Ireland will face Great Britain on home turf for the first time in 13 years with three uncapped international matches given the go ahead for Queen’s University next week.
And while no fans will get to attend the Softco Series on March 13th, 14th and 16th, skipper Katie Mullan hopes that having the games broadcast on BBC NI and RTE will allow fans from their last home games – the Olympic qualifiers in November 2019 – to reignite their connection with the team.
“We’ve been working away really hard behind the scenes,” she said at the series announcement. “Because there has been no live competition, we have not been seen and haven’t been able to continue that journey with the fans.
“Hopefully this is a huge step in the right direction toward generating that all again for the Olympics and the Europeans [in June]. We love playing in front of the crowd, we love inspiring the next generation. It’s part of our identity.”
BBC Sport NI will be streaming all three matches on their website as well as the BBC iPlayer, while RTÉ will broadcast Sunday evening’s match live on RTÉ 2 with coverage starting from 16:30.
Nigel Ringland will present BBC Sport NI’s coverage of the three matches and will be joined on commentary by former Ireland international Alex Speers; while Evanne Ní Chuillin will present RTÉ’s coverage, joined by Cliodhna Sargent and Gillian Pinder in studio, with match commentary from George Hamilton and Sarah Scott.
This series’ launch was timed to coincide with the 125th anniversary of the first women’s international match when Ireland beat England 2-0 on March 2nd 1896 at Alexandra College in Milltown.
It will be the first time GB have travelled across the Irish Sea since 2008’s Setanta Trophy with Ireland travelling for series at Bisham Abbey a number of times in the past few years around St Patrick’s Day.
And it marks a big step forward in preparations for Sean Dancer’s side ahead of a busy summer. June’s European Championships now bring the added pressure of being a 2022 World Cup qualifier with not enough space in the international schedule due to the spate of 2020 postponements and cancelations.
Then, just six weeks later, Ireland will contest the women’s field hockey event at the Olympics for the first time.
As such, a series against the fifth-ranked team in the world represents a strong testing ground for the challenges ahead. “Since I have been involved, GB have never come over to play us so that’s massive,” Mullan added.
“They will be high quality games to get under our belt ahead of the Europeans and the style they play is similar to what we will face there.”
Women’s Hockey International series
Saturday, March 13: Ireland v Great Britain, Queen’s University, 2pm
Sunday, March 14: Ireland v Great Britain, Queen’s University, 5pm
Tuesday, March 16: Ireland v Great Britain, Queen’s University, 3pm