Ireland’s preparations for the first stage of the women’s 2020 Olympic qualifying process have received a set back, writes John Flack, with news that Canada will now not be travelling for four internationals which were due to take place shortly before the tournament gets underway next month.
The north Americans have pulled out of the trip because of financial constraints and, as a consequence, Ireland will now have no senior internationals in the build-up to the Banbridge showpiece, scheduled for June 8-16.Instead, the hosts will play India Under 21s in Dublin on May 28 along with games against boys and girls national under-age teams at Havelock Park.
Fortunately, by sheer coincidence, the Indians will be in Ireland preparing for the U21 Four Nations tournament in Dublin.
However, the situation is far from ideal as Ireland have not played a full scale international since March when they travelled to Murcia for three games against Spain and two against India.
In total, the World Cup silver medallists have played just nine internationals since their unprecedented achievement in London last August.
Ireland, now eighth in the world, are the top-ranked side and would be among the favourites to land one of the top two finishing spots at the Banbridge tournament as they are up against lower ranked opposition.
Team manager Arlene Boyles said: “It’s extremely disappointing that Canada have had to withdraw, especially at such short notice.”
“We did try to find senior international opposition but were unsuccessful because of the time-frame and the fact that most teams we would have wanted are involved in their own Olympic qualifying events.
“At least we have the India game, along with matches against Ulster and Ireland U-18 boys and Ireland’s U-21 women which will help.”
Ireland also have a practice match against Korea, who are in the other group, pencilled in for the tournament venue on Wednesday June 5 – three days before the tournament hits off.
Meanwhile, Ireland’s men, who are preparing for their Olympic qualifier in Le Touquet later next month, will now play their French hosts at Lisnagarvey in the build up on June 4 and 6 after the games were switched from Dublin.