Following the squad announcements made by Australia and South Africa earlier this week, both India and host nation Ireland have confirmed the names of the players that they will be sending to Dublin for the Electric Ireland FIH Champions Challenge I, which starts on September 29th.
Experienced midfielder Ritu Rani will lead 12th ranked India into action at the tournament, which is being played at University College Dublin (UCD). Defender Kirandeep Kaur will be vice-captain in the team’s maiden assignment under Chief Coach Neil Hawgood. The squad contains a vast array of youthful talent, with no less than seven of the selected players being part of the India team which claimed the silver medal at the recent Junior Women’s Asia Cup.
Ritu Rani, the captain, said the team is eager to compete with teams that had taken part in the recent Olympic Games. “We have worked very hard during the camp in Bhopal under the supervision of Chief Coach Neil Hawgood and Exercise Physiologist Ben Dascombe. We are confident we will compete hard and do our best against quality opposition.”
Like India, the Ireland team confirmed for the tournament is one that is very much looking to the future following a number of senior international retirements. However, the younger members of the side will be guided by a number of experienced heads including Nikki Symmons, the 30-year-old defender who has racked up close to 200 international appearances for her country. Brenda Flannery and Aine Connery will undergo late fitness tests ahead of the tournament as they recover from injury.
"Given the calibre of teams involved in this tournament it is a really exciting challenge for this emerging squad," said Ireland’s interim National Women’s Coach Denis Pritchard upon announcing his selection. "Given the short preparation time the players have been excellent in their application and focus, led well by the more experienced players the younger ones have made a serious impact and we will enter the competition with a good team spirit and fearing no-one."
Besides India and Ireland, the teams that will compete in the event are Australia, Belgium, Scotland, South Africa, Spain and USA. Of the eight competing nations, Australia – a side which finished fifth at the London 2012 Olympic Games last month - is the highest placed in the FIH World Rankings at seventh. South Africa, Belgium and the USA were also present at London 2012, finishing 10th, 11th and 12th respectively.
The winner of the event will join Argentina, England, Netherlands, Germany and Japan in the Women's Hockey Champions Trophy 2014 to be played in Argentina. Two further contenders will be assigned invitational places at a later date.
India Squad: Yogita Bali (GK), Savita (GK), Jaspreet Kaur, Sushila Chanu, Kirandeep Kaur, Deep Grace Ekka, Deepika, Joydeep Kaur, Ritu Rani (captain), Vandana Katariya, Monika Malik, Chanchan Devi, Poonam Rani, MN Ponnamma, Roselin Dung Dung, Soundarya Yendala, Lily Chanu, Anupa Barla.
Ireland Squad: Emma Gray (GK), Pamela Smithwick (GK), Sinead McCarthy, Audrey O’Flynn, Niamh Atcheler, Michelle Harvey, Nicola Gray, Brenda Flannery**, Emma Smyth, Nikki Symmons, Lisa Jacob, Chloe Watkins, Anna O’Flanagan, Miriam Crowley, Katie Mullan, Aine Connery**, Alex Speers (C) & Niamh Small (Reserves: Nikki Evans, Leah Ewart, Naomi Carroll.)
** (subject to fitness test)
For more information about the Electric Ireland FIH Champions Challenge I, please click here.
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