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Darren Smith hopes Ireland hockey stars can whip up a storm against high-flying Americans

By John Flack

Thunderstorms in Pennsylvania failed to interrupt Ireland's preparations for the three-match Test series with the United States in Lancaster.

Fortunately, the Americans' headquarters has an indoor arena next door to the stadium where tonight's opening match of the series will be staged (11.30pm UK time).

Ireland head coach Darren Smith said: "Due to the weather outdoors, we simply moved inside to the dome which is an outstanding facility with a water-based pitch."

The New Zealander, who announced last week that he will be standing down from the post after next month's World League 3 series in Valencia, is expecting a tough test against the Americans.

"They have shot up the rankings to fifth in the world and they are all full-time athletes so it's going to be a real test for us," he added.

"In last year's World Cup semi-final they were unfortunate to lose to Australia on penalties, so that's an indication of what we will be up against.

"They also beat us 3-0 and 3-1 in last year's Champions Challenge tournament in Glasgow but we are looking forward to the challenge."

Six Ulster women are in Smith's 20-strong squad for the games against USA which will be followed by four against Canada in Toronto with two players to drop out before the trip to Valencia.

All three teams will be using the matches as the final part of the build-up to World League 3, which doubles as the final eliminator for the 2016 Rio Olympics as far as Ireland are concerned.

Belfast Telegraph

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