Ireland look certain to be without their inspirational team captain Megan Frazer for the World League 3 tournament in the summer which will determine whether they can reach the 2018 World Cup in London, writes John Flack.
Definitely out of the final eliminator is Cliodhna Sargent as the vastly experienced Cork Harlequins defender is expecting a baby.
Frazer, who signed a professional contract with German club Mannheimer HC last year, had a second operation on a serious knee injury last week and is reluctantly resigned to missing the trip to South Africa of Belgium.
She sustained ruptured cruciate and medial ligaments in her right knee during a training session last October and her recovery has been slower than expected.
“I hadn’t been making progress so the surgeon requested another MRI scan last week which showed I have what is known as a cyclops lesion,” she explained.
“Basically, it is scar tissue which inhibits extension of the knee so without being able to straighten it, I can’t walk properly and can’t progress the rehab.
“The surgeon Mannheimer employ is a knee specialist, who also works with Bundesliga footballers, so I am in good hands. I had surgery in Germany last Thursday and although timelines are fairly difficult to predict at this point, I think it’s unlikely I will have a summer return.”
Frazer’s absence is a huge blow to Ireland’s hopes of qualifying for a World Cup for the first time since 2002, when they finished 11th in Perth, Australia.
And to make matters worse, Sargent has also been ruled out of World League 3, albeit for a happier reason, after signing off on a winning note at World League 2 in Malaysia in January.
“Losing Cliodhna and Megan is a big blow on and off the pitch due to the fact they are senior players and vice-captain and captain respectively.” said assistant Ireland coach Arlene Boyles.
“But we do have a solid platform to work from and others will step up and fill the breach as we prepare for World League 3.”
Ireland continued their build-up for the tournament with a training camp at Bisham Abbey last week which included three warm-up games against Great Britain.
The Green Army performed admirably against a side that contained several players that won gold medals at the Rio Olympics, drawing the last game 1-1 after narrow 4-2 and 5-4 defeats.
“It was a very useful exercise and, when we weren’t playing matches, we were able to have some good training sessions with the superb facilities at Bisham,” Boyles added.
Next up for Ireland is two internationals against former Olympic champions Germany in Dusseldorf next month followed by a triple-header against the United States in Philadelphia in May.