Ireland’s U21 women’s team finally left this week for the rescheduled World Junior Championships in Potchefstroom, South Africa, where the tournament kicks off at Northwest University on Friday.
It was quite a journey playing the tournament. The competition was originally scheduled to be held in December until the discovery of the Omicron variant put it on hold. The Covid-19 pandemic had already prompted a number of changes among participants, while earlier this month Russia was excluded and Austria took its place.
It meant a realignment of the group stage line-up as Ireland will now meet Ukraine in the first game of the competition. Their involvement was part of a major effort on behalf of the hockey community, with Polish Hockey supporting their efforts to cross the border into Walcz. The Dutch FA has been their host ever since, providing training and preparation facilities in Rotterdam.
After the appointment in Ukraine, the Junior Green Army meet England – who they played in a series against this month in Lilleshall – before taking on their home country South Africa. A place in the top two in the opening stage puts Ireland in the Quarters.
David Passmore’s side have one change from the squad named for December’s first dates, with 17-year-old Mikayla Power joining the panel.
The Wesley College schoolgirl has had a notable season, appearing for the Ireland senior indoor team, while her debut adult season in outfield with Old Alex has scored several goals in the EY Hockey League. She replaces the injured Charlotte Beggs from this lineup.
Beggs was one of two players who were part of the senior team that qualified for the World Cup in Pisa last October. The other is Olympian Sarah McAuley, who established herself in the senior team last summer and made her debut at the EuroHockey Championships in June before heading to the Tokyo Games.
It traces the path from Junior Green Army to senior body, and a number of other players have since been brought into the current Irish senior setup on a more permanent basis. These include goalies Ellie McLoughlin and Holly Micklem, KJ Marshall, Caoimhe Perdue and Siofra O’Brien.
Perdue is the first Cashel New Inn Hockey Club graduate to reach this elite level and will share leadership responsibilities with Caitlin Sherin. Sherin will be joined by fellow Loreto Club members Christina Hamill, Lisa Mulcahy, O’Brien, Aoife Taaffe and Yasmin Pratt.
Former Banbridge player Nadia Benallal – who now lives in Nottingham – and Harvard student Siofra Murdoch also played with the senior panel in their training series against Britain at Bisham Abbey last week. Benallal is reconnecting with former club-mate Ellen Reid, who is now studying at the University of Loughborough in England.
UCD provides a healthy tranche of players to the line-up, with Emma Paul, Amy Elliott, Sophia Cole and Rachel Kelly joining McAuley, Marshall and McLoughlin on the panel.
Anna Horan, on the other hand, has earned her place on the judging panel after an excellent campaign with the Catholic Institute since returning from the US where she played with the UConn Huskies.
Speaking of the tournament, coach Passmore said: “We are delighted to finally travel to South Africa after all the ups and downs to pit ourselves against some of the best nations in world hockey.
“This group has put in a sustained high volume of training since last summer and through the winter months to get their chance to play at a World Junior Championship, a first for Ireland.
“It was tough with the late postponement of the event before Christmas as players built themselves to a mental and physical peak. This new date, combining that preparation with college exams and a really busy club season, has brought challenges, but we’re happy to have managed to play international series in Valencia and Lilleshall and hope to hit the ground running in Potchefstroom to be able to
“We would like to say a big thank you to the many people who have supported us along the way so far. Uniphar, SoftCo and Park Developments have been key sponsors of an ever-changing program, and we are also indebted to the players’ Universities for working together to adjust schedules and exams so they can perform at their best.
“Playing Ukraine in the first game of the tournament will be an extremely emotional event for our opponents and we have great respect and admiration for their willpower to reach this stage. Their arrival in South Africa is a testament to their resilience and support in the hockey community and we stand with them.”
All games can be followed live on the FIH’s Watch.Hockey app. For more information, click here: https://watch.hockey/ For more tournament information, visit: https://www.juniorworldcup.hockey/women/
Ireland U21 squad
Ellie McLoughlin (GK) UCD / University College Dublin
Holly Micklem (GK). Old Alex / Trinity College
KJ Marshall (Def) UCD / University College Dublin
Caitlin Sherin (Def) Loreto / Dublin City University (Co-Captain)
Emma Paul (Def) UCD / University College Dublin
Sarah McAuley (Def) UCD / University College Dublin
Ellen Reid (Def) Loughborough Students
Caoimhe Perdue (Def/Mid) UCC / University College Cork (Co-Captain)
Anna Horan (Def/Mid) Catholic Institute / Mary Immaculate College
Siofra Murdoch (Def/Mid) Harvard, USA / Harvard University
Christina Hamill (Mid) Loreto / Dublin University of Technology
Amy Elliott (centre) UCD / University College Dublin
Lisa Mulcahy (Centre/Def) Loreto / University College Dublin
Sophia Cole (Centre/Def) UCD / University College Dublin
Siofra O’Brien (Fwd) Loreto / Dublin University of Technology
Nadia Benallal (Fwd) Beeston/Nottingham Trent University
Rachel Kelly (Fwd/ Mid) UCD / University College Dublin
Yasmin Pratt (Fwd) Loreto / IT Carlow
Aoife Taaffe (Fwd) Loreto / University College Dublin
Mikayla Power (Fwd) Old Alex/Wesley College (Secondary School)
2022 World Junior Championships Schedule (all times Irish)
Sunday 1 April: Ireland v Ukraine, 7am
Monday 2 April: Ireland v England, 5pm
Wednesday 4 April: Ireland v South Africa, 9am
Friday April 6th – Tuesday April 12th: Playoff/classification games
https://www.independent.ie/sport/other-sports/hockey/irelands-u21-hockey-squad-ready-for-trip-to-south-africa-for-womens-junior-world-cup-41495062.html Ireland’s Under-21 ice hockey team ready to travel to South Africa for the Women’s World Junior Championships