Dave Passmore has announced the first Irish women’s indoor international squad since 1990, naming a 14-player panel for a December trip to Durban, South Africa for six test matches.
The Irish Ladies Hockey Union – the governing body at the time – disbanded its support for the short-form version of the game soon after their sixth place finish in the European Championship top tier.
Since then, the Irish indoor club scene has scraped along at various rates of success but, under the stewardship of Rob Abbott, has enjoyed an upsurge in interest of late.
This winter will see the men’s and women’s competitions across the island expanding in numbers while Abbott has been a key figure in pushing for international teams.
To this end, Irish teams will play in the third tier of European Championships in January with the men heading to Santander and the women to Slovakia.
Like each international youth team in Ireland, the sides will be effectively “self-funded”, with no money coming from the governing body.
Spar and the South African Hockey Association, however, have made this trip possible with support covering accommodation and internal flights.
The side does not include any of the outdoor side who recently qualified for the Olympic Games but Catholic Institute’s Naomi Carroll – the sole Munster player included – will line out, returning to Irish kit for the first time since July 2018.
Goalkeeper Millie Regan is another interesting inclusion. She played with the English Under-18s last summer outdoors but qualifies through her Irish father – these caps mean she will only be eligible for Ireland in either code unless she takes a three-year cooling off period.
She plays with East Grinstead in the English league, helping them to win national glory. There, she linked up with Ards woman Chloe Brown who will co-captain the Irish side alongside Railway Union’s Orla Fox.
Brown was part of the Ards side that dominated the last decade of the National Indoor Trophy and she will be joined by Caroline Adams and Amy Benson in the side.
Kate McKenna will become a dual-international when she lines out – in addition to being an All-Ireland winning ladies footballer – having also represented Ireland in cricket.
Former outdoor international Niamh Small, Muckross’s Sophie Barnwell, Glenanne’s Roisin O’Brien, UCD’s Orla Patton also make the trip. Queen’s trio Erin Getty, Tori Hastings and Jessica McMaster are well-known to Passmore, too, having worked with him at Under-21 international level.
It does mean a few postponements are likely for the women’s EY Hockey League on December 7. Should clubs with players involved apply for a refixed date, Hockey Ireland have confirmed they will grant the request.
Ireland women’s indoor squad (South Africa, December 4th to 10th): Caroline Adams (Ards), Sophie Barnwell (Muckross), Amy Benson (Ards), Chloe Brown (East Grinstead), Naomi Carroll (Catholic Institute), Orla Fox (Railway Union), Erin Getty (Queen’s University), Tori Hastings (Queen’s University), Kate McKenna (Railway Union), Jessica McMaster (Queen’s University), Roisin O’Brien (Glenanne), Orla Patton (UCD), Millie Regan (East Grinstead), Niamh Small (Loreto)