Sinead Loughran is set for her world ranking tournament debut as she earned a place in Graham Shaw’s final plans for the Irish women’s tilt at 2018 World Cup qualification via the World League Semi-Final which takes place in Johannesburg next month.
She is among four changes from January’s World League Round 2 in Malaysia with 14 fo the squad retained. Those changes were necessitated by the absence of a trio of Cork Harlequins players – namely due to Cliodhna Sargent’s pregnancy and injuries to Naomi Carroll and Rebecca Barry.
Emily Beatty and Deirdre Duke – following a shoulder injury – come back in while Grace O’Flanagan takes over from Clodagh Cassin as the second goalkeeper behind Ayeisha McFerran.
For Loughran, she has impressed in club action in the second half of the season since returning from Germany.
For the World League semi-final itself, the tournament will see five guaranteed tickets to the World Cup but that could rise as high as eight depending on how the continental championships pan out.
Ireland are in an initial group with the England – who won the 2016 Olympics in their Great Britain guise last year – Germany, Japan and Poland.
They will need to finish in the top four in the group to advance to quarter-finals which act as direct playoffs for World Cup places.
Lose the quarter-final and there are classification matches for fifth to eighth with the stronger the finish, the better chance of claiming a lucky losers ticket.
Speaking about the squad, Shaw said “Squad selection was very tight with some difficult decisions. This is testament to how hard this group has worked and how we have developed over the past few months.
“We’re very excited to get started at World League in South Africa. We will take every game as it comes during the tournament. Our aim is to finish in the top four in our pool which will put us in the quarter finals. Each team will pose a different threat and we will be as prepared as possible for each.”
The team fly out to Johannesburg on June 29 with a 10-day lead-in to the tournament.
Ireland squad for Hockey World League semi-final (Johannesburg, July 8-23): G O’Flanagan (Railway Union), H Matthews (Loreto), Z Wilson (Harvestehuder THC), S McCay (Ulster Elks), L Colvin (Loreto), L Tice (UCD), C Watkins (Hermes-Monkstown), K Mullan (UCD), G Pinder (UCD), A O’Flanagan (Hermes-Monkstown), S Loughran (Hermes-Monkstown), N Evans (Hermes-Monkstown), N Daly (Muckross), D Duke (UCD), E Beatty (KHC Dragons), R Upton (Cork Harlequins), Y O’Byrne (Cork Harlequins), A McFerran (University of Louisville)
Hockey World League
Pool A: England, Germany, Japan, Ireland, Poland
Pool B: Argentina, USA, South Africa, India, Chile
Schedule (times local)
July 8: Ireland v Japan, 12pm
July 10: Ireland v Germany, 2pm
July 12: Ireland v Poland, 2pm
July 16: Ireland v England, 2pm
July 18-23: Classification matches