South Africa trip will stand to Ireland as Euros comes into focus8

Irish women’s indoor coach Dave Passmore says in spite of six losses to home hosts, the tour to South Africa will stand Ireland in good stead for their return to EuroHockey Championship action next month.

After two 2-1 losses in Durban, South Africa kicked things up a notch in Cape Town on a faster, plastic pitch with a run of bigger scorelines in front of a boisterous crowd in the thousands – 5-0, 6-1, 4-2 and 6-2.

Ireland line up before their sixth test against South Africa. Picture: Andrew Swarts/PSI

Nonetheless, getting a feel for international hockey after a 29 year hiatus has been invaluable, making it slightly less of a step into the unknown.

“I was laughing with their manager,” Passmore told The Hook. “They had 560 caps in their side and we had 0. They played about 30 matches this year as a group with a core of players.

“They are used to indoor, know each other exceptionally well and when they stepped it up, we took a lot of time to adjust. We struggled with things like the noise of the crowd because we don’t know each other and are not used to played with each other.

“Clearly they were the better team. I am not always sure the scores fully reflected the games but, really, the whole tour was about gaining experience and getting players pitch time before we go into the C division.”

Those will be Ireland’s last practice matches – other than against youth and schoolboy teams – before heading to Slovakia in the new year for the Euros.

While he would have preferred a few more games against other international sides, he does not view it as a massive disadvantage with most other nations in the same boat.

He is wary, however, it will be a tough competition. Slovakia are top seeds with Slovenia and Portugal the only other sides with world rankings with Denmark, Finland and Spain also making their Euro bows.

“I can’t seem to find any video of other nations so I don’t think it is unusual within our circles not to play many internationals. So to get six games under our belt couldn’t be more ideal.

“You look at the C division and people will say the teams aren’t any good. Well, they are not very good from an outdoor perspective but for teams like Denmark, they only really play indoors.

“No one will be easy. South Africa beat Switzerland in a series 4-0 and the Swiss are ranked eighth in the world. So these games should stand us in good stead in January.”

As for being part of the Pro Series Indoor spectacle in Cape Town, Passmore says it will be something he and the players will never forget.

Ireland’s Tori Hastings takes on South Africa’s Cindy Hack. Picture: Andrew Swarts/PSI

“The whole experience was amazing. The way they run PSI over there in Cape Town! 250 indoor teams playing in 15 different venues; they came in groups to watch us so there was 2,000 there at a time. That’s unique and being indoors gives that extra atmosphere.

“We really struggled to get used to the plastic pitch which is why the first two games were that bit tighter on a wooden pitch. It was super-quick, like lightning, which played into their hands. They were quicker than us anyway. If it was super slow, it might give us a false sense of security.

“Our group were fantastic – we changed two players every game, nobody sat out twice and they really came together. At the Europeans, we have six matches in three days so this will stand to us. The 12 may not come from that 14 and we do have another trial on January 5 and we will select after that date.”

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