IRELAND have named their women's squad for the European Hockey Championships in Holland next month.
It is the first phase of a huge summer that culminates in the Tokyo Olympic Games with the Euros doubling up as a key preparation tournament for the games while also providing three potential 2022 World Cup tickets.
Ireland will take on Holland on June 5, in a rematch of the 2018 World Cup final; on June 7 they face Scotland before closing out the group stages on June 9 against Spain.
Coach Seán Dancer’s 18-player panel features 12 of the 2018 World Cup silver medal-winning side and 13 of the team that won qualification to the Olympic Games in November 2019 in a dramatic shoot-out in front of a packed-out Donnybrook Stadium.
The likes of Ayeisha McFerran, Lizzie Colvin, Nicci Daly, Nikki Evans, Megan Frazer Hannah Matthews, Shirley McCay, Katie Mullan, Anna O’Flanagan, Lena Tice, Roisin Upton, Sarah Hawkshaw and Chloe Watkins bring a wealth of talent to the table.
But on the downside injuries will deprive him of key players like Zoe Wilson and Barr twins Serena and Bethany, who will miss the two tournaments.
Former Harlequins player and current Catholic Institute star Naomi Carroll, will play her first capped match since the summer of 2018, having taken the long road back from an ACL injury sustained while in ladies football action for Clare. She will be joined by fellow Institute player, Roisin Upton, who also lined out for Harlequins for a number of seasons.
Since her injury Carroll was part of the rejuvenated Irish indoor hockey side in 2020 before earning her recall to the senior outdoor setup.
Due to Covid-19 concerns, the European Hockey Federation has allowed a further two players to join the panel as “travelling reserves” in addition to the initial panel of 18.
Deirdre Duke will offer cover for midfield/forward line and Sarah McAuley waits in the wings defensively.
For World Cup qualification, Ireland will only be absolutely assured of a ticket if they finish in the top three positions. Currently, Spain and the Netherlands are already pre-qualified as hosts, so should either or both finish in the medal positions in Amstelveen, fourth or fifth place could provide the golden ticket.
Speaking at the announcement of the squad coach Dancer said: “It has been a long, tough 12 months, preparing in a Covid world. It is a credit to the group’s strength to arrive at this year’s Euros with a very balanced team.
“I will enjoy watching the experienced players controlling our play in combination with the excitement of our young players such as Michelle Carey and Hannah McLoughlin.
“The European Championships is a major tournament with ramifications for next year’s World Cup. We have made our objectives very clear and will push hard as a group towards them.”
The squad was announced at a joint event run by primary sponsors SoftCo and Park Developments.
“Congratulations to the players that have been selected for the Irish women’s hockey squad for the European Championship today,” SoftCo co-founder Susan Spence said.
“Since achieving a World Cup silver medal, this group have continued to drive forward with Olympic qualification and the recent historic victory over Great Britain. We are extremely proud to be their main sponsor as they go in search of European and Olympic glory this summer and wish them every success.”
Park Developments’ managing director Sean O’Neill added: “From a Park Developments perspective, we wish Sean, Katie and all the squad all the very best for the 2021 European Championships.”
The squad is: Ayeisha McFerran, Lizzie Murphy, both goalkeepers; Michelle Carey, Naomi Carroll, Lizzie Colvin, Nicci Daly, Nikki Evans, Megan Frazer, Sarah Hawkshaw, Hannah Matthews, Shirley McCay, Hannah McLoughlin, Katie Mullan, captain; Anna O’Flanagan, vice-captain; Lena Tice, Sarah Torrans, Roisin Upton and Chloe Watkins.