Sean Dancer has given Emma Buckley, Ellen Curran, Hannah McLoughlin, Sarah Torrans and Emily Beatty an early chance to stake a claim for a place in the Irish women’s Olympic squad.
They have been named in a 20-player panel for a warm-weather tour to South Africa where they will meet the home country – who will be Ireland’s first opponent in Tokyo next July 25th – and Germany in test matches.
That youthful quintet comes into the line-up which features 15 of the side that won their Olympic qualifier against Canada in November.
Gillian Pinder and Nicci Daly have only played a fleeting role for their clubs in the first half of the season and will sit out this tour as will Zoe Wilson but Roisin Upton is involved with her broken wrist set to be adequately healed in time for the January 16th departure for warmer climes.
The selection comes from a wider panel of 35 that has been assembled which features a number of eye-catching names, none more so than Emma Smyth.
The 33-year-old Railway Union midfielder retired in June 2015 in the wake of the Green Army’s failed Olympic qualification for Rio, missing out by the width of a post.
She took a season off last term for the birth of her child but has since been a strong influence this season since her return to club action.
At the other end of the spectrum, UCD’s Carey twins Niamh and Michelle have also been included for the first time, making it two sets of twins involved in addition to the Barrs Serena and Bethany.
Uncapped teenagers Christina Hamill, Caoimhe Perdue and goalkeeper Ellie McLoughlin also have a chance to stake a claim in the side but margins are tight. While the qualifiers allowed for a panel of 18 players, the Olympics themselves will only have 16 spots with two to three reserves waiting in the wings.
In the past few weeks, the panel has undergone some intensive altitude training sessions in heat chambers as they try to get a head-start on getting their bodies used to the Tokyo heat.
The full schedule for Tokyo 2020, meanwhile, was confirmed on Tuesday morning. After that initial date against the tournament low-ranked side, South Africa, on July 25th. next on the agenda will be world number one side the Netherlands two days later before facing Germany on July 29th and India on July 31st.A tie against Great Britain completes the six-team group from which a top four spot will earn a place in the quarter-finals.
Ireland panel for South Africa training camp: Ayeisha McFerran (SV Kampong, GK), Emma Buckley (Royal Racing Club de Bruxelles, GK), Roisin Upton (Catholic Institute), Nikki Evans (Old Alex), Kathryn Mullan (Captain, Ballymoney), Shirley McCay (Pegasus), Lena Tice (UCD), Emily Beatty (Pembroke), Beth Barr (Belfast Harlequins), Serena Barr (Belfast Harlequins), Chloe Watkins (Monkstown), Lizzie Colvin (Belfast Harlequins), Hannah Matthews (Loreto), Sarah Hawkshaw (Railway Union), Anna O’Flanagan (Vice Captain, Muckross), Deirdre Duke (Old Alex), Ellen Curran (UCD), Elizabeth Murphy (Loreto, GK), Hannah McLoughlin (UCD), Sarah Torrans (Loreto)
Extended panel members: Alison Meeke (Loreto), Yvonne O’Byrne (Cork Harlequins), Grace O’Flanagan (Railway Union, GK) Naomi Carroll (Catholic Institute), Aisling Naughton (Pembroke), Emma Smyth (Railway Union), Christina Hamill (Loreto), Ellie McLoughlin (Muckross, GK), Caoimhe Perdue (UCC), Niamh Carey (UCD), Michelle Carey (UCD), Megan Frazer (Ulster Elks), Gillian Pinder (Pembroke), Nicola Daly (Loreto), Zoe Wilson (Randalstown)
Women’s Olympic hockey schedule
Pool A: Netherlands, Germany, Great Britain, Ireland, India, South Africa Pool B: Australia, Argentina, New Zealand, Spain, China, Japan
Irish Schedule (all Irish Times)
July 25th Ireland v South Africa (12.15 pm)
July 27th Ireland v Netherlands (1.00 am)
July 29th Ireland v Germany (3.00 am)
July 31st Ireland v India (2.45 am)
August 1st Ireland v Great Britain (11.45 am)