Smith names his first Ireland squad for Valencia training camp


WOOMEN'S HOCKEY:Ireland coach Darren Smith, who succeeded Gene Muller in the post in November, has named his first senior squad ahead of next month’s training camp in Valencia. The New Zealander, who is not due to arrive in the country for another fortnight, has yet to see any of the squad in “live” action, but after watching “video from recent campaigns” and consulting with local coaches, has chosen 17 of the 18 players who won bronze at September’s Champions Challenge – all but four of them from Leinster clubs.

Exam commitments rule Miriam Crowley out of the panel this time around, with Lizzie Colvin’s studies also making her unavailable, but Emma Clarke, Nicci Daly, Cliodhna Sargent and Shirley McCay all return after missing the Champions Challenge.

During the training camp (February 2nd-11th), the squad will play Spain in three friendly games before returning to Valencia later in the month for the FIH World League II, where they again meet the hosts, along with Belarus, Canada, the Czech Republic and Italy.

Interim basis

Smith will be joined on an interim basis on both trips by assistant coach Mary Logue and strength and conditioning coach George Petrakos from the UCD Institute for Sport.

“I’m looking forward to arriving in Ireland to start what will be an exciting period of mine and my new wife Beth’s lives,” said Smith.

“This process has not been easy, given that I have been unable to see the athletes in person and have had to select the team from New Zealand. The next team selected after the Valencia camp will be based on performance that I will have had the opportunity to see first-hand.”

The National Indoor Trophy finals, meanwhile, reach their conclusion this weekend, the semi-finals and final taking place at the National Basketball Arena in Tallaght on Sunday.

IRISH SQUAD: N Atcheler, N Evans, B Flannery, N Gray, K Mullan, A O’Flanagan, C Watkins (all UCD), E Smyth, A Speers, L Jacob (all Hermes), S McCarthy, A O’Flynn, E Gray (all Hermes), S McCay, P Smithwick (both Old Alexandra), N Small (Loreto), N Symmons (Glenanne), A Connery (Corinthian), E Clarke (Leicester), N Daly (Holcombe), M Harvey (Pegasus), C Sargent (Cork Harlequins).

WEEKEND FIXTURES: National Indoor Trophy– Tomorrow (at Gormanston College): Group A– Ards v Old Alexandra, 2.30; Ards v Glenanne 4.10; Old Alexandra v Glenanne, 5.50. Group B: Hermes v Ulster Elks, 3.20; Hermes v Greenfields, 5pm; Ulster Elks v Greenfields, 6.40. Sunday(at the National Basketball Arena, Tallaght): Semi-finals: Second Group A v First Group B, 1pm; First Group A v Second Group B, 2pm. Final: 4pm.

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