Dublin, January 3: Following the announcement of the 18-player squad in late December, the Ireland Women’s Hockey team had their last training session today at the Sport Ireland Campus before they leave for Spain this Saturday ahead of their Olympic Qualification tournament later this month.
The tournament, which will take place between January13th and 21st will be in Valencia, Spain and is the final opportunity for nations to reach the Summer Olympic Hockey Tournament in Paris.
Eight nations from all over the world have reached this qualification tournament in Valencia.
Ireland (World Ranked #13) are drawn in Pool A alongside Belgium (World Ranked # 4) whom they play on January 13th (local start time is 5.30 p.m.).
Ukraine (World Ranked #28) whom they play on January 15th (start time12 Noon) and Korea (World Ranked #12) whom they will play on January 16th (start time 6:15 p.m.).
In Pool B hosts Spain (World Ranked #8) are in with Great Britain* (*England are World Ranked #7), Canada (World Ranked #16) and Malaysia (World ranked #18).
There are only 3 qualification places available from this tournament, so it is essential Ireland finish second at least in the pool and preferably win their semi-final to ensure a spot in Paris next summer. A place could still be secured by the losing semi-finalists were they to win the 3rd place play-off.
QUOTES FROM PLAYERS:
“Valencia is a very familiar place. We were there in December most recently, but we have travelled to the venue many times before for warm weather training. If you can prepare as best you can, off the pitch in terms of accommodation, travel and so on, and as we know the venue and the places to stay etc., it’s almost like having the comforts of home. We’re lucky that the tournament is in Valencia as we are comfortable there.”
Katie Mullan [captain]:
“We’re very much focused on ourselves and taking one game at a time. Our eyes are focused on the Belgium opener and it’s going to be a fantastic game. There’s a real good buzz and atmosphere around the team and you are going to see that whenever you watch the team play in the tournament. Sharing learnings experiences from previous tournaments is important for the younger players, but it’s equally important for the older players to feed off the freshness and excitement that the younger girls bring. I think the blend is something very special and it stands to you in crucial moments. We left no stone unturned; our preparation has been second to none.”