Irish coach Graham Shaw says Ireland are “expecting a very physical game” in their opening World League Round 2 tie against Kazakhstan in Kuala Lumpur on Saturday.
It is the start of the women’s bid for a first World Cup place since 2002 and they go into the opening tie as favourites against the world number 33 side. They will subsequently meet Malaysia on Monday before facing Hong Kong next Tuesday in their pool stages before finding out their quarter-final fate.
The ultimate target is a top two finish which would guarantee a ticket to World League Round 3 where the World Cup tickets will be handed out. Ireland, at 16th in the world, are the second highest ranked side and the top seed in their group.
Speaking from Malaysia, Shaw told The Hook that his side has “settled in well” but adds: “The heat is extremely hot at up to 38 degrees most days and in the 40s pitch side. The girls are working hard but humidity is hard to get used to.
“All our [injury] niggles seem to be clearing up and we are just very excited to play our first official world competition since Prague July 2015. The girls are buzzing and raring to go.”
As for the opening tie, he adds: “We don’t have much on Kazakstan. We will focus on our own game and believe that our level of speed and intensity married with quality will be enough to get the win.”
Since arriving in Malaysia on January 3, Ireland have beaten the host nation 3-0 in a challenge match before losing 1-0 to the highest ranked side, Italy, 1-0, in a 45-minute game.
“It would be fair to say we dominated both games but lacked that bit of quality in the circle. We are hoping to sharpen that up before we start the tournament.”
On home turf, there is one women’s EY Hockey League refix on the roster with Belfast Harlequins and Pegasus hoping to beat the frost at the second time of asking when they meet at Deramore Park. Quins will hope to have Claire Kilpatrick and Claire Weir back from injury.
The Jacqui Potter Cup second round plays out over the weekend with the EYHL big guns entering the fray. Hermes-Monkstown’s tie against Pembroke II is moved to Sunday due to the sad passing of Peter Tipping during the week.
The Monkstown club stalwart captained the men’s fifth team this season and has been a long-time player and active volunteer in the club and passed away on Tuesday after taking ill on Monday. His funeral will take place at 12pm on Saturday at St Paul’s Church on Silchester Road in Glenageary.
Women’s weekend fixtures
World League Round 2: Ireland v Kazakhstan, 10.15am (Irish time)
EY Hockey League (Saturday): Belfast Harlequins v Pegasus, 2.30pm, Deramore Park
Jacqui Potter Cup, second round: Muckross v Loreto, 3pm, Muckross Park; North Kildare v Railway Union, 12.30pm, The Maws; Old Alex v Pembroke, 1.15pm, Milltown; Railway Union II v Loreto II, 1.05pm, Park Avenue; UCD II v Glenanne, 4.20pm, Belfield; UCD v Trinity, 2.50pm, Belfield; Genesis v Avoca, 2.45pm, St Raphaela’s
Sunday: Hermes-Monkstown v Pembroke II, 4pm, Merrion Fleet Arena
Leinster Indoor League (Sunday): Railway Union v YMCA, 6pm; Mount Temple v Pembroke, 6.20pm; YMCA v Glenanne, 6.40pm; Railway Union v Pembroke, 7pm; Mount Temple v Glenanne, 7.20pm; Pembroke v YMCA, 7.40pm