Ireland face stern tests against India and USA ahead of hockey World Cup

Ireland, ranked 16th, have set the target of getting out of a tough group in London

Ireland forward Katie Mullan

Ireland forward Katie Mullan

 

Ireland have launched their run-in to the women’s hockey World Cup, which takes place in London’s Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park next month.

They have set their ambitions to reach the knockout stages of the tournament. That means emerging from Pool B, which also contains the USA, ranked seventh in the world; India, ranked 10th; and the Rio Olympic Champions and hosts England, ranked second behind the world No 1 side the Netherlands.

Ireland, who are ranked at 16, will face England in the final game of the pool phase of the competition, which has been revamped to a 16-team format with four pools of four.

Prior to the game with England on July 29th, Ireland play USA on July 21st and India on July 26th.

“Getting an opportunity to play the Olympic Champions in their home ground in the World Cup is incredibly exciting,” said Irish team coach Graham Shaw. “Hopefully after playing USA and India we will have picked up results before going into the England game

“Our number one objective is to get out of the pool, so we want to find ourselves in that top 12.

“As we all know, it’s knockout then. But our initial aim is to go over there and try to pick up four points in the pool, pick up a win and maybe a draw.”

Boosted by a main sponsorship deal with finance software company SoftCo, the team have a busy schedule of matches in the lead-in to the tournament, after which the final squad will be picked.

Intense preparation

Ireland play England this week in the World Cup venue at Lee Valley in two nontest games. The following week the side face Canada three times in Dublin before travelling to Germany the following week to play Germany and Canada again. To finish off the preparations, Ireland play against Japan in Cork and then Italy and Chile in Dublin before heading to London.

“It is busy. We are trying to get as many games as we possibly can for many different reasons,” added Shaw, who has 151 Irish caps of experience from which to draw.

“We want to get up to international speed. Unfortunately our club game is not at the level we would like compared to the international game so we’re trying to get the group training at a level and intensity we know we are going to have to carry into the World Cup.”

The top 14 ranked teams in the world have all qualified for the tournament, with Ireland and 17th-ranked Italy bringing the number to 16 nations overall. The venue is part of the legacy of the 2012 Olympics as the Riverbank Arena, where the field hockey events took place before being scaled down and moved to the current location at Lee Valley Park.

Women’s Hockey World Cup Pool B (Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park) – Ireland v USA, July 21st; Ireland v India, July 26th; England v Ireland, July 29th

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