Caoimhe Perdue and Ellen Curran have a chance to push their claims for a place in the Irish women’s summer plans next week as the Green Army head to Bisham Abbey for a four-game series against Great Britain.
For UCC’s Perdue, she is likely to have her first taste of senior international hockey when Ireland meet Great Britain at Bisham Abbey in four uncapped matches, starting on April 28th.
Curran, meanwhile, is back in the mix. She scored Ireland’s last goal in a capped game back in January 2020 against Germany before the pandemic took hold and while she captained her club to the Irish Senior Cup in September, she missed out on the recent series against Spain and GB.
They come into the reckoning in place of Lena Tice and Megan Frazer who are both looking after injury concerns while Beth Barr is out of the Olympics with an ACL injury.
Ayeisha McFerran will stay with her club side SV Kampong in the Netherlands for the last two weeks of their season, leaving Sean Dancer with a 21-player panel at his disposal.
The series itself is a quickly arranged one in the wake of a planned trip to Malaysia getting the axe at the last minute.
As such, skipper Katie Mullan is thrilled the side will still get some good game time, albeit against a well-known opponent who they met three times in March.
“We’re super excited after the disappointment of not getting to Malaysia to get the trip to Bisham Abbey over the line,” she said.
“We are very realistic over how often things are changing. Getting to Malaysia was going to be a bonus. It’s not as is any other nation is getting loads of games in the heat.
“In a perfect world, playing the same team is not how you would want it but we are grateful to get the games and it is very good preparation to focus on ourselves.”
The Coleraine woman adds cancellations are becoming a big theme for the 12 Olympic qualified sides with the likes of China, New Zealand and Australia contemplating having no warm-up games before the summer.
“Every nation has their struggles in terms of best preparing getting out of Covid. You can see how much quicker Australia and New Zealand got out of lockdown and were able to train.
“In one sense, they got a couple of steps ahead. Now, they are not getting games which we are. Everyone has their own personal journey and it’s going to be whoever manages those ups and downs best, I believe, who will be the successful teams this summer, especially so for the European teams who have to go and peak twice with this being a qualifier for the World Cup.”
For those countries, the Pro League should have offered some respite but the beleaguered competition has come increasingly under the spotlight with plenty of comparisons being made to the already abandoned European Super League.
At this stage, the International Hockey Federation is still trying to complete the 2020 season but it looks like more close to a third of the games will not be played by the deadline of June 2021.
“We did joke on Monday whether they took [the ESL] model from hockey! In previous seasons, you would only love to have those competitive games throughout the year [that the Pro League offers].
“But we haven’t missed out on a huge amount with the way things have been and it has been difficult for the teams involved.”
GB were due to play Argentina and China in the coming few weeks but those postponements helped open up this window after Malaysia was off the agenda.
For now, Mullan is keen to keep the momentum going after the buzz created by March’s Softco Series ahead of a huge summer in which Ireland will have to peak twice in quick succession.
June’s European Championships doubles as a World Cup qualifier and is followed just six weeks later by the Olympics.
That is a complication Sean Dancer’s side will have to manage carefully. It is something they struggled with in 2017 when the Hockey World League semi-finals – the key World Cup qualifier – was followed just a month later by the European Championships.
Ireland excelled at the former to earn their ticket to London 2018 but were close to burn-out for the second tournament and it almost cost them their place in Europe’s top tier.
“It’s been something we’ve spoken about a lot, the double-peak and what we learned from 2017,” Mullan continued. “The biggest thing is then we weren’t used to being together as a group throughout the year like we are now.
“We came into those tournaments for a very short, intense period of time but were not used to being in each other’s company as consistently.
“The fact we are together now in a semi-professional environment every week for a couple of days, it puts us in a better position and better prepared for the intensity of two international tournaments in one summer.
“It’s going to be a challenge and one we are very aware of. There’s lots we can do to prepare for it and have lots of expertise in the group to manage it.”
The games against GB will not be streamed on this occasion.
Ireland squad for Bisham Abbey (April 22-May 2): Michelle Carey (UCD), Naomi Carroll (Catholic Institute), Lizzie Colvin (Belfast Harlequins), Nicci Daly (Loreto), Deirdre Duke (Old Alex), Nikki Evans (Old Alex), Sarah Hawkshaw (Railway Union), Zara Malseed (Ards), Hannah Matthews (Loreto), Sarah McAuley (Muckross), Shirley McCay (Pegasus), Hannah McLoughlin (UCD), Katie Mullan (Ballymoney), Lizzie Murphy (Loreto), Anna O’Flanagan (Muckross), Grace O’Flanagan (Railway Union), Sarah Torrans (Loreto), Roisin Upton (Catholic Institute), Chloe Watkins (Monkstown), Ellen Curran (UCD), Caoimhe Perdue (UCC)
Match dates and times:
Tuesday 27 April: Great Britain v Ireland, 10am
Wednesday 28 April: Great Britain v Ireland, 6pm
Friday 30 April: Great Britain v Ireland, 2pm
Sunday 2 May: Great Britain v Ireland, 1pm