Five Ulster girls make Ireland squad for World League Semi-Finals
Five Ulster players have made it into the final Ireland squad for the World League semi-finals in Johannesburg next month.
Ulster Elks' Shirley McCay is included alongside Ballyclare girl Zoe Wilson, Larne native Ayeisha McFerran, former Portadown College player Lizzie Colvin and UCD's Katie Mullan.
Wilson and McFerran are both playing their club hockey abroad, Wilson at Harvesthuder in Germany and goalkeeper McFerran at the University of Louisville.
The 18 strong squad will be playing for the chance to qualify for the 2018 World Cup in London. Ireland women's team haven't qualified for a World Cup since 2002 but with the tournament now expanded to include 16 teams, hopes are high.
The 16 teams will be comprised of England as World Cup hosts, five Continental champions and 10 highest placed National Associations in the two World League Semi-Finals (Johannesburg & Belgium) not qualified under the first two criteria.
Ireland have prepared for the semi-finals with a long list of warm-up games, most notably a victory over Olympic bronze-medallists Germany.
The World League semi-finals will be played from 8-23 July. The Green Army have a tough opening fixture of World League against world number 11 Japan, a ranking that perhaps doesn't reflect their ability as they beat Australia, New Zealand and USA in the Hawkes Bay Cup with those three opponents sitting fourth, fifth and sixth in the world respectively. The girls in green will then face world number seven Germany, and Poland before a three-day break which then sees them round out their pool games against world number two England, a side that will surely have a whole host of the Olympic champions Great Britain squad.
Speaking about the squad, coach Graham Shaw said: “Squad was selection was very tight with some difficult decisions. This is testament to how hard this group has worked and how we have developed over the past few months.
"We’re very excited to get started at World League in South Africa. We will take every game as it comes during the tournament. Our aim is to finish in the top four in our pool which will put us in the Quarter Finals. Each team will pose a different threat and we will be as prepared as possible for each."
Grace O’Flanagan- Railway Union
Hannah Matthews- Loreto
Zoe Wilson- Harvesthuder
Shirley McCay- Ulster Elks
Elizabeth Colvin- Loreto
Elena Tice- UCD
Chloe Watkins- Hermes/Monkstown
Katie Mullan- UCD
Gillian Pinder- UCD
Anna O’Flanagan- Hermes/Monkstown
Sinead Loughran- Hermes/Monkstown
Nicola Evans- Hermes/Monkstown
Nicola Daly- Muckross
Deirdre Duke- UCD
Emily Beatty- KHC Dragons
Roisin Upton- Cork Harlequins
Yvonne OByrne- Cork Harlequins
Ayeisha McFerran- Univeristy of Louisville
Belfast Telegraph Digital