Graham Shaw includes five uncapped players in Ireland squad

Head coach picks two panels for series of games against Belgium and Scotland

Two games away to Belgium later this month and another three against Scotland in Glasgow in November signal the start of the build-up to what will be an intensive 2017 for the Irish squad.

First in the schedule is the second round of the World League which takes places in Kuala Lumpur in January; Ireland having been drawn with Italy, Malaysia, Thailand, Kazakhstan, Singapore, Fiji and Wales. Graham Shaw's side are the second-highest ranked nation in the tournament, the Italians one place above them in the world list, and a top two finish would secure them a place in the World League semi-finals in Belgium or South Africa in June or July.

Before then they compete in August's European Championships in Amsterdam, having gained promotion to the top tier last year, and should they qualify for the World League Final, which would be a stretch with just seven spots available, they'd be off to New Zealand in November.

Shaw has named two panels for the Belgian and Scottish games featuring 28 players, 14 appearing in both.


Senior debut

Five uncapped players are included, four of them – UCD goalkeeper Clodagh Cassin, Ruth Maguire of Pegasus, Hermes-Monkstown's Ellen Curran and Queens' Jessica McMaster – brought in from the under-21 panel. Maguire's Pegasus team-mate Robyn Chambers will also be hoping to make her senior debut three years after first being called up to train with the senior panel as an 18-year-old.

Shaw is also able to call upon five players now playing full-time hockey on the continent, Emily Beatty and Kate Lloyd, who are with Dragons in Belgium, a club Shaw himself spent time with, and Megan Frazer, Sinead Loughran and Zoe Wilson who play with Mannheimer, Munchner and Harvestehuder in Germany, respectively.

Nicci Daly returns to the squad after spending six months in America working as a data engineer with the Junco Car Racing Team, making her the likely winner of the 'most varied sporting career' award.

Daly's Muckross, who top the Leinster first division with three wins out of three, travel to Ards on Saturday for the first round of the Irish Senior Cup. Ulster Elks, seeking a three-in-a-row in the competition, host Railway Union at Jordanstown.


For series against Belgium: Y O'Byrne, R Barry, N Carroll (all Cork Harlequins), E Beatty, K Lloyd (both Dragons, Belgium), Z Wilson (Harvestehuder, Germany), N Evans (Hermes Monkstown), H Matthews, L Colvin (both Loreto), M Frazer (Mannheimer, Germany), S Loughran (Munchner SC, Germany), R Chambers, R Maguire (both Pegasus), G O'Flanagan (Railway Union), C Cassin, E Tice, G Pinder, Katie Mullan (all UCD).

For series against Scotland: Y O'Byrne, R Barry, C Sargent (all Cork Harlequins), E Tice, G Pinder, K Mullan, E Russell, C Cassin (all UCD), E Curran, C Watkins, N Evans (all Hermes-Monkstown), J McGirr, A Meeke, H Matthews (all Loreto), G O'Flanagan (Railway Union), C Brown (Ards), S McCay (Ulster Elks), N Daly (Muckross), M Frazer (Mannheimer), Z Wilson (Harvestehuder), E Beatty (Dragons), S Loughran (Munchner), R Maguire (Pegasus), J McMaster (Queens).

WEEKEND FIXTURES Saturday – Irish Senior Cup, first round: UCD v Old Alexandra, Belfield, 12.0; Cork Harlequins v UCC, Farmers Cross, 1.0; Ards v Muckross, Ards Park, 2.0; Limerick v Belfast Harlequins, Villiers School, 2.0; Ulster Elks v Railway Union, UUJ, 2.0; Dungannon v Loreto, Dungannon, 2.30; Lisnagarvey v Trinity, Comber Road, 2.30; Hermes-Monkstown v Corinthian, Rathdown, 2.30.

Mary Hannigan

Mary Hannigan

Mary Hannigan is a sports writer with The Irish Times