Shirley McCay and Lizzie Colvin will both return to the Irish women’s squad for the first time since the World Cup for their upcoming trip to take on Spain and India.
For McCay, Ireland’s most capped player, she had previously said she would step away following the World Cup but has since thought a lot about the situation and decided to return.
“I think having the time to take away from hockey and really reflect on where I am at the moment,” she told BBC Northern Ireland.
“Where I want to go with my hockey career and balance work and life, it’s been a special time to reflect and realise that I do have a dream. It’s something that I’d probably regret if I didn’t pursue it further.
“[Retiring on the high of the World Cup final] was one of the things that I had to factor in. If I left it now that would be the high that I go out on but that’s not me as a player and a person. It’s not what drives me.
“I’ve had the disappointments of three Olympic qualifications that we’ve missed out on and that is what drives me – that will to succeed.”
She added in the interview that Ireland are now in a “new scenario” since the silver medal and can no longer go in under the radar.
“There is that pressure and people aren’t looking at us as underdogs. That’s a good pressure to have and it’s something we would have relished a couple of months ago. It’s the status we want to have in world hockey so we need to grasp it with both hands.”
Her inclusion came as part of Hockey Ireland’s confirmation of their schedule for the year ahead. From February 1 to 7, they will play India twice in Murcia and then Spain three times in Granada.
There are plenty of changes from the recent Chile trip with Ayeisha McFerran, Bethany Barr, Gemma Frazer, Ruth Maguire, Gillian Pinder, Megan Frazer and Amy Elliott stepping out this time.
In addition to McCay and Colvin, Hannah McLoughlin, Chloe Brown, Ellen Curran, Sinead Loughran and Leah McGuire all come back in.
Later in the year, Ireland will go to Bisham Abbey for uncapped matches against Great Britain before finally getting a homecoming series in May with four games against Canada.
Speaking about the schedule for the year ahead, head coach Graham Shaw said: “Chile proved a very valuable trip for the whole team, both experienced players and those new to the squad.
“It is important to spend time training together as a group and get international matches under our belt early in the year, so we are pleased to be going to Spain in the coming weeks to face tough opposition.
“Bisham Abbey is always a worthwhile trip against one of the best teams in the world and this time will be no different. Great Britain will have played their first few Pro League fixtures at that stage so we know they will be a threat as ever, particularly with games against New Zealand, Australia and China under their belt in the previous few weeks.
“We’re delighted to welcome Canada to Ireland for a home series and it will act as ideal preparation for our squad with the FIH Series Finals taking place just a few weeks later.
“Canada are again a familiar opponent and a side very much on the ascendency, we look forward to playing them in 4 competitive matches in front of a home crowd.”
Ireland senior women for Spanish series (February 1-7, 2019 in Murcia and Granada): Liz Murphy (Loreto), Emma Buckley (Racing Club de Bruxelles), Bethany Barr (UCD), Hannah Matthews (Loreto), Lena Tice (UCD), Serena Barr (Beeston), Hannah McLoughlin (UCD), Chloe Brown (East Grinstead), Katie Mullan (Club an der Alster), Ali Meeke (Loreto), Roisin Upton (Catholic Institute), Ellen Curran (UCD), Nikki Evans (UHC Hamburg), Anna O’Flanagan (Pinoke), Sarah Torrans (Loreto), Deirdre Duke (Dusseldorfer HC), Sarah Hawkshaw (Railway Union), Aisling Naughton (Pembroke), Lizzie Colvin (Belfast Harlequins), Emily Beatty (Pembroke), Yvonne O’Byrne (Cork Harlequins), Sinead Loughran (Pembroke), Leah McGuire (UCD), Shirley McCay (Pegasus), Nicci Daly (Loreto), Zoe Wilson (Belfast Harlequins)
February 1: Ireland v India, 4.30pm, Hockey Santomera pitch, Murcia
February 3: Ireland v India, 11am, Hockey Santomera pitch, Murcia
February 4: Ireland v Spain, 6.30pm Armilla Hockey, Granada
February 6: Ireland v Spain, 12.30pm Armilla Hockey, Granada
February 7: Ireland v Spain, 11am Armilla Hockey, Granada
March 10-14: Ireland vs Great Britain (uncapped), Bisham Abbey
May 24-28: Ireland vs Canada, Dublin
June 8-16: FIH Series Finals, Dublin
July 1-9: Ireland v Belgium, Belgium
August 18-25: EuroHockey Championships in Antwerp