Irish Hockey Association: Irish Women’s Hockey coach Riet Kuper has announced her team for the upcoming Samsung Hockey World Cup Qualifier in Rome from 25 April – 6 May.
The team, currently ranked 13th in the world, contains many of the squad who notched up Ireland’s best ever finish in the European Nations Championship last August, together with some new faces from recent trips to Spain, South Africa and Argentina.
Recent new caps Alex Speers and Katharine Elkin both make the squad, as do Fiona Ferguson and Old Alex’s Zanya Dahl.
Experienced internationals Linda Caulfield, Ciara O’Brien and Eimear Cregan bring important big tournament experience, all being veterans of Olympic qualifying tournament and World Cup action.
Ace defender Bridget McKeever remains questionable after picking up a face injury recently against Argentina, so Nikki Keegan remains on reserve if McKeever is not fit in time for April’s tournament. Louisa Healy also remains on standby as Ireland’s third goalie, with Kristin Farrell missing out on the final eighteen.
“We had a good tournament in Argentina which saw a marked improvement in our performances,” Kuper said.
“The squad selection was very difficult. We have some talented young players coming into the squad who have not experienced major world-ranking international tournaments before. However, the squad has an excellent core of very experienced senior players who give the squad a good balance of youth and experience.
“We will continue our preparation with fixtures next week against England and Italy, which will ensure that we have played against all our pool opposition within the last 12 months, with the exception of New Zealand. So we will have a better idea of what to expect in Rome.”
The men’s team for the BDO Hockey World Cup Qualifier in Changzhou, China, depart Dublin on Thursday bound for the 11-day tournament which gets underway on Wednesday, 12 April.
The team is currently ranked 22nd in the world but this ranking doesn’t reflect their true position when recent good performances against South Africa, France and Egypt are taken into account.
The team are boosted by the return of Karl Burns after a lengthy lay off with a hamstring tear injury. Burns passed a final fitness test at the weekend, and under expert guidance from the medical team has worked daily on an intensive rehabilitation programme.
Twelve teams split into two pools of six compete in each tournament. At the end of the Qualifier the top five ranked teams will qualify for their respective World Cup later this year.
In both tournaments the pools operate on a round robin basis, with the top two in each pool automatically qualifying for the World Cup. The third and fourth place teams in each pool play off for that final elusive qualifying spot, so, in order to be in contention for a qualifying spot Ireland must finish within the top four in their pool.
After the pool stage each team will have another two matches to decide their final tournament classification.
The men’s BDO Hockey World Cup takes place from 6-17 September in Monchengladbach, Germany. The women’s Samsung Hockey World Cup will be staged in Madrid, Spain from 27 September - 8 October.
The ESB Irish women face a difficult challenge to qualify with two of the world’s best teams; Korea and New Zealand in their pool. The New Zealand team narrowly lost out on bronze at the recent Commonwealth Games, losing on penalties to England.
Ireland’s opening match against USA is a crunch game, with both teams evenly matched and USA ranked one place above Ireland in the latest world rankings.
The pair met twice at a four nation tournament in Argentina last month. USA won the first encounter 2-1 but the Ireland prevailed second time around beating with a 3-1 victory.
Ireland’s remaining competitors in Pool B are Italy and Azerbaijan, both of whom Ireland will be hoping to overcome.
In the other pool China, and Commonwealth bronze medallists England will be competing with the Japanese for the automatic qualifying spots. Scotland, Ukraine and France are likely to be the ones fighting it out for fourth in the pool.
In their pool, the Irish men’s team have Commonwealth silver medallists Pakistan and a very powerful English side, who finished fourth at the Commonwealth Games.
They also face a very good tournament side in Belgium. Canada and an Egyptian team that Ireland has beaten in their last three meetings, are the remaining teams in Pool A.
In pool B China, Japan and Korea are expected to contest the top placings but will be challenged all the way by a Malaysian side that won bronze at the Commonwealths and a very strong New Zealand side, as well as the French.
Suzanne Beaney (32 Caps), Catriona Carey (64), Linda Caulfield (124), Fiona Connery (42), Eimear Cregan (81), Zanya Dahl (9), Katharine Elkin (3), Fiona Ferguson (7), Mary Goode (9), Jenny McDonough (65), Cathy McKean (50), Bridget McKeever (54), Ciara O'Brien (95), Jill Orbinson (110), Clare Parkhill (23), Angela Platt (66), Alex Speers (4), Nikki Symmons (39)
Andy Barbour (50 Caps), Jason Black (95), Mark Black (64), Paddy Brown, (102), Karl Burns (41), Stephen Butler (90), Timothy Cockram (25), Mark Gleghorne (34), Ronan Gormley (17), Charlie Henderson (21), David Hobbs (65), Mark Irwin (86), John Jermyn (31), Iain Lewers (37), Phelie Maguire (21), Mark Ruddle (7), Graham Shaw (76), Justin Sherriff (83)
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