The Irish Under-21 women’s team had their status in the top tier of European competition assured thanks to an EHF executive board decision this week, keeping their hopes of playing in the 2020 Junior World Cup alive.
Earlier in September, Ireland had been due to face Spain in an all-or-nothing final tie in Valencia on the final day of the EuroHockey Junior Championships.
A strain of the norovirus, however, affected nine Spanish players the night before the sides were due to meet with the local medical advice effectively blocking them from playing the final match.
It left the tournament incomplete with the outcome of the final placings left to the EHF executive board.
Usually when a team does not field, a 5-0 concession is recorded but the EHF judged that this would not be a fair outcome due to it being due to a “force majeure” and so “it was agreed that points cannot be fairly or reasonably allocated”.
The EHF decided to instead have no relegation from the competition and will increase the entry list in 2019 to either nine or ten teams, the final format to be decided at a later date.
The 2019 EuroHockey Juniors is the sole qualifying event for the Junior World Cup and so the reprieve gives Ireland’s young charges the chance to still qualify for the elite event.
Irish women’s coach Graham Shaw, meanwhile, named eight of that Under-21 panel in his senior panel for a three-game series against Scotland which takes place at Stormont and Banbridge later this month. It will be the first time Ireland have played on home turf since August 2016.
His 26-player selection features the uncapped Liz Murphy, Hannah McLoughlin and Sarah Torrans with the latter set to play for the Irish Under-18s, 21s and seniors all in the same calendar year.
Emma Buckley, Ruth Maguire, Jessica McMaster, Erin Getty and Ellen Curran also have a chance to present their case in the panel on an ongoing basis.
From the Euros, Grace O’Flanagan, Hannah Matthews, Shirley McCay, Nikki Evans, Chloe Watkins, Anna O’Flanagan, Emily Beatty and Nicci Daly are all rested or unavailable for this squad.
Cork Harlequins pair Rebecca Barry and Naomi Carroll are back having missed the major summer tournaments through injury, making it five players from the club involved. They join goalkeeper Emma Buckley and defenders Yvonne O’Byrne and Roisin Upton.
The series is very much one for fringe players to stake a claim in Shaw’s World Cup plans with eight of the European Championship panel rested. To that end, Ireland’s place at the 2018 World Cup will probably be confirmed next Thursday at the Oceania Cup in Sydney barring rank outsiders Papua New Guinea causing shocks against world powers Australia and New Zealand.
Ireland women’s panel for series with Scotland (October 22nd-25th): Liz Murphy (Hermes-Monkstown), Emma Buckley (Cork Harlequins), Clodagh Cassin (UCD), Ali Meeke (Loreto), Erin Getty (Queens), Yvonne O’Byrne (Cork Harlequins), Lena Tice (UCD), Zoe Wilson (Belfast Harlequins), Rebecca Barry (Cork Harlequins), Roisin Upton (Cork Harlequins), Gill Pinder (Pembroke), Hannah McLoughlin (Loreto), Katie Mullan (UCD), Emma Russell (UCD), Ruth Maguire (Pegasus), Naomi Carroll (Cork Harlequins), Jessica McMaster (Queens), Chloe Brown (Ards), Aisling Naughton (Pembroke), Ellen Curran (UCD), Deirdre Duke (UCD), Sinead Loughran (Hermes-Monkstown), Jessica McGirr (Loreto), Kate Lloyd (Railway Union), Sarah Torrans (Loreto), Lizzie Colvin (Belfast Harlequins)
Sunday, October 22 (Playball, Stormont): Ireland v Scotland, 5pm
Tuesday, October 24 (Banbridge): Ireland v Scotland, 7pm
Wednesday, October 25 (Playball, Stormont): Ireland v Scotland, 12.30pm