CHLOE Brown’s international career has been a largely frustrating affair until now, writes John Flack, but she can hardly contain her excitement at co-captaining the national indoor team which will be playing six games against South Africa over the next six days.
The former Ards striker agonisingly missed out on a host of major tournaments at outdoor level, including last year’s World Cup, having been in the frame until late on.
Indeed, of her 58 caps, a staggering 51 have come in non-competitive matches, the only exception being the low-key European second division series in Prague in 2015 and a couple of games in the penultimate stage of Olympic qualifying in Banbridge in June.
She decided to step away from the Ireland outdoor set-up after initially being named as a reserve for the Havelock Park event, only to be called up as an injury replacement for Megan Frazer.
Now though, the 25-year-old has a new lease of life, as Ireland warm up for the European indoor championship in Bratislava next month with the South Africa series which begins in Durban this evening (4pm, Irish time).
Now in her second season with East Grinstead, Brown has found her niche and last season helped the club lift the English indoor title.
Ireland are back in international competition after 29 years in the wilderness as far as the six-a-side version of the sport is concerned, much to the delight of Brown, one of six Ulster women in the 12-strong squad which arrived in South Africa yesterday.
She is joined by former Ards team mates Caroline Adams and Amy Benson, along with Queen’s trio Jessica McMaster, Erin Getty and Tori Hastings.
Brown said: “I’m really looking forward to the South Africa series which will be a brilliant experience in front of an amazing crowds.””Being ask to co-captain the squad is honour and I’m really looking forward to the challenges ahead.
“Especially around this time of year, I love coming inside and focusing on the indoor game. This will be a brilliant experience for my East Grinstead campaign as we have our league in January were we are aiming to reach the Super Sixes finals and Europeans.
“After last year’s title success,we have qualified for A Division Europeans in the hockey capital of the world, The Hague.
“It is exciting to see that more and more people are taking up indoor and the youth programmes in place will only lift the profile in a positive manner.
“The South Africa trip has come at a really good time as it will be a massive opportunity to gel as a group and learn the game in a more in-depth way.
“The Europeans will be exciting but challenging as well as it’s been nearly three decades since Ireland entered a team but we’re really excited about the tournament.”
** All the matches in Durban are being streamed LIVE on the following Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/MCLMyYouthHockey/
December 4: South Africa vs Ireland, 4pm, Danville GNS
December 5: South Africa vs Ireland, 4pm, Danville GNS
December 7: South Africa vs Ireland, 5pm, Cape Town Velodrome
December 8: South Africa vs Ireland, 5pm, Cape Town Velodrome
December 10: South Africa vs Ireland, 8.20am, Cape Town Velodrome
December 10: South Africa vs Ireland, 7pm, Cape Town Velodrome