Graham Shaw says his Irish women’s side is all in good health and raring to go for a shot at history, potentially breaking into the European top four for the first time.
Speaking on the eve of the competition and an opening date with England (BT Sport 3, 1.45pm Irish time), he resisted the temptation to make wholesale changes to the panel despite the close proximity to the Hockey World League in Johannesburg.
“When you have all your players making themselves available for both tournaments, it’s very difficult with just one weekend of training to make changes,” Shaw said.
“Particularly when you feel you have performed quite well, when they have been away for a month together, playing at a high level, growing and learning a lot about each other.
“It’s not taking away from any of the girls at home but we felt the squad that came together in Jo’burg looked very sharp and so we decided to go with them.”
His two changes, as such, were enforced with Ayeisha McFerran’s foot injury meaning Clodagh Cassin came in while Lizzie Colvin is out for work reasons with Ali Meeke in.
From a group of England, Scotland and Germany, Shaw is ambitious that his side can shake up the established order and reach the semi-finals.
“It’s definitely a possibility, 100%, when you look at the results over the last number of months. Against Germany and England, they have been tight affairs as with Scotland. There’s definitely results to be gotten from each game.
“We can’t get ahead of ourselves and we will aim for a result against England first and then the others. A win and a draw can get you through to a semi-final.
“On any given day, when we play to our strengths, we can catch these teams off-guard and that’s what we are aiming to do. It will be a difficult task against excellent sides but we are confident in our ability.”
It comes at the back end of a busy year on the road for the Green Army, an intense year which has moved them to the brink of World Cup qualification.
“It’s been an incredibly intense eight months. We travelled to Malaysia on January 2 for World League 2 which no one else did [from this tournament].
“We have had so much time together since then. When you have so many high profile tournaments in one year, physically and emotionally, trying to freshen things up in how you approach things, keeping people focused, it’s a very difficult task.
“For the players, its been a very long year. It started with their clubs last September through to May. Add in an intense international programme, going to Malaysia, GB, Germany, USA, Germany again, and then South Africa.
“It’s something the FIH have to look and every team – speaking to the other coaches – is feeling it. There’s a lot of fatigue around the squads and probably in the management as well.
“But we do love representing our county and a Europeans is a perfect opportunity to get us back going. It’s an exciting tournament and what better place to play than in Holland.”
To that end, they can look forward to playing in front of some of the biggest crowds of their careers with over 80,000 tickets already sold for the tournament which got underway on Friday evening to much fanfare in the beautifully revamped Wagener Stadium.