Ireland women’s hockey squad strengthened with eight new players

Several changes made to World League Round 2 winning team ahead of US trip

Graham Shaw has made several changes to his Ireland senior women's panel as July's World Cup qualifiers in South Africa come sharply into focus.

From the side that won the World League Round 2 in Malaysia, 14 players remain in the squad with eight other faces coming in for their latest series which sees them head to Spook Nook in Pennsylvania for a nine-day camp, starting on May 22nd.

Ellen Curran, a member of the Ireland Under-18s last summer, is the freshest face following a fine club season with Hermes-Monkstown in midfield.

Otherwise, the returnees have reasonably strong experience behind them. UCD skipper Deirdre Duke is back after leading her club to a treble, though she missed the middle stage of the season with a shoulder injury.

Grace O'Flanagan takes over from Clodagh Cassin as one of the two goalkeepers while Ali Meeke, Emma Russell, Chloe Brown, Sinéad Loughran and Belgium-based Emily Beatty all are included.

On the flip side, Cork Harlequins' Rebecca Barry missed the EY Champions Trophy playoffs through injury and is not named in the panel nor are Lizzie Colvin and Cliodhna Sargent, who is pregnant, from January's squad.

The US trip represents the main base-preparation block for the side ahead of their World League Round 3 tournament in July where up to eight of the ten sides could earn a ticket to the 2018 World Cup in London.

There, they will play the world number-five side three times as well as playing the US Under-21 side once.

In mid-June, Shaw will take a squad to Berlin for a four-nations event with Germany, Korea and China to close out preparations.

“The squad are very excited about this summer where our number one goal is to qualify for the World Cup in London 2018. We feel we have a strong squad and will provide a good test to most nations in the world. This gives us a lot of confidence going into the summer,” Shaw said.

Ireland squad for US series (May 22nd-27th, Spooky Nook, Pennsylvania)

Ayeisha McFerran (University of Louisville)

Grace OFlanagan (Railway Union)

Hannah Matthews (Loreto)

Alison Meeke (Loreto)

Shirley McCay (Ulster Elks)

Yvonne O’Byrne (Cork Harlequins)

Lena Tice (UCD)

Zoe Wilson (Harvestehuder THC)

Nicci Daly (Muckross)

Róisín Upton (Cork Harlequins)

Gillian Pinder (UCD)

Chloe Watkins (Hermes-Monkstown)

Katie Mullan (UCD)

Emma Russell (UCD)

Anna O’Flanagan (Hermes-Monkstown)

Naomi Carroll (Cork Harlequins)

Nikki Evans (Hermes-Monkstown)

Chloe Brown (Ards)

Emily Beatty (KHC Dragons)

Ellen Curran (Hermes-Monkstown)

Deirdre Duke (UCD)

Sinéad Loughran (Hermes-Monkstown)

Stephen Findlater

Stephen Findlater

Stephen Findlater is a contributor to The Irish Times writing about hockey