The 2022 indoor hockey season is set for a spectacular finale next week as Ireland take on South Africa in a five-match SPAR Indoor Hockey Series in Gormanston Park in Co Meath.
The series in east Meath will showcase five high-octane fixtures with the two nations reprising their rivalry from 2019 when Ireland travelled to Durban and Cape Town for a SPAR-supported series.
Those fixtures played a pivotal role in the ongoing regeneration of indoor hockey in Ireland and were their first on the international stage for nearly 30 years. It provided a perfect springboard for Ireland’s promotion to the second tier of EuroHockey Championship competition in 2020.
In that context, this SPAR Indoor Series provides a yardstick to how much Ireland have improved and they will look to turn on the style in front of a healthy home crowd.
Coach Rob Abbott is thrilled at this unique opportunity to face the world number 14 side who had originally been planning to contest the Indoor World Cup before Covid saw those plans cancelled.
“A huge thank you to SPAR Ireland for sponsoring the series and allowing us to play against world class opposition,” Abbott said.
“It will be great for fans to have the chance to watch international hockey in the south of Ireland for the first time since the 2019 Olympic qualifiers. We are looking forward to playing in front of passionate crowds who will create an atmosphere to spur the team on.
“Our team will look to play attacking Indoor hockey and thrill the crowds with speed and skill. It will be great to see how far we have come as an indoor nation in such a short space of time.”
Commenting. SPAR Sales Director Colin Donnelly said, “SPAR has a strong tradition of supporting sport in Ireland and we are thrilled to be in a position to sponsor this series of international matches between Ireland and South Africa and I want to wish all competing the very best of luck and I’m sure the spectators will be treated to some excellent matches.”
Abbott’s side will include six of the panel that played in 2019 with, crucially, Chloe Brown set to line out. She missed out on January’s Euros but shone at the English championships with East Grinstead and she will be a vital figure in play and with her outstanding accuracy at penalty corners.
The panel also features six players who were due to play in the Under-21 Euros in December before that tournament also fell victim to Covid-19.
Railway Union – crowned Irish club champions last weekend – provide several players to the mix including captain Orla Fox, Holly Jenkinson, Patton sisters Orla and Sarah and Lily Lloyd.
Teenagers Mikayla Power (Old Alex) and Katie Kimber (Ards) offer exciting talents for the here and now as well as the future. At the opposite end of the spectrum, Amy Benson and Sophie Barnwell have been near ever-presents on the boards since Ireland’s return to the international stage.
Sally Campbell the one uncapped player in the line-up. She was initially part of Ireland’s squad to play in the Antrim games against Scotland but had to withdraw due to Covid.
SPAR Indoor Hockey Series (all at Gormanston Park)
Monday, February 21st 2022: Ireland v South Africa, 7pm
Tuesday, February 22nd 2022: Ireland v South Africa, 7pm
Wednesday, February 23rd 2022: Ireland v South Africa, 6pm
Thursday, February 24th 2022: Ireland v South Africa, 7pm
Friday, February 25th 2022: Ireland v South Africa, 7pm
Ireland women’s squad:
Emma Buckley (GK, Railway Union/Pembroke)
Millie Regan (GK, Old Georgian’s)
Sarah Patton (Railway Union)
Sophie Barnwell (Muckross)
Katie Kimber (Ards)
Holly Jenkinson (Railway Union)
Hannah Kelly (Catholic Institute)
Orla Macken (North Kildare/Pembroke)
Laura Graham (CD Sadus)
Mikayla Power (Old Alex)
Chloe Brown (East Grinstead)
Orla Fox (captain, Railway Union)
Orla Patton (Railway Union)
Rebecca McMullen (Muckross)
Lily Lloyd (Railway Union)
Amy Benson (Ards)
Sally Campbell (Pembroke)