Women’s EuroHockey Championships
Pool A
Ireland 1 (R Upton) Spain 1 (B Garcia)

In the end, Spain’s late goal in a 7-1 loss against the Netherlands proved pivotal as Ireland missed out on a maiden European Championship semi-final on goals scored following their 1-1 draw in Amstelveen.

Róisín Upton’s early goal had the Green Army in the frame for the win they needed but a Begoña Garcia equaliser in the 12th minute meant Spain got what they required, leaving Sean Dancer’s side to contest Pool C.

It also denied Ireland’s first chance at World Cup qualification but they remain live in the tournament with fifth place overall still up for grabs which would earn their passage to the 2022 competition.

As such, Hannah Matthews says the side must deal with the “devastation” quickly ahead of crucial games on Friday and Saturday.

“For the next few hours, we will feel a bit miserable and sorry for ourselves,” the Loreto player said.

“But then we just have to pick a point tonight; put it behind us, be a goldfish, forget about it. There’s still a job to do; there’s still World Cup qualification on the line and there’s a lot of girls back home that we need to get qualification for next summer!”

It was an intense battle between two sides who have met so often on the big stages over the past five years, both rising almost simultaneously to seventh and eighth in the world, winning medals at the 2018 World Cup.

In the end, Spain – level with Ireland on points and goal difference but needing just a draw because of their superior goals scored earlier in the group – were savvy and smart to stymie Ireland a regular sight of goal despite a dream start.

Naomi Carroll tore down the right channel to draw a penalty corner in the second minute. Her Catholic Institute club mate Róisín Upton duly finished off the set piece, a bullet drag-flick into the bottom corner.

Spain, though, were back on terms in the 12th minute. It was a slick piece of work, a stepover gifting Maria Lopez time to pick out Begoña Garcia at the injector’s spot and she swept home from close range.

It became an absorbing contest after that with Spain enjoying the majority of the ball and looking to press on while Ireland went into a counter-attack mode.

It meant precious few chances between the second and third quarters with the greens not overly troubled during spells down to 10 players to a couple of green cards, likewise Spain when Lucia Jimenez went to the sin-bin.

Ayeisha McFerran got a strong stick to deny Lola Riera just before the end of the third quarter, keeping the tie very much up in the air for a high octane final 15 minutes.

Lopez’s heavily deflected shot clattered off the post and fell invitingly for Hawkshaw to start a brilliant counter which culminated in Anna O’Flanagan earning Ireland’s second corner. Shirley McCay’s shot, though, was well dealt with by the Spanish defence.

Upton produced some heroics to clean up a huge Spanish chance while McFerran swept up three more chances to keep hopes alive.

That golden opportunity never accrued for Ireland in a frustrating endgame. It means they will now contest Pool C where four teams will battle it out for the one remaining World Cup spot from this competition.

“Heartbroken for now,” Matthews added. “We know Spain so well and they know us. It was always going to be difficult to get the tactics right and exploit each other.

“We just didn’t create enough opportunities; it was partly our own doing, partly them closing down the centre. We needed to create a bit more around the outside; we only got two corners and didn’t create a whole lot of scoring opportunities.”

Matthews will now look to dig into her archive of experiences – this was her 150th cap – over the next few days before Friday’s next Pool C tie to try and bounce back.

“We’ve experienced every scenario that’s possible over the last eight years or so! We definitely draw on that; there’s lots of quality teams in the Europeans so it will be hard no matter what but we will draw on it.

“I kind of forgot about it [being my 150th]! Look, its more about the quality of the caps and today was a great match. I said it to Clo [Watkins], we are so lucky in the year that has gone past that we are playing in a high stakes match like this, butterflies, all that. Just so privileged to play on a stage like this.”

Ireland’s next tie will be on Friday morning at 10.30am (Irish time) against an opposition to be confirmed later today. The concluding game on Saturday is against Italy at 3.30pm.

Ireland: A McFerran, R Upton, N Evans, K Mullan, S McCay, L Tice, N Carroll, H McLoughlin, L Holden, S Hawkshaw, A O’Flanagan
Subs: M Carey, M Frazer, C Watkins, N Daly, H Matthews, D Duke, L Murphy

Spain: M Ruiz, C Petchame, M Lopez, B Iglesias, L Riera, J Pons, B Garcia, X Gine, B Perez, G Oliva, L Jimenez
Subs: L Barrios, B Bonastre, C Mejias, A Torres-Quevedo, A Magaz, P Alvarez, M Garcia

Umpires: L Delforge (BEL), I Amorosini (ITA)

Women’s EuroHockey Championship Pool A preview
Wednesday: Ireland v Spain, 11.30am (Irish time, Live on RTE 2)

Chloe Watkins said the make-up of Ireland’s group meant she always “kind of felt it was going to come down to the final pool game against Spain” as the Green Army take on their most frequent recent rival.

The two sides’ recent history has often been intertwined with Ireland edging out the Spanish in the 2018 World Cup semi-final in a shoot-out.

In so doing, they gained more than a modicum of revenge for a chastening 7-2 loss when the two sides met in the 2017 Europeans at this same Wagener Stadium venue where they will meet on Wednesday at 11.30am (Irish time).

Outside of those key meetings, Spain is Ireland’s most frequent haunt for training camps with trips to Valencia, Jaen, Malaga and Granada in recent times.

In January, Ireland edged a five-game, uncapped series with two wins and two draws to their credit but all with precious little between the sides.

Like Ireland, they have established themselves in the world’s top ten; they sit seventh, Ireland ranked eighth.

“The Spanish are the old enemy for us; they have been on a similar journey as ourselves over the years,” Watkins added.

“They are an incredibly good team and it will be a really tough challenge. Again, it will be very different to Scotland and the Dutch. They are very skillful and it will take a lot of hard work to break them down but I think if we just do our homework and focus, we’ve had good results against them in the past. But it will take a big effort, make no doubt about it.”

Her battle in the central exchanges with Gigi Oliva will be a pivotal one; Watkins has been lining out against the Spanish playmaker for the guts of 15 years since Under-16 level in a rivalry that has also traversed club contests in Spain and the Netherlands.

The age and cap profiles are also remarkably similar with many players at the apex of their careers, late 20s and closing in on the 200 cap mark. Ireland have 13 centurions, Spain have 12.

Victory for Ireland will bring a 2022 World Cup ticket along with assured entry to the top tier of the 2023 European Championships.

A draw, though, will not do as the Spanish nicked a consolation four minutes from full time against the Dutch in a 7-1 defeat which may prove vital; it leaves them ahead of Ireland on goal difference thanks to their earlier 4-1 defeat of Scotland.

For Spanish coach Adrian Lock – now in his ninth year as head coach – he says he does not expect the late goal to have too much of a material impact despite giving his side an extra buffer.

“That last goal doesn’t change too much other than it can be a draw but our mindset for the game doesn’t really change and we go to try and win it.

“We know Ireland pretty well, we know them individually like they know us. They are a team who has come a long way in the last few years in a similar way in which we have. It will be tough and the small details will tell in the scoreline.”

Women’s EuroHockey Championships Pool A 

Ireland 1 (N Carroll) Scotland 0 

Naomi Carroll netted a 46th minute winner to put Ireland within one win of World Cup qualification as her single goal saw off Scotland on day two of the EuroHockey Championships in Amsterdam. 

She batted home her 25th international strike but a first goal since June 3rd 2018 – also against Scotland – before her ACL injury left her on the Green Army sidelines until this year. 

Carroll did not recall that previous strike but was suitably thrilled to be back in the mix on this stage and picking up all the points from a tricky battle in the seering heat. 

“I thought we started really well, created chances,” was the Cratloe woman’s assessment of the game.  

“As long as they held us at 0-0, it does get tougher. You try to stay patient and hope that it will come. But there’s times in the past when it didn’t come. We stayed calm, persevered and got those three points that we were after today.” 

The tie was a far cry from the opening group game against the world number ones the Netherlands, a tight physical contest between two closely matched sides. 

Indeed, there were echoes of 2017 when the two sides played out a 0-0 draw at the same stage of the same competition in the same stadium.  

And this one was looking to follow a similar pattern of Irish upper-hand but no killer touch until Carroll’s fateful intervention. 

And Nikki Evans said the side – with 10 players still in situ – learned enough from that day to see this one out. 

“We have experience among the team and a lot of that side from 2017 was there today. He just encouraged us to keep playing, keep playing, keep pushing. We did that and I am really proud of the girls for digging in deep.” 

She was celebrating her 200th cap, becoming just the sixth woman to do so after Nikki Symmons, Shirley McCay, Cliodhna Sargent, Chloe Watkins and Anna O’Flanagan. 

And she was grateful that restrictions had been lifted enough for her to be able to share the moment with her parents in the stands. 

“To get one cap for your country is a dream come true. To get 200 with some of my best friends, I am incredibly grateful for the memories and to have my parents here today was really special!  

“I was surprised to see them – I am not going to lie. I wasn’t sure of their whearabouts or what their plans were but I could spot them today from a mile away in the Monday morning crowd.  

“It is as much for my family and friends who have been there along the journey with me and I delighted to share it with them.” 

The first half saw the Green Army make the most telling inroads but the crucial touch was just out of reach on a number of occasions. 

Sarah Hawkshaw’s driving runs were a feature throughout while Carroll’s nimble feet were always a threat. Anna O’Flanagan was in the thick of things in the first minute from Carroll’s slip pass but Amy Gibson was out quickly to smother the chance.  

Evans was also denied an opening goal but she just could not get enough lift over Gibson when set through down the left.  

Scotland were sitting deep and playing a longer game, requiring Hannah Matthews to be on hand to pick off important late tackles. McKenzie Bell did almost prosper on the counter but for Duke covering back to block the chance. 

The second quarter followed a similar pattern with Hawkshaw racing down the right but her cross only got half a touch in front of goal; a Mullan cross took a Scottish stick and rolled wide. Ireland’s first penalty corner was won by Michelle Carey but no shot of note materialised. 

The third quarter brought the first corner chances, Lena Tice and Róisín Upton combining to clear Scotland’s first-up effort from Emily Dark before Ireland could not make full use of the three that came their way. 

From the fourth set piece – Hawkshaw again to the fore in its creation – the goal finally came as Carroll snapped up the chance at the second attempt. Róisín Upton’s drag was blocked by the first runner but her Catholic Institute club mate on hand to swipe home a vital goal from mid-circle. 

Evans came within millimetres of doubling the lead from a Watkins crash ball, meaning a tense finale. But the single goal was enough as Ireland withstood a late onslaught, including a corner with 36 seconds to go, to get over the line and three points on the board. 

The outcome means a win over Spain on Wednesday (11.30am Irish time, live on RTE2) should put Ireland through to the semi-finals for the first time and guarantee a World Cup ticket. 

“Coming into this, we kind of felt it was going to come down to the final pool game,” said midfielder Chloe Watkins.  

“The Spanish are the old enemy for us; they have been on a similar journey as ourselves over the years. They are an incredibly good team and it will be a really tough challenge.  

“Again, it will be very different today. They are very skillful and it will take a lot of hard work to break them down but I think if we just do our homework and focus, we’ve had good results against them in the past. But it will take a big effort no doubt.” 


Ireland: A McFerran, R Upton, N Evans, K Mullan, S McCay, L Tice, N Carroll, H McLoughlin, L Holden, S Hawkshaw, A O’Flanagan 

Subs: M Carey, M Frazer, C Watkins, N Daly, H Matthews, S Hawkshaw, D Duke, L Murphy 

Scotland: A Gibson, J Eadie, L Swanson, B Ward, A Costello, S Robertson, C Watson, S Jamieson, E Dark, K Holmes, R Condie 

Subs: L Campbell, M Bell, B Shields, R Collins, F Burnet, F Semple, N Cochrane 

Umpires: S Bockelmann (GER), I Makar (CRO) 

Women’s EuroHockey Championships – Ireland v Scotland preview
Monday, June 7th: 11.30am (Irish time, live on RTE2), Wagener Stadium

Hannah McLoughlin says while there is no way to be satisfied with a 4-0 loss, there was enough in the Irish performance against the Netherlands to carry into their vital group game against Scotland on Monday.

“We’re 18 extremely competitive people so none of us will walk away being 100% happy with that scoreline,” the defender said as her side looks to bounce back and get back in the frame for a semi-final spot.

“After the initial emotions go away and we look back, there’s an awful lot of positives to take. Couple that with working on a few things that we didn’t do quite how we wanted, I think it will be a really exciting tournament for us.”

For McLoughlin, a graduate of Avoca and Loreto Hockey Clubs, Saturday’s tie was a first senior international tournament appearance and the latest step in a meteoric rise to prominence.

Last September she was on the fringes of the panel but a star performance in the Irish Senior Cup pushed her claims and a good winter has seen her be ever-present in training camps ever since.

“As cliché as it sounds, it’s been surreal; it’s the only word for it,” McLoughlin said. “I don’t want this experience to pass me by. I am with an amazing group of friends, doing what I love and all 18 of us have worked extremely hard and all deserve to be here.

“The atmosphere was unbelievable. I have never played in front of a crowd that big and a home tournament for the Dutch – you have to hit the ground running!”

The difference in opponent is stark between day one and two; from meeting the world standard bearers, they now meet the world number 22 who are the lowest rated of the eight teams in Amsterdam this week.

That rating, though, is often a false perspective as the Scots can only pick up a miniscule amount of ranking points in Olympic cycles as the minor party in Great Britain’s Olympic line-up.

It also means little can be drawn from the Green Army’s 4-1 and 5-1 victories over the Scots in Belfast last month. Three GB players – Charlotte Watson, Sarah Robertson and Amy Costello – are back in the fold since then as is goalkeeper Amy Gibson who plies her trade professionally in Germany.

What Ireland have seen, though, is the Scots opening game, a 4-1 defeat to an impressive Spanish outfit.

For Ireland, the good news is Lizzie Holden did not sustain a concussion from the ball that hit her head in the game against the Dutch and she should be available to play a part.

And the top two in the four-team group remains the first goal.

“Scotland is definitely a game to target three points and we are confident we can come out of it,” McLoughlin concluded.

“If we look back on the Dutch game, take the things we did really well and tweak the others we didn’t do to the best of our ability, we will get those three points another three against Spain.”

Women’s EuroHockey Championship, Pool A
Netherlands 4 (L Leurink 2, C van Maasakker, F Matla) Ireland 0

Katie Mullan says Ireland “know the rollercoaster of tournament hockey” and take a lot from their opening women’s EuroHockey Championship tie, falling 4-0 to an imperious Dutch side.

A double from Laurien Leurink along with goals from Caia van Maasakker and Frédérique Matla did the damage for the world number ones – who have lost just once in their last 100 fixtures and are reigning World, Euro and Pro League champions – who showed their class in spades.

Nonetheless, captain Mullan said it was a far cry from the 6-0 meeting when Ireland last met the Dutch in 2018’s World Cup final.

“I think anyone who watched both those games will see the improvement in us,” the Green Army captain said of the performance. “There’s a few little things defensively where we get caught as a full team; those are the moments where they dominate and score and that’s where the Dutch are so clinical.

“But there were times we really did have control, held the ball well and were able to accumulate passes. We’re in a good place going into the Scottish game.”

Katie Mullan on the attack. Picture: Frank Uijlenbroek/World Sport Pics

It was Ireland’s first competitive fixture since the 2019 Olympic qualifiers, enough time for Amsterdam restrictions to be lifted enough to allow over 3,000 fans to attend. With the happy hardcore music reverberating around the Wagener Stadium, Mullan added it was a great way to get back into action.

“That was an incredible atmosphere; when you have had two years out of international hockey, what a way to come back to tournament hockey, playing the Dutch in Amsterdam in a packed stadium. It was all orange and we really enjoyed it!

“How do you prepare a youngster for that?” she added, referencing the tournament debuts for UCD pair Hannah McLoughlin and Michelle Carey.

“We tried to build them up for it all week and I’m very proud of them; they did incredibly well and enjoyed it too. That’s the most important thing for them too; for your first 10 caps you have free reign. You just go out and enjoy it, getting up to that pace. I’m almost jealous they got to do it against the Dutch in that atmosphere.”

As for the game, Margot van Geffen had fired the first warning shot inside 45 seconds but the Green Army responded quickly. Some sweet interplay at the head of the D saw Mullan pick out Anna O’Flanagan and but for the faceguard of goalkeeper Josine Koning, Ireland would have had a shock lead.

The Dutch, however, capitalised on a loose defensive clearance in the ninth minute as Laura Nunnink pinched possession and drew a penalty stroke from Róisín Upton. Caia van Maasakker – in her 200th appearance – netted from the spot.

Moments later, Leurink got on the end of Felice Albers’ pull-back from the right and Ireland were two behind.

Ayeisha McFerran’s big boot limited the damage from a couple of Dutch corners but she could not keep out Frédérique Matla’s powerful corner as the hosts extended their lead to 3-0 by half-time.

Hannah McLoughlin in action in her first senior ranking tournament. Picture: Frank Uijlenbroek/World Sport Pics

The scoreline was compounded by a nasty head injury sustained by Lizzie Holden but she was thankfully able to take her place in the stands after being withdrawn from action.

Ireland were more compact in the third quarter with Hannah Matthews picking off numerous defensive interventions and McFerran sharp between the posts.

The fourth goal, though, did arrive with Leurink credited with the last touch after a goalmouth scramble. Ireland wanted to call for a video but the umpires deemed the request too late and so it was not referred upstairs.

Nonetheless, with Shirley McCay and Deirdre Duke also making bit blocks, Ireland were content to take the positives and head into Monday’s date with Scotland (11.30am, Irish time, on RTE2) in upbeat mood.

“We know for sure they will be a completely different team from the one we saw in Belfast a few weeks ago,” Mullan said of that challenge having run up two wins over the Scots recently.

“They have strong players and we will learn a lot from watching them play Spain. We know we have to control the game and the pace. If we take the energy we brought out there today against the Dutch, add a few more things to it in terms of our attack and we will be in a good place come.”

Ireland are back in action on Monday at 11.30am (Irish time) against Scotland before finishing their group on Wednesday against Spain.

Netherlands: J Koning, M Pheninckx, L Leurink, M Keetels, C van Maasakker, F Matla, P Sanders, L Stam, M van Geffen, E de Goede, F Albers
Subs: S Koolen, M Verschoor, L Nunnink, S van Gils, I Kappelle, P Dicke, A Veenendaal

Ireland: A McFerran, R Upton, N Evans, K Mullan, S McCay, L Tice, N Carroll, H McLoughlin, L Holden, S Hawkshaw, A O’Flanagan
Subs: M Carey, M Frazer, C Watkins, N Daly, H Matthews, D Duke, L Murphy

Umpires: L Delforge (BEL), S Bockelmann (GER)

Ireland’s games at the Women’s EuroHockey Championships from the Netherlands will be screened live on RTÉ2, starting on Saturday 5 June against the host nation.

Ireland’s two further Pool A games v Scotland on Monday 7 June and Spain on Wednesday 9 June will also be live on RTÉ2.

The eight-team competition in Amsterdam is the first phase of a huge summer of hockey that culminates in the Tokyo Olympics, with the European Championships doubling up as a key preparation tournament for the Games while also providing the opportunity to secure qualification for the 2022 World Cup.

Should Ireland finish 1st OR 2nd in Pool A, two additional matches will be live on RTÉ2, a semi-final on Friday 11 June and a medal match on Sunday 13 June, both to be determined. If Ireland finish 3rd OR 4th in Pool A, two additional Classification Matches will be live on RTÉ Player ONLY on Friday 11 June & Saturday 12 June, also to be determined.

Pool A

EUROPEAN HOCKEY CHAMPIONSHIPS – Saturday 5 June at 2.00pm on RTÉ2

Evanne Ní Chuilinn is joined by Arlene Boyles and Gillian Pinder for live coverage of Ireland v the Netherlands from Amsterdam. Commentary from Hugh Cahill and Sarah Scott. Push-back 2.30pm.

EUROPEAN HOCKEY CHAMPIONSHIPS – Monday 7 June at 11.00am on RTÉ2

Evanne Ní Chuilinn is joined by Gillian Pinder and Kate Dillon for live coverage of Ireland v Scotland from Amsterdam. Commentary from Hugh Cahill and Sarah Scott. Push-back 11.30am.

EUROPEAN HOCKEY CHAMPIONSHIPS – Wednesday 9 June at 11.00am on RTÉ2

Evanne Ní Chuilinn is joined by Gillian Pinder and Kate Dillon for live coverage of Ireland v Spain from Amsterdam. Commentary from Hugh Cahill and Sarah Scott. Push-back 11.30am.

Irish men’s coach Mark Tumilty will kickstart a new era for the Green Machine next week as he looks set to hand 14 players their first taste of senior international hockey.

Ireland will face Scotland in an uncapped three-game series with games on June 10th, 12th and 13th at the recently redeveloped pitch at University of Ulster, Jordanstown.

These will be the first games for the side since October 2019’s Olympic qualifiers in Vancouver and it offers the side a chance to give new faces a chance to stake a claim for a place in Tumilty’s plans for the next cycle.

It comes ahead of a busy summer with the European Hockey Federation confirming on Monday the second tier of continental competition has been cleared to go ahead in Poland in August. There is also a potential World Cup qualifier in October on the horizon.

With this in mind, Tumilty has sought to significantly widen his playing options over the past nine months, working in regional hubs with a host of rising talent.

In defence, former Under-21 internationals Kyle Marshall, Mark Samuel and Matthew Walker and ex-Under-18 star Fergus Gibson included along with Mark McNellis. The uncapped midfielders are Lisnagarvey Jonny Lynch and YMCA’s Sam Hyland while the forward line is augmented by newcomers Troy Chambers, Simon Wolfe, Ollie Kidd, Ian Stewart, Ben Nelson and Conor Empey.

James Milliken completes the uncapped group having previously been part of the panel that went to Vancouver in 2019.

They are joined by 11 more senior players and Tumilty is excited by what the future holds.

“We have a very young group, an exciting group and one that has worked extremely hard over the last year,” he said.

“We need to be patient with these players. There will be ups and downs and challenges along the way but I definitely think there is talent to work with. I also feel it is a great opportunity for the players who have been involved for a period of time to have a much greater influence on the team”

The coach has also been pleased to formalise his coaching staff in recent weeks. Eoin Cunniffe has been installed as physical performance lead for the side while Neill Irwin will be the team manager and nutritionist. The latter will dovetail that role with his work with the all-conquering Dublin senior footballers.

“Eoin co-ordinates the support side of the staff, the physios, the S&C and so on. He has done really well in developing the players physically. I felt this was a key area in which we needed to be much better, so I look forward to seeing how the improvement made here enable us to play a more aggressive and attacking style of play.

“Neill has made good progress in educating the players of the importance of nutrition and how it can enhance their performance. The players have engaged extremely well with him.

“For Neill, he is also involved with Dublin GAA as a nutritionist which gives him a great understanding of high performance and has been involved with a very successful and professional environment.

“Neill has also taken on the important role as manager. Ross Willis was added this week as video analyst, so it is great to finally have the management team in place now as we work towards the Euro’s and hopefully WCQ.”

Ireland men’s panel for Scotland series – Jordanstown; Thursday, June 10th to Sunday, June 13th (club, caps): Jamie Carr (KHC Leuven, 36), James Milliken (Lisnagarvey, 0), Mark Ingram (Pembroke, 26); Kyle Marshall (Beeston, 0), Mark Samuel (UCD, 0), Matthew Walker (YMCA, 0), Peter McKibbin (Lisnagarvey, 1), Fergus Gibson (Loughborough Students, 0), Sam O’Connor (Glenanne, 14), Tim Cross (Annadale, 8), Lee Cole (Monkstown, 89), Mark McNellis (Lisnagarvey, 0); Sean Murray (KHC Leuven, 78), Jonny Lynch (Lisnagarvey, 0), Neal Glassey (Crefelder HTC, 61), Daragh Walsh (Three Rock Rovers, 51), Sam Hyland (YMCA, 0), Michael Robson (Annadale, 113); Troy Chambers (Lisnagarvey, 0), Simon Wolfe (Cork C of I, 0), Ollie Kidd (Lisnagarvey, 0), Ian Stewart (Corinthian, 0), Conor Empey (UCD, 0), Ben Nelson (Lisnagarvey, 0), Ben Walker (Three Rock Rovers, 35), Jonny McKee (Crefelder HTC, 43)
Fixture schedule
Thursday, June 10th: Ireland v Scotland, 7pm, Jordanstown
Saturday, June 12th: Ireland v Scotland, 5pm, Jordanstown

Sunday, Sunday 13th: Ireland v Scotland, 11am, Jordanstown

After over 20 months preparing in the background, the Irish women’s hockey team is looking to hit the ground running at June’s European Championships in the Netherlands.

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.

It means head coach Sean Dancer has selected his strongest available squad for the eight-team competition at Amstelveen’s Wagener Stadium, bidding for a first-ever semi-final spot.

There, they will take on world number one side the Netherlands on June 5th in a rematch of the 2018 World Cup final; on June 7th, Ireland face Scotland before closing out the group stages on June 9th against Spain.

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.

Heroes like 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.

There have been injury issues, though, which have seen Zoe Wilson and Barr twins Serena and Bethany have to sit out the summer action.

And so, over the course of the Covid-19 pandemic, Dancer’s panel has evolved with several new faces emerging.

Rising UCD star Michelle Carey is set to make her formal capped international debut when the Green Army take the field against the Dutch.

A product of the Railway Union youth system, she has been an ever-present at training camps in Spain, Belfast and England since the turn of the year, scoring a number of goals from midfield in international challenge matches to date.

She is one of three players making their first appearance in a world ranking event. Loreto speedster Sarah Torrans gets her chance having been on the list of reserves for the World Cup while UCD’s Hannah McLoughlin has impressed in defence in recent series against Great Britain and Scotland.

Cratloe native 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. Since then, she was part of the rejuvenated Irish indoor hockey side in 2020 before earning her recall to the senior outdoor setup.

All going well, a number of established faces will hit major milestones during the tournament. Evans is two caps shy of her 200th international outing; Colvin will hit that same mark if she plays four matches in the competition; Matthews, meanwhile, is three caps away from 150 appearances in green.

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 and forward lines while uncapped Muckross player 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; should either or both finish in the medal positions in Amstelveen, fourth or fifth place could provide the golden ticket.

Speaking at the announcement about the selection, 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 this morning in Skerries at a joint event run by primary sponsors SoftCo and Park Developments, supporting their rise to the sport’s elite levels.

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.

“Our journey with this team is built on support, and we are so proud of this group’s unique ability to inspire so many young sports people and fans alike.”

Ireland women’s squad for EuroHockey Championships – June 5-13, 2021, Wagener Stadium, Amstelveen, Netherlands (club/caps):

Ayeisha McFerran (SV Kampong, 100) – goalkeeper

Lizzie Murphy (Loreto, 13) – goalkeeper

Michelle Carey (UCD, 0)

Naomi Carroll (Catholic Institute, 111)

Lizzie Colvin (Belfast Harlequins, 196)

Nicci Daly (Loreto, 189)

Nikki Evans (Old Alex, 198)

Megan Frazer (Belfast Harlequins, 136)

Sarah Hawkshaw (Railway Union, 33)

Hannah Matthews (Loreto, 147)

Shirley McCay (Pegasus, 306)

Hannah McLoughlin (UCD, 14)

Katie Mullan (Ballymoney, 193) – captain

Anna O’Flanagan (Muckross, 207) – vice-captain

Lena Tice (Old Alex, 109)

Sarah Torrans (Loreto, 26)

Roisin Upton (Catholic Institute, 76)

Chloe Watkins (Monkstown, 226)

Travelling reserves: Deirdre Duke (Old Alex, 141), Sarah McAuley (Muckross, 0)

Tournament details

EuroHockey Championships 2021 (all times Irish)

Group A (world rank): Netherlands (1st), Spain (7th), Ireland (8th), Scotland (22nd)

Group B: Germany (4th), England (5th), Belgium (12th), Italy (17th)

Irish fixture schedule

June 5th, 2021: Ireland v Netherlands, 2.30 pm

June 7th, 2021: Ireland v Scotland, 11.30 am

June 9th, 2021: Ireland v Spain, 11.30 am

June 11th 2021: Semi-finals/relegation pool

June 12th/13th: Medal matches/relegation pool

With some light at the end of the COVID-19 tunnel. Irish men’s coach Mark Tumilty is looking forward to finally unleashing some young guns onto the international stage following almost a 20-month wait.

The last outings for the side were October 2019’s Olympic qualifiers in Vancouver. With the end of that cycle, there was always going to be a turnover of players and some new faces as the coach looked to the 2023 World Cup and Paris 2024. That rejuvenation, however, went on hold with the 2020 schedule wiped out but the Banbridge man can look forward to a busy second half to this year with plenty on the table.

Fixtures against Scotland and Great Britain are pencilled in for June and July ahead of August’s EuroHockey Championship II in Gniezno, Poland and a subsequent World Cup qualifier in October. It is a flurry of action from which Tumilty says plenty of new faces will get their chance to shine.

“We have a very young group, an exciting group and one that has worked extremely hard over the last year,” he said.

“But it is definitely a rebuild job that we need to embrace. We need to be patient with these players. There will be ups and downs and challenges, but I definitely think there is talent to work with and that’s part of the enjoyment in the role.”

Having that World Cup qualifier shot is a big boost for Tumilty. It means a top four finish at the Euro B division will put the Green Machine into an eight-team event with two places on the line. Initially, such an avenue looked to be off limits but the European Hockey Federation’s members canvassed successfully for this option to be introduced.

“Excellent news. When I first saw we weren’t getting a World Cup qualifier shot, alarm bells were ringing. But it reflects the good work of the EHF and their relationship they have with their federations.

“They deserve a lot of credit for that. It gives the lads a good focus for the next three or four months and could give us an extra focus for 2022.

“Having said that, with the FIH calendar, there is lots happening every year with the Nations Cup and the new Euro qualifier process. It is good to see that it gives us a structure.

“It highlights to me the importance of growing our player base. A lot of the guys returning home are now going into employment; we have to recognise people have a certain amount of annual leave; there’s not the same flexibility as if they were full-time players. We need to be able to manage it and have those younger players coming through.”

Since the Olympic qualifiers, Chris Cargo and Eugene Magee have formally retired while Jonny Bell, Stephen Cole and Stu Loughrey are taking time out for the time being.

It means opportunity knocks for the youngsters which Tumilty has been working with in regional sessions. In Munster, ex-internationals David Hobbs and Jonny Bruton have been heading things up; in Ulster, Erroll Lutton, Ray Geddis and Scott McCandless are in situ while Irish Under-21 coach Joe Brennan and senior assistant coach Jason Klinkradt are on board in Leinster.

Tumilty has also picked up some strong additions to his support staff. Eoin Cunniffe has been installed as physical performance lead for the side and the junior age groups while Neill Irwin will be the team manager and nutritionist.

“Eoin co-ordinates the medical side of the staff, the physios, the S&C and so on. He has done really well in developing the guys physically. The way the game has gone, it has moved a bit more toward the physical side from the technical and tactical side.

“We have definitely made strides in that area which I am pleased with. He has a good relationship with the players and is someone we are working with a long-term objective to develop in the underage groups.

“For Neill, he is also involved with Dublin GAA as a nutritionist which gives him a great understanding of high performance and has been involved with a very successful and professional environment.

“Manager is a key role and he has developed a good relationship with the players. Staffing-wise, it is good to get the team nailed down. It has taken a while but it is getting there.”

Ireland 4 (Evans, Malseed, Hawkshaw, O’Flanagan), Scotland (Semple).

Ireland secures a second victory in as many days against Scotland. The match got underway with higher energy than the start of yesterday’s game, with Evans pushing the ball up the pitch and O’Flanagan chasing it fast, but Scotland’s Buchanan managed to get there before O’Flanagan could make the most of the opportunity. Scotland countered shortly after with a shot from Jamieson into the Irish circle, however, she sent the ball wide of the mark with no one on hand to meet it. O’Flanagan managed to put herself in a strong position for a second shot on the goal, but Buchanan came out to meet her and the deflection failed to convert to a goal. McLoughlin, Evans and Duke all contributed to further pressing the Scottish defence, however, it was a penalty corner to Ireland that saw McCay’s shot defended from the goal but Evans securing the rebound to give Ireland the lead in the opening quarter.

There were chances for both sides in the remainder of the quarter with Malseed set up in front of the Scotland goal before being pushed out, while Jamieson and Howie launched a brief attack on the Irish circle before being defended out. Scotland’s Dark pressed hard towards the close of the quarter but an interception from Evans, and some strong defence from McAuley finished the first quarter Ireland 1 – 0 Scotland.
The second quarter saw Captain Katie Mullan offload to Watkins for a skilful entry into Scottish territory before passing it off to Malseed to sweep into the net for a 2 – 0 lead. McLoughlin worked well to provide Carroll with an opportunity to further this moments later, the visitors defended well and the whistle blew as O’Flanagan attempted a shot as possession came back to Ireland in the circle. Camlin had gotten her pad to the ball regardless.
A McLoughlin and Evans worked well bringing the ball up to the Scottish circle, although Wilson pushed them back out. A Scottish attack was intercepted by Upton, passed to Carey for a long run up the pitch to off load to Carroll who was pushed out. It wasn’t long before McCay’s pass to Evans lined up Sarah Hawkshaw to put the ball past Camlin for an extended lead of 3 – 0. Ireland’s penalty corner opportunity with 5 minutes remaining in the first half saw the deflection go high. Scotland responded shortly afterwards with a penalty corner of their own, with Semple managing to get the ball past McFerran after scattered play in the circle. Half time saw Ireland 3 – 1 Scotland.
Jamieson secured a penalty corner for Scotland as the second half got underway, Ireland defended well with McLoughin forcing it out of play. Colvin attempted a strong shot into the Scottish circle, but Dark met it and sent it back out. Not long later Upton finds O’Flanagan in a quiet Scottish circle who finds her way past the keeper to the net, bringing the score line to Ireland 4 – 1 Scotland.
Sarah Hawkshaw was on form with a skilful interception from Scottish midfield and managing a shot on the goal, it was ultimately saved, however. Wilson attempted a long shot into the Irish circle, with no one there to meet it the ball went wide of the mark. Scotland pressed again, this time with Bell pushing for entry. McAuley kept her cool and made it difficult for her. When Bell did manage to take a shot, the resulting awkward angle of her shot allowed McFerran to swat it away easily.
The final quarter saw Ireland have a brief defensive period before Evans and Carroll put the Scottish goal under pressure. The ball appeared to enter the goal, but after some confusion, no goal was awarded. Carroll continued to attack, resulting in a penalty corner for Ireland. What followed was a flurry of penalty corners with none converting to the scoreboard.
Semple and McEwan made a brief attack on the Irish circle but were kept out. McCay defended well when Holmes returned shortly after. McLoughlin and Hawkshaw brought playback up the pitch where Evans and O’Flanagan attempted to increase the margin of their win. Evans shot found the Scottish defence, with the match wrapping up moments later.

Ireland: M Carey, N Carroll, L Colvin, M Frazer, D Duke, N Evans, S Hawkshaw, Z Malseed, S McAuley, A McFerran, S McCay, H McLoughlin, K Mullan, E Murphy, A O’Flanagan, C Perdue, R Upton, C Watkins.

Scotland: M Bell, J Buchanan, F Burnet, L Camlin, L Campbell, R Collins, B Condie, E Dark, J Eadie, K Holmes, S Jamieson, H McEwan, H Howie, K Robertson, L Sabatelli, F Semple, B Shields, M Steiger, E Wilson, B Ward.