With the last Junior World Cup only three months in the rear-view mirror, the Irish Under-21 women are already back on the qualification trail at this week’s EuroHockey Junior Championships in Ghent.
The top five from the Euros – which run from Sunday, July 24 to Saturday, July 30 – will all earn their place at Chile 2023.
Ireland will look to build on the experience of April’s World Cup in South Africa with 12 of the panelists eligible once again for this next cycle. The newcomers, meanwhile, saw plenty of action at the highly competitive Uniphar Five Nations tournament in Belfield in June.
This tournament takes on a standard eight-team format with the top two from the initial four-team groups advancing to the semi-finals and earning a World Cup place into the bargain.
Miss out on one of those places, the next challenge will be to win Pool C which brings the winner the final ticket to Chile.
Ireland’s initial group is a tough one, featuring the World Cup silver and bronze medalists. Nonetheless, they will take confidence into their opening tie against England from their performance against the same opposition in Potchefstroom when they meet on Sunday.
A day later, they face Scotland before closing out the preliminary phase against Germany, second placed in April, in the third fixture.
“Having the Junior World Cup silver and bronze medallists highlights how tough our group is and emphasised by a recent series lost against Scotland who make up the pool,” said coach David Passmore.
“The team has worked hard in recent weeks, spurred on by the World Cup in Amsterdam and with the memories of the recent JWC 9th placed finish. Many of that Junior World Cup group have moved on but some of the younger additions have really stepped up.
“The Uniphar 5 Nations provided a great opportunity for further development and coupled with a hard physical period we will be ready to go against England who we narrowly lost to in South Africa.
“It was disappointing for Lisa Mulcahy to miss out due to a leg injury as she contributes so much on and off the field but this highlights the importance of having depth in terms of numbers and positional flexibility.
“It will be key for us to get our set pieces right and take our chances in front of goal while defending smartly in our own circle”
In terms of selection, goalkeepers Ellie McLoughlin and Holly Micklem have both been in and around the senior panel this year and provide an excellent last line of defence.
KJ Marshall, Emma Paul and Siofra Murdoch are augmented in the backline by Lucy Crowe and Caoimhe Byrne with Ellen Reid in for a second Euros having also played in the last edition in 2019.
Paul will co-captain the side along with Catholic Institute’s Anna Horan with the Limerick woman operating between defence and midfield.
In midfield, Sophia Cole and Amy Elliott are experienced hands at Under-21 level. Ali Griffin will bring her pace to proceedings in this area following an outstanding season with Pembroke but they will miss Lisa Mulcahy who picked up an injury last week to rule her out of contention as is Eva Lavelle.
Pegasus’s Niamh McIvor and Old Alex teenager Mikayla Power will operate between the mid and forward lines.
Up top, World Cup players Rachel Kelly and Aoife Taaffe will link up with Cork Harlequins Leah O’Shea and Trinity’s Laura Noble.
Senior internationals Sarah McAuley and Charlotte Beggs are still underage for this category but are currently on a rest period following their involvement in the senior squad at the World Cup.
The tournament will be live-streamed on www.eurohockeytv.org.
Ireland Under-21 squad for Women’s EuroHockey Junior Championships (July 24 to 30, Ghent)
Ellie McLoughlin (VC, UCD)
Holly Micklem (Old Alex)
Caoimhe Byrne (UCD)
Lucy Crowe (Railway Union)
KJ Marshall (UCD)
Emma Paul (Co-Capt, UCD)
Ellen Reid (Loughborough Students)
Siofra Murdoch (Harvard University, USA)
Sophia Cole (UCD)
Amy Elliott (UCD)
Anna Horan (Co-Capt, Catholic Institute)
Alison Griffin (Pembroke)
Leah O’Shea (Cork Harlequins)
Aoife Taaffe (Loreto)
Niamh McIvor (Pegasus)
Laura Noble (Trinity)
Rachel Kelly (UCD)
Mikayla Power (Old Alex)
Head Coach: David Passmore
Manager: Lorraine McGowan
Coach/stand-in manager: Una McCarthy
Coach: Steven Arbuthnot
Coach: Niamh Small
ATT: Rachel Dipeolu
S&C/Physiologist: Ali Meeke
Performance Analyst: Aaron Passmore
Fixture schedule (all times Irish)
Sunday, July 24: Ireland v England, 10 am
Tuesday, July 26: Ireland v Scotland, 11 am
Wednesday, July 27: Ireland v Germany, 12.15 pm