Ireland face stern test to retain status at European Championships

Graham Shaw’s side open campaign against England in Amsterdam on Saturday

Ali Meeke of Loreto has been called up to the Ireland squad for the European Championships in Amsterdam. Photograph: Donall Farmer/Inpho

Ali Meeke of Loreto has been called up to the Ireland squad for the European Championships in Amsterdam. Photograph: Donall Farmer/Inpho

 

Less than a month after completing their World League semi-final campaign in Johannesburg, where they finished seventh out of the 10 competing nations, Ireland face a similarly testing challenge at the European Championships in Amsterdam which open on Saturday for Graham Shaw’s side with a pool game against England.

This time Ireland are ranked sixth out of the eight contenders, a position they need to hold if they are to retain the top-flight status they achieved two years ago in Prague when they won promotion from the Eurohockey Nations Challenge.

While they will expect to get the better of Scotland in their second pool game on Sunday, England and Germany, who they meet on Tuesday, are the tournament’s second and third seeds respectively and firm favourites to reach the semi-finals. Ireland, though, gave both teams a run for their money in South Africa, the Germans only snatching a draw with a last-minute equaliser, while they lost just 3-2 to the English.

Sixteen of the 18 players who were in the squad for the World League are included again, Shaw making two enforced changes with UCD goalkeeper Clodagh Cassin coming in for the injured Ayeisha McFerran and Loreto’s Ali Meeke replacing her club-mate Liz Colvin, who is unavailable due to work commitments.

All of Ireland’s pool games will be live on BT Sport 3.

Saturday: Ireland v England, 1.45. Sunday: Ireland v Scotland, 12.15. Tuesday: Ireland v Germany, 1.45 (Irish times).

Pool A: Netherlands (1), Spain (10), Belgium (14), Czech Republic (24). Pool B: England (2), Germany (7), Ireland (16), Scotland (17). (World rankings in brackets).

IRISH SQUAD: E Tice, K Mullan, G Pinder, D Duke, C Cassin (all UCD), C Watkins, A O’Flanagan, S Loughran, N Evans (all Hermes-Monkstown), R Upton, Y O’Byrne (both Cork Harlequins), H Matthews, A Meeke (both Loreto), Z Wilson (Harvestehuder), E Beatty (KHC Dragons), N Daly (Muckross), G O’Flanagan (Railway Union), S McCay (Ulster Elks).

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