Wales, however, will more than likely present a very different task to the four Asian sides Ireland have met to date. Indeed, Singapore and Hong Kong have been intent on putting in place an 11-player defensive line in their own 23m area.
With more space at their disposal, Graham Shaw will hope his side can exploit their pace of attack to a much greater extent.
On the home front, it is an incredibly busy week for Railway Union in knock-out action. In the Jacqui Potter Cup, midweek saw Railway’s first and second teams advance to the quarter-finals.
Both had their games last weekend frozen out but they quickly rescheduled to take their places in the last eight courtesy of Zara Delany doubles.
She struck twice on Monday for the firsts in a 2-0 win over North Kildare in a tie in which Jade Arundell impressed between the posts. On Thursday evening, Delany was at it again for the second team in an 8-0 win over Loreto II with Sinead Dooley also nabbing two with former Irish international Kate Dillon among the other scorers.
Railway and Loreto’s second strings will also meet again on Saturday in the Irish Junior Cup second round as that competition also reaches its quarter-final stages.
Railway II’s date with Glenanne in the Jacqui Potter Cup has been pushed out to February 5. It leaves three ties to be played on Saturday – Hermes-Monkstown meeting Old Alex; Genesis facing UCD and Loreto playing Railway Union in the pick of the ties.
Sunday sees the Leinster indoor league come to a conclusion. Railway topped the group stages and so face Galway’s Greenfields in the semis for the right to play either Glenanne or Pembroke.
In Leinster Division One, Muckross have the chance of moving back into a share of second place but they are without Nicci Daly for their trip to The Maws to play North Kildare.
Women’s fixtures (Saturday unless stated)
Hockey World League Round 2, semi-finals: Ireland v Wales, 10.15am (Irish time), Kuala Lumpur
Leinster Division One
Saturday: North Kildare v Muckross, 3pm, The Maws
Monday: Old Alex v Our Ladys, 8pm, Milltown
Jacqui Potter Cup
Second round: North Kildare 0 Railway Union 2 (Z Delany 2); Railway Union II 8 (S Dooley 2, Z Delany 2, K Dillon, K Orr, P Friend-Pereira, R Clifford) Loreto II 0
Quarter-finals: Hermes-Monkstown v Old Alex, 12.15pm, Merrion Fleet Arena; Genesis v UCD, 2.45pm, St Raphaela’s; Loreto v Railway Union, 4.15pm, Beaufort
Irish Junior Cup, quarter-finals: Railway Union v Loreto, 12.15pm, Park Avenue; Cork Harlequins v Pembroke, 2.30pm, Harlequin Park; Old Alex v Lisnagarvey, 2.30pm, Milltown; Queen’s v UCD, 2.30pm, Malone Road
Leinster Indoor League, semi-finals: Railway Union v Greenfields, 3.30pm; Glenanne v Pembroke, 5pm