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Junior Green Army win GB Series ahead of Five Nations in Spain

Sophia Cole’s late equaliser saw Ireland’s development squad land an impressive series win over their Great Britain counterparts at Jordanstown, ending the four-game run with two wins, a draw and one loss on the ledger.

The UCD midfielder struck with two minutes left on the clock with a peach of a backhand shot from a penalty corner to earn a 2-2 draw in the last game of the series.

Earlier in the tie, Limerick native Laura Foley cracked home to make it 1-1 from another set play before GB edged back in front in the third quarter.

The draw backed up a pair of 1-0 wins for Ireland, the first coming last Tuesday with Niamh Carey stealing in at the back post for the only goal and then, a day later, captain Foley scoring again following a brilliant counter-attack move instigated by Jessica McMaster.

Game three belonged to the visitors with Britain running up a 3-0 win but game four was much more even and the Junior Green Army got a deserved draw to shade the series.

Overall, coach Dave Passmore was able to deploy 27 players over the course of the week for the squad which plays a key role in developing players for the senior setup.

Ireland celebrate Sophia Cole’s late equaliser. Picture: Keith Wilson (https://www.keithwilsonphotography.com/hockeyireland)

Indeed, it has been a fertile production line of late with Olympic call-ups Sarah McAuley, Sarah Hawkshaw, Sarah Torrans, Lizzie Murphy and Michelle Carey all featuring in recent times.

From this, he has since named a reduced panel of 20 to travel to Club Egara in Spain for a Five Nations between equivalent teams from the Netherlands, Belgium, Spain and Germany. The tournament rules stipulate teams can field up to eight sides from an Under-23 category with the remainder having to be Under-21.

“There is a nice mix of experienced players with senior caps and younger players such as Charlotte Beggs who impressed in our recent trip to Spain,” Passmore said of this latest selection.

“There are no easy games in this tournament and we obviously have a hard start with the first match against The Netherlands but the GB series has demonstrated that we can compete and this should be a great leaning experience to see exactly where we are at.”

The series also saw the return of senior cap Erin Getty to the line-up after a break from the program and she slotted back in to great effect.

“I am delighted the Erin Getty has rejoined the squad after a concerted effort on improving her fitness and she was a stand-out player in the series against GB. She combines excellent technique with a really mature reading of the game and so fitted straight back in and the girls are delighted she is back playing.

“We are very thankful to Spanish Hockey for hosting this tournament alongside a boys event given the tournament we had planned in Dublin could not go ahead due to Covid Protocols.”

The following week, the panel will see a number of changes for a three-game series against the Wales senior team with games at Jordanstown on Friday, July 16, Saturday, July 17 and Sunday, July 18. Their summer series will conclude three more games against a Wales Under-23 side from July 21 to 23.

Under-21 5 Nations, Club Egara (Saturday, July 3 to Saturday, July 10, 2021): Charlotte Beggs (Pegasus/Ulster), Niamh Carey (UCD/Leinster), Ellen Curran (UCD/Leinster), Sophia Cole (UCD/Leinster), Amy Elliott (UCD/Leinster), Katie Fearon (Railway Union/Leinster), Laura Foley (Catholic Institute/Munster), Gemma Ferguson (GK, Ulster Elks/Ulster), Erin Getty (Queens/Ulster), Christina Hamill (Loreto/Leinster), Jane Kilpatrick (Loughborough Students/Ulster), Ellie McLoughlin (GK, Muckross/Leinster), Jess McMaster (Queens/Ulster), Lisa Mulcahy (Loreto/Leinster), Siofra Murdoch (Monkstown/Leinster), Siofra O’Brien (Loreto/Leinster), Caoimhe Perdue (UCC/Munster), Ellen Reid (Banbridge/Ulster), Yasmin Pratt (Loreto/Leinster), Abbie Russell (Old Alex/Leinster)

Non-Travelling Reserves: KJ Marshall (UCD/Leinster), Roisin Begley (Catholic Institute/Munster)

Head coach:
David Passmore
Manager: Lorraine McGowan
Coach: Steven Arbuthnot
Coach: Una McCarthy
Physio: Amy Phelan
Physiology support: Lauren Daey
Analyst: Aaron Passmore

Fixture schedule (all at Club Egara, Spain; times local)
Monday, July 5: Ireland v Netherlands, 8pm
Tuesday, July 6: Ireland v Spain, 8pm
Thursday, July 8: Ireland v Germany, 6pm
Friday, July 9: Ireland v Belgium, 6pm

Team Ireland confirm squad for Tokyo Olympic Games

The Olympic Federation of Ireland formally announced the Irish women’s panel to travel to the Tokyo for the Olympic Games with 16 players and three travelling reserves confirmed.

The side will fly out to Japan on July 9 ahead of their debut on this stage on July 24 against South Africa at the Oi Stadium.

Over 20 months since qualification was confirmed, captain Katie Mullan says this day brings about a realisation of many years hard work, not just of those who have their Olympic dream move closer, but also from the wider panel who helped push the standards.

“With competition in our squad at its best and only 16 spots available, we always knew this was going to be the toughest selection,” Mullan said.

“31 players have played a massive role in our preparations over the past 10 months and we are honoured to represent the Green Army at the Olympic games.

“There has been a tremendous amount of work put in by the girls and each of them deserve this opportunity. It’s an exciting time for us and our families.”

Speaking about the selection, Irish head coach Sean Dancer agreed it was the selection panel’s hardest decision yet but he is excited about the possibilities his line-up brings to the table.

“It has been a tough time to get it right,” Dancer said “I really feel we have picked a great balance of senior players and experience and then adding in the excitement and opportunity of youth. Once we get to the Olympics, it will be just about playing hockey and making the most of the opportunities that come from it.”

There was an extra layer to selection with only 16 spots available for the Olympics compared to the usual 18 that would be available for a world ranking tournament.

“Going from 18 to 16 adds an extra complexity to it and the team hasn’t been in that position before. We have to consider those extra little things people contribute to the team and weighing that up was certainly tough.

“Versatility is really important when you get down to 16, even to the point of getting someone to fill the goalkeeper role in case there is an injury [to Ayeisha McFerran].

“If there is an injury during the game or just before it, you can’t bring in a replacement so we would have to bring in one of the field players. Even things like that need to be considered. We do have a couple who are able and willing which is the first thing we need.”

The panel features 11 of the panel that played in the 2018 World Cup run to silver: Ayeisha McFerran, Chloe Watkins, Hannah Matthews, Nicci Daly, Róisín Upton, Deirdre Duke, Katie Mullan, Shirley McCay, Lena Tice, Lizzie Holden and Anna O’Flanagan.

All also featured in June’s EuroHockey Championships as did Hannah McLoughlin, Naomi Carroll, Sarah Hawkshaw and Sarah McAuley.

For defender McAuley, it continues her rapid rise to prominence since linking up with the panel in the spring and making her formal international debut in the last game of the Euros against Italy.

Sarah Torrans, meanwhile, gets her chance to make a senior international tournament debut. The speedster was initially named in the Euros panel but missed out through injury but is in line now to link up with the side.

Ireland can bring a number of travelling reserves to the event with Michelle Carey and Zara Malseed waiting in the wings for the outfield spots while Lizzie Murphy is the goalkeeping cover. They can potentially step in if there are injuries within the main panel.

What it means is, from the European squad, Nikki Evans and Megan Frazer are the ones to narrowly miss out on selection.

“We have gone for the option of Sarah Torrans coming back into the group,” Dancer said of the line-up. “She was performing well before the Europeans. No fault of her own, she wasn’t able to go through injury so when we cut back the numbers, Nikki Evans – with all her experience and incredible contributions to the team – was the unfortunate one to miss out.

“Sarah McAuley has impressed since coming into our environment as early as February and the first GB series. She got the opportunity to play that last Italian game [at the Euros] and she showed mobility, comfort on the ball and certainly showed she is willing to mix it with the senior girls.

“She has a very exciting career ahead of her and it is an exciting time for her. She does have minimal experience but sometimes that is the best way to approach it; she doesn’t have that eight of expectation and can just go out there and play and that’s what we hope she does.”

As for the historical context, Dancer is fully aware of the significance of this final run-in to a maiden Olympic appearance for an Irish women’s team, something he says the team will not take for granted.

“Ireland’s senior women have had a long history and everybody that has gone before, in this group and previously, has made a huge contribution to where we are now. That really needs to be acknowledged; we will be at the Olympics, doing it for all of them and the long history that has gone before.”

Ireland women’s squad for Olympic Games – July 24-August 4, 2021, Oi Stadium, Tokyo, Japan (club/caps):
Ayeisha McFerran (SV Kampong, 105) – goalkeeper
Naomi Carroll (Catholic Institute, 115)
Lizzie Colvin (Belfast Harlequins, 201)
Nicci Daly (Loreto, 194)
Sarah Hawkshaw (Railway Union, 38)
Hannah Matthews (Loreto, 152)
Shirley McCay (Pegasus, 311)
Hannah McLoughlin (UCD, 19)
Katie Mullan (Ballymoney, 198) – captain
Anna O’Flanagan (Muckross, 212) – vice-captain
Lena Tice (Old Alex, 1114)
Sarah Torrans (Loreto, 26)
Róisín Upton (Catholic Institute, 81)
Chloe Watkins (Monkstown, 229)
Deirdre Duke (Old Alex, 146)
Sarah McAuley (Muckross, 1)

Travelling reserves:
Lizzie Murphy (Loreto, 13) – goalkeeper
Michelle Carey (UCD, 5)
Zara Malseed (Ards, 2)

** All of the profiles of the athletes can be viewed HERE.

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Women’s development panel take on GB at Jordanstown

A 28 player Irish women’s national development squad will take on their Great Britain counterparts in four games this week as part of an eight-day camp at University of Ulster, Jordanstown.

The aim of this panel is to develop the next group of senior internationals, a key task with the likely evolution of the panel for the World Cup qualifier in October and a EuroHockey Championship qualifier in 2022.

The squad incorporates the Irish Under-21 group who will play in their European Championships next summer along with one Irish Under-19 player, Charlotte Beggs.

The squad in this current format has been in existence since 2018 and has seen many players progress to the senior setup with Serena and Bethany Barr, Michelle and Niamh Carey, Ellen Curran, Sarah Hawkshaw, Sarah McAuley, Hannah McLoughlin, Lizzie Murphy and Sarah Torrans among them.

This series will be used to select a panel for a Five Nations in Barcelona, Spain from July 5-10 which also features Belgium, Spain, Germany and the Netherlands. The squad will also play games against the Welsh seniors and Under-23s in July.

Speaking about the setup, head coach Dave Passmore said: “After a long year of lockdown where physical training has dominated much of what we have done, this is an ideal camp environment with matches to develop these players further.

“Under the direction of new S&C Coach Cliodhna O’Connor, the players have worked really hard to push their physical levels over the past six months. This is such a key feature in the women’s game and essential in allowing players to progress to the Green Army.

“It was great to get away to the south of Spain last week where we included five of the Under-19s due to play in the Under-19 Four Nations in July but this is the first time we can get most of the National Development Squad together in a camp environment and the matches will be ideal given the lack of competitive hockey in the past 15 months.

“While we were competitive against the Spain Under-21 and Development teams, it was clear most of our players lacked competitive match play so these matches will allow us to build on that and select the team for the Five Nations next month”

“We are delighted to have the support of Park Developments along now with two other new program supports in PrimeCore and Cantor Fitzgerald who will support our trip to the 5 Nations in Barcelona.”

Fixture schedule (all at Jordanstown)
Tuesday, June 22:
Ireland v Great Britain, 4.15pm
Wednesday, June 23: Ireland v Great Britain, 4.15pm
Friday, June 25: Ireland v Great Britain, 2pm
Saturday, June 26: Ireland v Great Britain, 10am

Irish women’s national development squad: Roisin Begley (Catholic Institute/Munster), Charlotte Beggs (Pegasus/Ulster), Nadia Benallal (Beeston/Ulster), Niamh Carey (UCD/Leinster), Ellen Curran (UCD/Leinster), Sophia Cole (UCD/Leinster), Amy Elliott (UCD/Leinster), Katie Fearon (Railway Union/Leinster), Laura Foley (Catholic Institute/Munster), Gemma Ferguson (GK, Ulster Elks/Ulster), Erin Getty (Queens/Ulster), Christina Hamill (Loreto/Leinster), Anna Horan (UConn Huskies, USA/Munster), Jane Kilpatrick (Loughborough Students/Ulster), Orla Macken (Pembroke/Leinster), KJ Marshall (UCD/Leinster), Ellie McLoughlin (GK, Muckross/Leinster), Jess McMaster (Queens/Ulster), Lisa Mulcahy (Loreto/Leinster), Siofra Murdoch (Monkstown/Leinster), Siofra O’Brien (Loreto/Leinster), Sara Patton (Railway Union/Leinster), Caoimhe Perdue (UCC/Munster), Ellen Reid (Banbridge/Ulster), Yasmin Pratt (Loreto/Leinster), Millie Regan (GK, Railway Union/Leinster), Abbie Russell (Old Alex/Leinster), Muireann Scanlon (UCC/Munster), Caitlin Sherin (Loreto/Leinster)

Not Available: Hannah Humphries (GK, Catholic Institute/Munster)

Head coach: David Passmore
Manager: Lorraine McGowan
Coach: Steven Arbuthnot
Coach: Una McCarthy
Assistant coach: Niamh Small
Physio: Thomas Murray
S&C: Cliodhna O’Connor
Physiology support: Lauren Daey
GK coach: Iain Hughes


Umpire Alison Keogh reflects on step forward at Euros

Among the busiest performers at last week’s EuroHockey Championships in Amsterdam was Irish umpire Alison Keogh, clocking up four games on the pitch and four in the video umpire role.

It was a tournament which saw her make another step forward, umpiring her first ever European semi-final in addition to a second bronze medal match, significant milestones in her progression.

We caught up with her to get her thoughts on the tournament and how she felt it went for her personally. First off, we asked how she assessed the tournament in general?

“It was unbelievable to be back in front of a crowd,” she said “The Europeans in 2019 was probably the last time. There’s been a couple of games since then but nothing really substitutes that atmosphere that you get.

“Simply being here and be able to be with people you haven’t seen in a couple of years and to perform at that level is a privilege. I am delighted to get the semi-final in particular; it is a progression for me, particularly as we had quite a strong panel of six Pro League umpires.

“I guess you never walk away completely happy. There’s things we looked at coming into the tournament like the aerial ball, the interpretation of that has changed ever so slightly. You always look at game management, things like that which you always try to improve.

“But having not done hockey for so long, to get back to that level and to perform at that level was really great and I was pretty happy overall with my performance.”

Can you speak a bit more about the various stages of progression and the stepping stones it takes to get to this level?

“We have a number of different gradings. First off, you have to attend an event which is eligible for an international standard, usually a senior international event where you have umpires managers.

“They judge your performance based on decision-making, your presence, your team work on the pitch, your fitness, these kind of elements. At the end, you get a score. Depending on that, you might get upgraded. You try to get up to FIH level and then, depending on how you do, you might progress.

“They put you in higher levels of competition to test you and then if you perform, you might move on to a higher level again. There’s five panels, so once you are at Pro League level, it’s about maintaining performance to make sure you stay on that panel. Progression can come in different forms.

“It might be how you manage the game, or the type of games you get. Semi-finals or bronze medal matches are the ones people look at in tournaments but, actually, a sign you have progressed from simply being there could also be an important relegation game.

“I guess you never walk away completely happy. There’s things we looked at coming into the tournament like the aerial ball, the interpretation of that has changed ever so slightly. You always look at game management, things like that which you always try to improve.”

Your face became a frequent feature in the video booth, particularly in a crazy 6-5 win for Germany’s men against France. Talk a little about how that compares to umpiring on the pitch?

“TV is a completely different set of skills, a completely different preparation. You can’t practice until you are actually in it and you can only practice it in really important games. It’s actually tricky to get to grips with.

“What you have to done is remain as calm as possible and just keep it as simple as possible. On the pitch, things are quite instinctive but in video, you have to try and look for the black and white and be objective. The tricky calls are when it is not black and white.

“The briefing says that unless there is a clear reason to change the umpire’s decision on the pitch, you only step in if it is clear. If you remember that, it is slightly easier. It is a different set of skills and an interesting perspective.”

** Alison is currently on the reserve list for the Tokyo Olympics.
** To start your journey in umpiring, click here

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O’Flanagan double sees Ireland finish Euros on a high

Women’s EuroHockey Championships, Pool C
Ireland 3 (A O’Flanagan 2, Z Malseed) Italy 0

Anna O’Flanagan’s double earned Ireland a Ireland a closing win to secure sixth place at the women’s EuroHockey Championships in Amsterdam, ending a rollercoaster week on a high.

Ultimately, the main targets of World Cup qualification and a first European semi-final proved out of reach with “goals scored” denying both those outcomes in the group stages.

In that context, O’Flanagan – Ireland’s record goalscorer with 83 to her name now – reflected on a mixed bag of two wins, a draw and two losses.

“This European competition, the margins are so small,” she said after the win over Italy. “You are one goal away from a semi-final and then you are playing the Olympic champions for fifth; it’s crazy.

“It’s an amazing tournament to play in but also an extremely difficult one, the most difficult you will play in. We did some good things, some not so good so it is a big learning curve.

“A few things didn’t go our way for sure. Tournament hockey is a rollercoaster and we certainly had more downs than ups.

“We need to look at the fine details, improve on some small things and if we do that we can do some damage.”

O’Flanagan struck in the second and third quarters to set up the win before Ards woman Zara Malseed netted her first international goal in just her second full cap, giving an upbeat finish to a bruising tournament.

Megan Frazer and Naomi Carroll were both rested for this one, joining Chloe Watkins in the stands with Muckross’s Sarah McAuley coming into the side for her first formal cap.

And Róisín Upton departed in the third quarter with a head injury to leave Ireland working off a shortened rotation.

With Italy adopting a catenaccio system, the first quarter was a maze of patience as the Green Army attempted to unlock a packed defence. Other than O’Flanagan’s pot-shot, it passed by relatively serenely but the tempo ratcheted up a notch in the second quarter.

Ireland ran up a quartet of penalty corners while Malseed showed her key strengths, shooting on sight early from half-chances to test Sofia Monserrat’s padding.

And the goal arrived in the 27th minute when Upton drove forward from the back. Her cross popped up dangerously off a defensive stick but O’Flanagan did not stick around to wait for a whistle, clubbing the ball baseball style into the goal.

It enticed Italy out of their shell to some extent in the third quarter, winning their first penalty corner but Ayeisha McFerran was up to the task, knocking away her Kampong club mate Chiara Tiddi’s attempted drag-flick.

The extra breathing room came in the 42nd minute when Sarah Hawkshaw used her pace to out-strip her marker on the right baseline and she laid on the perfect pass for O’Flanagan to sweep in her second of the day.

Malseed extended the lead with an expert tip-in, guiding in her first international goal from Katie Mullan’s intercept and cross. They duly closed out the tie comfortably with McFerran never looking unduly troubled.

“We’ve been disappointed so far so it was really important for us as a team to play well but also to win and score some nice goals,” O’Flanagan concluded. “So nice to finish on a high; it’s always been a big summer for us and it nice to get a bit of confidence going forward.”

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

Italy: S Montserrat, T Dalla Vittoria, I Sarnari, A Oviedo, A Moroni, S Maldonado, P De Biase, C Tiddi, S Puglisi, S Laurito, L Oviedo
Subs: E Munitis, A Ayala, F Carta, E di Mauro, C Aguirre, L Fernandez, L Caruso

Umpires: I Makar (CRO), A Bogolyubova (RUS)

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Ireland’s World Cup hopes on hold after 5-1 loss to England

Women’s EuroHockey Championships
Pool C: Ireland 1 (D Duke) England 5 (S Evans 2, A Toman, L Owsley, J Hunter)

Ireland’s World Cup qualification bid looks set to come down to October’s final qualifier after they could not build on a strong start against England in the EuroHockey Championships’ Pool C.

Deirdre Duke’s outstanding early goal had them dreaming of a first win over England since 1987 – and a first in several Euro meetings – but three second quarter goals put paid to those hopes.

As such, barring an unlikely turnaround in fortunes – requiring a heavy England loss to Scotland and a big Irish win over Italy – Ireland will now contest an eight-team qualifier in October for a ticket to next summer’s World Cup.

“We started really well, building really good possession and going for it,” was the assessment of Lizzie Holden, playing in her 200th cap.

“The wheels came off in the second quarter and they gathered momentum. That was the difference and there are just such fine margins in these Europeans. It spiralled out of control but we still put in a really good shift and am proud of the girls’ work-rate.”

Coach Sean Dancer concurred, adding: “Really disappointing; there was a lot on the line today and that obviously adds a lot of pain to the whole thing.

“We started the game well first quarter and I was really happy with how the game was going. We just couldn’t keep it going.

“The key thing about that first quarter is we backed ourselves. We just didn’t do that second quarter, missed a couple of opportunities from our attacking penalty corners and let a few in.”

Underdogs going into the tie, the task was made trickier when midfielder Chloe Watkins was ruled out due to a quad injury. It meant a debut for Ards’ striker Zara Malseed but meant a rejig in formation for Dancer’s side.

The Irish survived a tricky opening with super first-up defence to limit any damage and soon, they started to make inroads at the far end.

The approach was more direct with Naomi Carroll and Katie Mullan finding space to drive on and the opening goal came in the 13th minute. It was a glorious piece of work, created 70 metres out from goal as Anna O’Flanagan chipped a Carroll pass beyond her marker to unlock space.

A quick interchange with Nicci Daly was followed by O’Flanagan’s perfect cross that Deirdre Duke dove onto.

But the game turned England’s way with three goals in a nine minute spell in the second quarter. Anna Toman picked a brilliant line to clatter the backboard from England’s second penalty corner.

Danger-woman Lily Owsley’s baseline run finished with an inviting pass to the back post that Sarah Evans gobbled up to swap the lead. And Evans was on hand to volley in the third just before half-time from Ellie Rayer’s pass, leaving Ireland with a mountain to climb.

And that became steeper in the 42nd minute when Giselle Ansley’s corner shot took a heavy defensive touch to lift out of reach of Ayeisha McFerran and into the goal with Owsley credited as getting the final touch.

Jo Hunter then completed the result with 70 seconds remaining, tipping over the line after another strong corner sweep shot from Toman.

Ireland will conclude this campaign on Saturday at 3.30pm (Irish time, RTE Player and BT Sport) against Italy, a last competitive game for the side before Olympic selection.

“The reality is it is still a must win game and we have to approach it that way,” Dancer added.

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: Z Malseed, M Carey, M Frazer, N Daly, H Matthews, D Duke, L Murphy

England: M Hinch, L Unsworth, S Evans, A Toman, S Townsend, E Rayer, G Ansley, L Owsley, G Balsdon, I Petter
Subs: E Burge, E Sanders, L Neal, J Hunter, C de Ledesma, F Crackles, S Heesh

Umpires: I Amorosini (ITA), S Wilson (SCO)


Hawkshaw eyes new target as England tie nears

Women’s EuroHockey Championship, Pool C
Friday: Ireland v England, 10.30am (Irish time, RTE Player)
Ireland’s women need to bounce back quickly from Wednesday’s draw with Spain as they go in search of the last remaining World Cup ticket on offer from this week’s EuroHockey Championship in Amsterdam.

Ireland missed out on a semi-final berth on Wednesday on “goals scored”, having tied with Spain on both points and goal difference, meaning their sights are now realigned than the maiden semi-final they had hoped for.

The Green Army will meet England on Friday morning (10.30am Irish time, live on RTE Player) before taking on Italy on Saturday (3.30pm, Irish time).

Ireland carry their 1-0 win from the initial group stages against Scotland into this four-team pool from which the round-robin winner will be assured of a place next summer’s World Cup.

England also carry through three points courtesy of a 4-0 win over the Italians but find themselves in unfamiliar territory; this is the first time in 15 European Championships they will finish outside the top four. As such, it makes for a big psychological – as well as tactical and physical – battle on Friday.

Hannah Matthews said the players have to do their best to be “like a goldfish” and put things behind them quickly and refocus on a new target.

Flying midfielder Sarah Hawkshaw agrees but adds “it would be naïve to say it is easy to do. It was a huge opportunity and the closest we have been.

Picture: Frank Uijlenbroek/World Sport Pics

“At the time, it was very hard. But we have been in this Pool C before. We have come together, talked about it, had honest conversations about how we felt so we can move on from it.

“We are now really excited to push forward and play England. We have had a good few battles in the past few months against GB and most of the girls from that squad would be in the England squad and we have played some good hockey. And of course, the motivation is there to take them on.

“We do need to look at ourselves and our performance from that Spanish game. We need to to move the ball better. England are a good team, have a good defensive structure and work really hard. We have to move them and that comes from us, showing for the ball, giving good options, getting the ball to our high strikers.”

Aside from the immediate importance of the tie, there would also be historical significance in victory. Ireland have yet to do so in a world ranking event and each of Ireland’s seven previous meetings with England have seen the latter prevail.

But Hawkshaw says the side will take a lot of impetus from their 2019 campaign when they came similarly close to reaching the semi-finals but bounced back to beat Belgium and Russia in Pool C.

“We can take a lot of confidence from that. I only saw the video a couple of days ago of the last couple of seconds of the Belgian game counting down, Shirley [McCay] crossing the ball for Anna [O’Flanagan].

“It also shows how quickly the game can change. We need to get the ball into those areas which will be really important against England and something we haven’t got enough of. We have to get the ball into those areas because anything can happen.

“Huge confidence from that experience, we know what the stakes are. No room for error and we have to produce results. It is a situation England haven’t been in so we take that as a positive.”

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Trevor Watkins elected new chair of Hockey Ireland board

Trevor Watkins is looking forward to taking on the role of chairperson of Hockey Ireland following his election at a board meeting on Wednesday evening.

Watkins takes on the role having been the chair of Leinster Hockey, President of Monkstown Hockey Club and chairman of Unifund VC, a venture capital company assisting graduate startups.

On the hockey front, he has been involved in many roles over five decades, including playing outdoor and indoor internationally, as well as coaching teams at Muckross, Avoca and UCD, interprovincially in Leinster, the national indoor team and the women’s Under-22s.

In business, Watkins has over 20 years experience in the Corporate Governance, Compliance and Regulatory environment and in developing a team culture to deliver success. He has been a director of Hockey Ireland since May 2019.

“I am delighted and honoured in being elected Chairperson of Hockey Ireland,” Watkins said. “This is an exciting time for hockey, not only in respect of national teams and junior age group development programmes but also for all our clubs ,players ,coaches, umpires and volunteers.

“Our sport is growing in popularity with nearly 50,000 women, men, girls and boys playing in clubs and schools across the island.

“My focus will be on driving a sustainable NGB and delivering on the challenges and opportunities we now have that will achieve the expectations we all have for hockey.

“I also look forward to working with Sport Ireland and Sport NI and respective governments in assisting us to achieve our aims.

“I hope to meet all the Irish Hockey family over the coming months and look forward to being pitch side soon.”

Hockey Ireland would like to thank Eric Brady who held the role of chairperson since July 2019 having first joined the board of Hockey Ireland in 2016. He will remain on the board where he will chair the High Performance Committee.

At the meeting, it was confirmed Keith Morrow will continue in his role as Hockey Ireland Finance Officer while Pamela Bastable was appointed company secretary.

** To read more about Hockey Ireland’s Board of Directors, click here

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Ireland denied Euro semi spot and World Cup ticket on goals scored after Spain draw

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)

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Green Army ready to take on “old enemy” with World Cup spot on line

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.”