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Carroll’s strike puts Ireland back in frame for World Cup qualification

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) 


McLoughlin relishing Euro experience as big Scottish date nears

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.”


Mullan and Green Army embrace the rollercoaster after 4-0 defeat to world number ones

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)

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Hockey Ireland Coronavirus (COVID-19) UPDATE regarding Changes to COVID-19 Restrictions.

4th June 2021 

The Irish government have issued further updates to the Covid-19 guidelines for Returning to Sport.

The following applies from 07th June 2021: 

  • Outdoor matches may recommence.
  • A maximum of 100 may attend organised outdoor events. This includes players, match officials and spectators.
  • Individual indoor training and one to one (player and coach) training is permitted. Please see detailed guidelines below for indoor training.

The following applies from 05th July 2021 (subject to public health guidance): 

  • A maximum of 200 may attend organised outdoor events.
  • Indoor hockey can recommence in pods of up to 6.

Indoor Training Guidance 

The Sport Ireland Return to Sport Expert Group have issued detailed guidelines for the return of indoor training. These guidelines are expected to remain in place until at least July 05th 2021 when restrictions may be eased further.

Please note: The following guidelines apply to Republic of Ireland only. For Northern Ireland, please find further details here: Return To Sport | Sport NI

Individual training is defined as: ‘Individual, physically distanced, non-contact activity, completed in a pre-defined area, within a controlled environment and without the sharing of equipment.

The following applies to indoor training:

  1. Staggered start and finish times combined with appropriate entry, exit and traffic management protocols to limit the interaction of participants at any one time.
  2. Prebooking of activity is essential. This includes the health screening of all participants (including coaches & support personnel). All personnel on-site should be recorded.
  3. Reduction in the overall duration of the activity.
  4. Participants arrive ready to train and leave immediately (no changing room or shower use).
  5. Additional signage, hand sanitisation stations and deep cleaning implemented.
  6. No equipment sharing in any circumstances.
  7. Activity should take place in a predefined area which is visually marked out and directionally signed.
  8. The space required in this area should reflect the nature and intensity of the activity.
  9. There should be in excess of 2m social distancing between each of the predefined areas.
  10. The Cleaning & Ventilation of facilities should be conducted in accordance with the Government’s most recent Work Safely Protocol. Additional information can also be found in the appendixes of this documents.

One to one (coach and player training – in line with safeguarding requirements – may proceed as follows:

  1. Any demonstration of equipment or technique should ensure that a minimum of 2m social distancing is maintained.
  2. Individual equipment should not be shared.
  3. In the case of fixed equipment, cleaning of such equipment must be completed immediately after demonstration and before the individual participant uses it.
  4. There should be no hands-on adjustments or physical contact during training sessions.
  5. Coaches and trainers are asked to refer to the HSE guidance on wearing of face coverings, which is available here: When to wear a face covering – HSE.ie

Additional Points:

  1. For clubs who wish to undertake one to one or individual training indoors, the above guidelines should incorporate the guidance outlined in this document into their existing Covid 19 Return to Training Policies and Procedures.
  2. The guidelines assume an ongoing allowance of indoor activity as dictated by the Public Health Situation and whether sporting facilities are open.
  3. The training must be supervised by a branch-registered Club Covid-19 Compliance Officer.

Clubs undertaking indoor activity must:

  1. Implement thorough and regular cleaning of frequently touched surfaces. If disinfection of an area is required, it must be performed in addition to cleaning, never as a substitute for cleaning.
  2. Ensure contact/touch surfaces such as table tops, door handles and handrails are visibly clean at all times. Additionally, sports equipment should be cleaned before and after use.
  3. Provide coaches/ participants with essential cleaning materials to keep their own areas clean (for example wipes/disinfection products, paper towels and waste bins/bags).
  4. Records should be maintained for all cleaning.

RTE confirm broadcast schedule for EuroHockey Championships

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.


Tumilty aims to kickstart new era for Irish men’s team with 14 fresh faces

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


Red Bull gives wings to Irish hockey

Red Bull today announced its support for the Irish Women’s Hockey Team, also giving wings to top goalkeeper Ayeisha McFerran (25) as the latest Irish athlete to join the Red Bull family.

Red Bull will give wings to the Irish Women’s Hockey Team as Official Energy Drink partner, supporting players and coaching staff in reaching their peak performance, providing Red Bull product and equipment during training as they prepare for the upcoming EuroHockey Championships.

The team will be able to access world class tools and facilities including sharing of knowledge and expertise from Red Bull’s global network of experts and it’s state of the art Athlete Performance centre in Austria.

The Green Army with their new set of wings. Picture: Billy Pollock

For Ayeisha, a star both at home and on the International hockey scene, she will join fellow goalkeepers, Maddie Hinch (Great Britain) and Anne Veenendaal (Netherlands) among other global sporting stars such as Neymar Jr, Max Vertsappen, Lindsey Vonn and Irish athletes Conor Shanahan, Thomas Barr, Greg Callaghan and Conor Maguire as part of the Red Bull family.

Ayeisha and Red Bull have developed a personalised helmet based on the iconic Red Bull rhombus design which she will now sport in all major tournaments.

Ayeisha made her senior debut for Ireland in 2014 and has since established herself as the national team’s first-choice goalkeeper with 100 caps to date. Regarded as a shoot-out specialist Ayeisha boasts an impressive career to date, nominated World Goalkeeper of the Year in 2018 and 2019, winning FIH Hockey World League tournaments in 2015 and 2017, the 2015 Euro Hockey Championship II and more recently, taking home a silver medal and honoured as Goalkeeper of the Tournament at the 2018 Women’s Hockey World Cup. Ayeisha has played her club hockey at Kampoong in the Netherlands since August 2019.

Ayeisha commented: “It is very surreal. Knowing how big the Red Bull brand is here in Ireland and across the globe, and how much they get involved and support their athletes, it is such a buzz to know that I’ll be a part of that story. I am always trying to up my game, and this is an opportunity to really take my career to the next level. I’m so stoked to become part of the Red Bull athlete line-up.”


Hall of Fame member Nora Smith passes away

Hockey Ireland Hall of Fame member Nora Smith has passed away this week peacefully at the Beacon Hospital.

She was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2007 in recognition of her exceptional international career which spanned from 1961 to 1967 and encompassed 20 caps.

An outstanding centre-half and passer of the ball, the Muckross player was a member of the touring team to the USA in 1963 and Germany in 1967.

She went on to become the Irish women’s first ever coach from 1973 to 1976 and she subsequently became Genesis’s first coach, helping them reach the Irish Senior Cup final in 1981 just five years after their inception.

Funeral information is available via RIP.ie: https://rip.ie/death-notice/nora-smith-bray-wicklow/459479


Ireland junior teams to take part in GB&I Nations Hockey Development Series

Ireland’s rising stars are set to take part in the GB&I Nations Hockey Development Series which will run throughout July.

It offers an exciting, high level competition for developing male and female athletes who missed out on European Junior Age Grade competition in both 2020 and 2021.

It comes in the wake of Ireland’s decision – along with Scotland, England and Wales – to withdraw from the 2021 EuroHockey Under-18 Championships due to restrictions related to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The new tournament will be designated a “development series” which will allow teams to involve a wider panel of players, therefore offering an excellent development opportunity for competing nations teams while also providing meaningful matches.

The competition will run over three weekends of double headers, starting on July 10 and 11. For Ireland, this means the boys and girls teams will each play Wales on Saturday, July 10 and Sunday, July 11 (match location to be confirmed).

Ireland head to Lilleshall for games against England on Friday, July 16 and Saturday, July 17 before returning home for ties against Scotland on Saturday, July 24 and Sunday, July 25.

Should the format prove successful, it is hoped it can be replicated in the future.

Speaking about the new initiative, Hockey Ireland Performance Director Adam Grainger said: “International Junior Age Grade player development is of paramount importance for Hockey Ireland as we transition between Olympic cycles, and the decision to withdraw from the EuroHockey Under-18 Championships has therefore not been easy.

“Working with our close hockey neighbours, Hockey Ireland has secured a beneficial development opportunity for our players that will help to restart their individual international hockey pathways.

“This development series, combined with ongoing programme activity for the U23 girls and the soon to be communicated U21 boys programme, will create windows of opportunity for players to showcase their potential.”

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Irish Women’s European Squad Announcement.

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