Women’s Hockey: Clubs must make the most of availability of Irish stars

Champions Pegasus hope to have their international Shirley McCay available for their trip to Loreto

Ayeisha McFerran makes a save for Ireland in the crucial  penalty shoot-out that sent Ireland to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. McFerran is the only Ireland player currently playing abroad. Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho

Ayeisha McFerran makes a save for Ireland in the crucial penalty shoot-out that sent Ireland to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. McFerran is the only Ireland player currently playing abroad. Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho

 

With just one of the 18 players selected for the Olympic qualifying games against Canada earlier this month now playing their hockey beyond these shores, namely goalkeeper Ayeisha McFerran who is with Dutch club Kampong this season, it has become considerably easier for national coach Sean Dancer and his staff to monitor the form of the Irish squad in the build-up to Tokyo.

Deirdre Duke and Nikki Evans are the latest to return home after their spells in Germany.

The pair have both joined Old Alexandra, giving the Dublin club’s Hockey League prospects a major boost although, as with all members of the Irish squad, it remains to be seen how much their availability to their clubs this season will be impacted by their international duties.

While Ireland’s full pre-Olympic schedule has yet to be confirmed, January’s trip to South Africa coincides with the Hockey League’s winter break. But a March visit to Malaysia is, depending on the precise dates, likely to result in clubs having to make do without their Irish players.

They will, then, have to make the most of their services for now, with Loreto and Belfast Harlequins the clubs with the highest representation in the squad that took on Canada, each contributing three players.

Harlequins, who take on UCD on Saturday, have the Barr twins, Bethany and Serena, back in action, but are still without the recently married Lizzie Colvin.

Pegasus hope to have their sole current international Shirley McCay available for their trip to Loreto, although the reigning champions have hardly struggled in her absence, winning the first three games of their campaign. Loreto’s start has been of the more mixed variety with a win, a draw and a loss so far.

Having taken six points from a possible nine, Pembroke Wanderers and Alexandra share second spot in the table but face testing away trips to Munster on Saturday, Pembroke playing Cork Harlequins and Alexandra facing a Catholic Institute who have impressed so far in their debut Hockey League season. they came away from Belfast Harlequins last Sunday with a win.

Muckross, meanwhile, will be looking for their first victory of the campaign when they host Railway Union.

Hockey League – Saturday: Catholic Institute v Old Alexandra, Rosbrien, 1.0; Cork Harlequins v Pembroke Wanderers, Farmers Cross, 1.05; Loreto v Pegasus, Beaufort, 2.45; Muckross v Railway Union, Muckross Park, 3.15; Belfast Harlequins v UCD, Deramore Park, 4.0.

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