Dave Passmore received clearance in November to run an ongoing women’s Under-21 programme from Hockey Ireland with the long-term plan to qualify for the 2020 Junior World Cup.
It is a big boost for the contentious age group which has had a chequered run. Initially scrapped in 2004 due to costs, Ireland re-entered European competition in 2012 at the bottom rung of the ladder, earning promotion through the divisions to the A division for 2017 in Valencia.The women stayed in the top tier when Spain were unable to field for their decisive final game due to a norovirus outbreak. The EHF confirmed later on that no relegation would occur as a result, allowing Ireland play in the 2019 top tier where the 2020 World Cup tickets will be decided.
The men were relegated with one win from five. In the wake of the tournament, both Irish coaches called for more commitment to the grade with men’s Under-21 boss Jonny Caren, saying: “The thing for me is we go from this tournament to probably not being thought about until the next European tournament in two years time.
“That’s not right. This needs to be a continual programme, we need to be training full-time. Otherwise, the gap is too big. Against England was an example of that – a full-time Under-21 programme versus how we came together just in time for a tournament.”
Each campaign since re-introduction of the Under-21 programme has been run on an ad hoc basis with trials starting a year out from the Euros.
Based on a pay-to-play model this year, both the Irish men and women received no central funding from Hockey Ireland and had to fundraise the entirity of their respective programmes over the summer.
As such, Passmore is delighted to get the chance to start work early – in a similar manner to each of his likely opponents in 2019 – with a core group of players.
“It’s great to start the next cycle over a year and a half out from the next European Championships and there is a strong presence from younger players in this group,” he said.
“Our aim is to develop the athletes in all areas over the next year to lay the foundations to push hard to qualify for the 2020 Junior World Cup and for them to develop towards senior representation.
“There is plenty of talent and athleticism in the group but the hard work needs to start now and we have some quality match opportunities for the summer to help us work towards these goals.”
The panel features senior internationals Emma Buckley, Clodagh Cassin, Ellen Curran, Erin Getty, Hannah McLoughlin, Jess McMaster and Liz Murphy.
Their involvement in the panel will be managed around their senior squad commitments while Yasmin Pratt will do likewise with her Irish Under-18 commitments.
“Those players in the senior squad will prioritise that programme. The squad is not exclusive and I will continue to watch game live and by video bringing any players I feel warrant a trial. Any coaches who would like a player considered should contact me.”
** This article originally appeared in the Irish Examiner
Irish Under-21 women’s training panel: Jade Arundell (GK, North Kildare/Kings Hospital), Amber Barnwell (Hermes-Monkstown), Michelle Barry (Cork Harlequins), Ava Beatty (Hermes-Monkstown), Emma Buckley (GK, Cork Harlequins), Rachel Burns (Trinity), Sally Campbell (Trinity), Michelle Carey (Railway Union/Colaiste Iosagain), Niamh Carey (Railway Union/Colaiste Iosagain), Clodagh Cassin (GK, UCD), Jenny Clein (UCC), Ellen Curran (UCD), Alanah Doyle (Ards), Kelly Dunleavy (Catholic Institute), Katherine Egan (UCD), Katie Fearon (Railway Union/Loreto Beaufort), Laura Foley (Catholic Institute), Erin Getty (QUB), Tori Hastings (QUB), Nina Heisterkamp (Railway Union/St Killian’s), Hannah Irwin (Ulster Elks), Suzie Kelly (Hermes-Monkstown), Jade Lamont (GK, Belfast Harlequins), Erica Markey (Trinity), Emma Mathews (Muckross), Rebecca McConnell (Mossley), Freya McDermott (UCD), Sophie McDowell (Mossley/Ballyclare High School), Katie McKee (Pegasus/Banbridge Academy), Grace McLoughlin (Railway Union/Loreto Beaufort), Hannah McLoughlin (Loreto/Loreto Foxrock), Jess McMaster (QUB), Lizzie Murphy (GK, Hermes-Monkstown), Yasmin Pratt (Muckross/Kilkenny College), Abbie Russell (UCD), Holly Taggart (Ballymena), Sarah Torrans (Loreto), Emma Young (UCD)